I love tarts. I am invariably disappointed by tarts that I get at local restaurants and bakeries, though. The crusts are hard and flavorless and the fillings are boring. But I love baking tarts. I've had a few disappointments baking them myself, but not many. I love Dorie Greenspan's Tartest Lemon Tart and I adore Pierre Herme's Linzer Tart. Herme's cinnamon-rum-almond tart crust for the linzer tart is my absolute favorite. It's easy to make (at least, it is now that I can buy almond flour instead of having to grind it myself), it has a lovely crumbly texture, and it's delicious. Homemade tarts are one of my favorite desserts. And the only way to improve on a homemade tart is to make it a tartlet. Smaller means cuter, and as long as there are enough minis to go around, it means you can try all the flavors or have several servings of the same one without the guilt of having a full serving each time.
My family gave me a set of mini tart pans for Christmas, and I'm always plotting new things to try in them. (You'll be seeing a lot more tartlet posts as I work out the fillings I like.) I made these pear caramel cinnamon cream cheese tartlets a couple of months ago and they were a big hit with my family. The caramel was something I threw together after reading the ingredients on a bottle of delicious and, sadly, discontinued pear caramel I found at the store. Mine was, of course, quite different from the original, but still quite good. It seems to be my sister's new favorite. At any rate, it's a work in progress, so the directions are a bit higgedly-piggedly. When I made the tarts again to use up the remaining caramel, I replaced the cinnamon in the cream cheese with ginger. The sharper flavor was a nice contrast with the caramel.
pear caramel tartlets
2 C pear juice
2 C sugar
.5 C corn syrup
1 TB butter
2 C cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp-2 Tb lemon juice (to taste)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Melt the butter. Add sugar and corn syrup. Mix and cook on medium heat until just turning golden. Add the pear juice and cook ten or twenty minutes so that the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients. When cooled to room temperature, spoon over cream cheese in tart shells.
cream cheese filling
8 oz cream cheese, softened
pear caramel, to sweeten to taste
.5 tsp cinnamon or 1 tsp ginger
Mix all and spoon into cooled tart shells.
tart crust (from Chocolate, by Pierre Herme)
7 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature
2.5 TB confectioners' sugar
2.5 TB finely ground almond powder
1 large hard-boiled egg yolk, at room temperature, pressed through a fine strainer
.25 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp dark rum
pinch of double-acting baking powder
.75 C all-purpose flour
Mix butter until creamy. Add sugar, almond powder, egg yolk, cinnamon, and salt. Mix until smooth, scraping bowl as necessary. Whisk the baking powder into the flour and add the flour to the bowl, mixing until thoroughly blended. The dough will feel soft and look a little like the dough you'd use to make peanut butter cookies.
Place dough in plastic wrap and form into a disk. Chill at least 4 hours before rolling and baking.
Roll the dough out or pat it into the tart pans. Chill at least thirty minutes.
Bake at 350 until crust is honey brown. (How long this takes depends on the size of your mini tart pans.)