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Cheese Tartlets

March 31, 2014

The very name conjures up petite food. And who can resist such a cutely prepared dish. These cheese tarts have amaretto and candied fruit in them, but also mascarpone cheese. They can serve as either a side dish, an appetizer, or even a mildly sweet dessert piece. They even work as a very satisfying breakfast item that travels well and is clean to eat. There are some moderately complex preparation processes, but a bit of planning and patience are all that are required to make the perfect tartlet.

Unlike other tartlets, these nibblies will use a sweet pastry instead of the usual pie crust. Softened butter, jumbo eggs, sugar and lemon zest add the sweet and distinctive flavors to this nearly-cookie crust. You can mix this dough by hand, but a minute or two in the food processor is much easier and quicker. The dough will probably remain crumbly after pulsing for a minute or two, so you’ll need turn it out on a dry surface and press the mixture together by hand until the dough forms. This dough gets a short rest in the fridge to firm up and have the flour and butter completely combine, much like a traditional pie crust. Two hours should be sufficient before rolling.

Speaking of rolling, this dough will need to be rolled into a uniform ⅛-inch thick crust. A bakery rolling pin, as opposed to a French pin, works the best since it has a uniform diameter for the entire length of the barrel, which is significantly wider than pins with handles. Pastry bands that come in varying thicknesses can be placed on the ends of the pin to ensure a completely uniform thickness. As for cutting the crust circles for the tartlets, forget trying to find the perfect sized 4-inch cookie cutter. A Ziploc quart Twist-n-loc is the perfect size to cut these rounds with ease. The thin rim and smooth plastic releases the dough every time. And you can use them for things other than cutting 4-inch rounds.

We will need one specialty item, those being 3-inch tartlet pans—15 of them. They can be found at most homegoods stores. Because the pastry for these tartlets has a considerable amount of butter in it, there is no need to buy non-stick pans. The tartlets release cleanly and completely every time. While it’s not necessary for putting the tartlets together, a #20 disher (3⅓ tablespoons) makes filling the tartlet shells a snap. You can find the size of the disher on the sweep tang, although Oxo doesn’t put a number on their dishers and instead just provides the capacity.

These tartlets are versatile enough to be enjoyed warm from the oven or cold directly from the refrigerator. If you’re ready to try some miniature baking, here’s what you’ll need.

Little Cheese Tartlets

Tartlet Dough

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ c white sugar
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons lemon peel
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground kosher salt
  • 1 jumbo whole egg + 1 jumbo egg yolk

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until crumbly, about a minute and a half. Turn the mixture out onto a dry surface and shape or knead into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Cheese Filling

  •  ⅓ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur
  • 16 ounces mascarpone cheese, cold
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 jumbo egg yolks
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup finely chopped candied fruit
  • 2 jumbo egg whites

In a small bowl, combine the raisins and amaretto and let stand for 30 minutes. During this time, roll the cold dough on a lightly floured surface to a uniform thickness of ⅛-inch. Cut 15 4-inch circles and gently press each into a 3-inch tartlet pan. Place the unbaked shells on a half-sheet baking pan. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F with the convection oven on, if you have it.

Using a mixer, cream the sugar and cheese until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and mix thoroughly. Add the lemon juice, candied fruit and raisins and amaretto. Thoroughly combine. Add the flour, stirring with a spatula to combine, do not over mix.

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the cheese and fruit mixture into the eggs whites being careful not to deflate the whites. Divide the filling between the 15 shells. A scoop from a #20 disher or a scant ¼ cup is the perfect amount of filling.

Bake the tartlets on the middle rack for 20 to 25 minutes. The crust should be nicely browned and the filling golden and set. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking time if you do not have a convection oven.

Dust with powdered sugar or serve with a side of freshly whipped cream. Enjoy them warm or cold.

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