Palm-sized and portable, sweet tartlets are also an elegant and versatile dessert. You can fill them with anything from pastry cream, citrus curd, ganache or mousse, and top them off with fresh berries, fruit, cream or swirls of meringue—whatever suits your
fancy. Make an assortment and your guests can choose their favorite. I like to make them with fillings that can be prepared several days ahead of time, so I only need to make the topping and assemble them a few hours before serving. The tartlet shells take
some time, but they can also be made well in advance. Here I chose to make one with a lime curd filling topped with meringue (my favorite); orange-scented custard with fresh raspberries; and chocolate ganache with whipped cream. The lime curd and custard
can be made several days ahead, and the ganache comes together in minutes, so they’re not as much work as you’d think. And they are adorable, non?
A Trio of Tartlets
Makes twelve 3-inch tartlets
1 ½ cups (181 g) all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons (43 g) cake flour
3/4 teaspoon sugar
¼ plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes and frozen for 20 minutes
3 tablespoons shortening
3 tablespoons ice water
Make the tart dough:
1. Place the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse few times to combine. Add the butter pieces and shortening and toss lightly with a spoon to coat them with flour. Blend the fat and flour with about five 1-second pulses or until the mixture is the texture of coarse meal with some of the butter pieces the size of peas. Sprinkle the water over the flour mixture and process continuously until the dough begins to clump together. Do not over-process; the dough should not form a ball. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into 2 thick 4-inch wide discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and chill until firm enough to roll, about 30 minutes.
2. Place one of the unwrapped dough discs on a work surface that has been lightly dusted with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into 12-inch x 9-inch rectangle, lifting and rotating the dough often, while dusting the work suface and dough lightly with flour as necessary. Arrange 2 rows of 3 3-inch mini-tartlets pans right next to each other. Roll the dough up on the rolling pin and unroll it over the tartlet pans. Gently press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pans. Roll the pin over the top of the pans to trim off the excess dough. Lightly prick the bottom of the dough with a fork 3 or 4 times in each pan. Repeat with the remaining dough disc and pans to make a total of 12 tartlet shells. Refrigerate the dough in the pans for 20 minutes to firm up the dough.
3. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Right before baking, line the dough in each pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and cover with pie weights or dried beans. Place the tartlet pans on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the foil (along with the weights) out of the tartlet pans and bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer the tartlet pans to a wire rack and cool completely.
Lime Meringue Tartlets
Makes 4 tartlets
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (3.5 oz/100 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/2 oz/57 g) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
Make the curd:
1. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and set aside. In a small, heavy, non-reactive saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until blended. Stir in the lime zest and lime and lemon juice, salt, and butter and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 6 to 9 minutes (do not let the mixture boil, or it will curdle). The mixture should leave a path on the back of a wooden spoon when you draw your finger across it. Immediately strain the mixture through the sieve, pressing it through with a rubber spatula.
2. Set the bowl containing the lemon mixture in a large mixing bowl filled one-third of the way with ice water (be careful that the water doesn’t splash into the lime mixture). Stir the mixture frequently until it is slightly chilled, about 15 minutes. Cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).
Make the meringue:
3. Pour enough water into a skillet so that it comes 1/2-inch up its sides. Bring the water to a simmer; reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, egg whites, and water. Place the bowl in the skillet of water and whisk gently until the mixture registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.
5. Transfer the bowl to the mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the meringue is cool and forms stiff, shiny peaks, about 5 minutes.
6. Whisk the chilled Lime Curd until smooth. Scrape the curd into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe it into 4 of the baked mini tartlet shells.
7. Scrape the meringue into a clean pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip and pipe 3 swirls onto each tartlet. (You might have some meringue left over, but it’s difficult to make less than this amount.)
Raspberry Tartlets with Orange-Scented Pastry Custard
Makes 4 tartlets
Orange-Scented Custard Filling:
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1.7 oz/50 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (.5 oz/15 g) cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
2 teaspoons orange liqueur
One 6-ounce container fresh raspberries
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt; set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle boil. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about 1/3 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan containing the remaining milk. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Continue to boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter until melted. Quickly strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Whisk in the vanilla extract or paste and the orange liqueur. Cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 2 hours, until well chilled.
4. Pipe or spoon the custard into 4 of the baked tartlet shells. Top each with fresh raspberries and sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Chocolate Cream Tartlets
Makes 4 tartlets
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
Whipped Cream Topping:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated dark chocolate or cocoa powder for dusting tops
Make the ganache:
1. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a gentle boil over medium heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for a minute, then whisk until smooth. Pour the ganache into 4 of the baked mini tartlet shells and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Make the cream topping:
4. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla extract to firm peaks. Scrape into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip and pipe 3 swirls onto each tartlet. Sprinkle lightly with grated chocolate or cocoa powder.