Even though the pastry is a little finicky (a light touch and not too much flour are the keys to this perfect pastry case), the cream cheese filling made up for it by being a snap to make! In fact, I had tons left over since I had only made enough pastry for about 18 tiny tartlets; therefore, I'd recommend doubling the pastry recipe to use up all of the cream cheese filling; that way, you don't have to re-roll your scraps more than once (another major no-no that leads to tough and oily tart shells).
When the cream cheese filling (recipe below) is ready, spoon into a piping bag, or in a pinch you can use a large ziploc bag. Set up the baked and completely cooled tart shells to receive the filling, snip the end off your piping bag, and pipe the cream cheese filling up to the top. While it will need to be refrigerated, this filling recipe contains no eggs so it is stable enough to not need baking; it's essentially a "no-bake" cheesecake-type filling.
You can garnish these little guys with anything you like: fresh berries (like I did) or tiny slices of fruit, a small dollop of jelly (note, it may sink to the bottom; pipe slightly less filling in to accommodate the jam), coloured sanding sugar sprinkled over the top, or even pipe some melted chocolate or caramel in a zigzag pattern over the top and sprinkle crushed nuts over that. You can change up the lemon zest and juice to another citrus fruit, but this filling recipe does need a citrus "zing", so don't delete it altogether.
To keep the tart shells crisp, fill them the day you will be serving them.
Cream Cheese Filling
(Original recipe courtesy of Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of baking.com)
- 1-8.oz. pkg full fat plain cream cheese, room temp
- 1-14 oz. tin sweetened condensed milk
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- In food processor or tabletop mixer, beat cream cheese until creamy and smooth.
- Add all remaining ingredients and process until just smooth (do not over-mix or the filling will be too runny).
- Transfer filling to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight (minimum 6 hours). Can be made up to a week in advance.
Sweet Tart Pastry
(Original recipe courtesy of Cooksrecipes.com)
(Original recipe courtesy of Cooksrecipes.com)
Makes enough pastry for one 9" round tart or 8 individual tart shells or 16-18 mini tart shells
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp table salt
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Sift flour and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Beat the butter with the paddle attachment of a tabletop mixer until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl.
- Add flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Don't overwork or pastry will be tough when baked. Dough will be sticky.
- Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm (at this point, you can wrap it very well and chill for up to 3 days).
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface, turning dough frequently to prevent it from sticking and to keep its round shape. Do not turn dough over. The dough should be about an inch larger than your tart pan, and about 1/8" thick.
- Carefully roll dough around rolling pin. Center over tart pan and unroll over the top. Never pull or stretch the dough as it will shrink away from pan during baking. Lightly press dough into bottom and sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to cut off excess dough.
- If making mini tarts, cut circles a little larger than the tart pan cavities (for accuracy, measure the depth of the pan's cavity, and add that number to the diameter of the cavity). Try to align your cuts carefully in order to not have to re-roll your scraps more than once (remember, each re-roll means tougher pastry).
- Gently but quickly ease each pastry circle into the pan cavities without pulling, stretching, or tearing the dough; the heat from your hands is melting the butter the longer you touch the dough. Ensure the dough circle is firmly against the bottom and walls of each cavity, and neaten up the top edge.
- Place in freezer for a minimum of 20 minutes to chill. The tart pan can be left in the freezer for up to a day if necessary.
- If baking unfilled (as in for this recipe), "blind-bake" tart cases first; this is done by lining tart pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, then filling with pie weights or dried beans, making sure the weights fill to the top of the pan are and evenly distributed over the entire surface.
- Bake crust in a 400*F (205*C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes until crust is lightly browned; remove weights a few minutes prior to the perfect golden brown, and finish baking to achieve brownness along tart bottom. Remove weights and parchment, and cool crust on wire rack before filling.