These tiny tartlets are an adorable treat for any party, bake-sale or gathering. They are extremely tasty with a vibrant and refreshing lemon-ey flavor and can be made in a muffin tray or cupcake pan - so no need for specialized bakeware no one ever has! This recipe uses a classic french pastry lemon curd filling and a simple, rustic shortcrust recipe. Of course, for added ease store-bought pastry will work perfectly.
Step 1: Making Shortcrust From Scratch
For many bakers and non-bakers alike, making crusts from scratch always seems like a daunting task- and for good reason! Shortcrust recipes are oddly very difficult and very simple all at once. Through my pastry-journey (and many failures) I have devised a fool-proof method for making perfect homemade shortcrust, and it all boils down to one major trick: keep the dough cold! The main reason shortcrust breaks apart or becomes hard to work with is simply because the butter in it begins to melt, making a much less malleable texture. Throughout this recipe we'll take "keep your cool" quite literally.
Ingredients: You will need...
1 1/4 Cups plain flour (157.5g)
A pinch of salt
1 3/4 Tbsp Sugar (24.5g)
1/2 Cup cold unsalted butter (113g)
1/6 Cup ice water (39.5ml)
Making the Dough:
Method 1: Food Processor. (A.k.a. a much easier method for those who have their lives together and own a food processor)
1. Combine your flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until well mixed.
2. Add the cold butter in ~4cm cubes (1inch) to flour mixture. Pulse until mixture is a sand-like consistency.
3.Gradually pour in your ice water while pulsing until a dough forms
4. Wrap your dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Method 2: By hand. (The method I use)
1. Combine your flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together with a fork until well incorporated.
2. Add the cold butter in ~2-3cm cubes (the smaller they are, the easier it will be to incorporate) to the flour mixture. Using your hands, cover butter in the flour and proceed to mix together by picking up the chunks of butter and plenty of flour, and crumbling the two back into the bowl. Repeat this process until the mixture resembles a sand-like consistency with no observable bits of butter remaining. (Especially when aspiring to make fine details (such as the flowers on my tart above) out of shortcrust it is essential to make sure the butter is completely incorporated in this step).
3. Pour the ice water into the butter/flour mixture and stir together until a dough forms.
4.Wrap your dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Step 2: Making the Mini Crusts
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C)
2. Once your dough is completely you will want to roll it out to around 1/4inch thickness (quite thin).
2. Using a glass, or some other circular-cutting instrument, cut out little circles of your crust.
3. Place little circles into the little cups on your pre-greased muffin-tray or cupcake pan (or proper mini pie tins if you have them). Use your fingers to gently push it into the sides and bottom, shaping it to the pan.
4. Next, you will want to blind bake your crusts: Cut little squares of aluminum foil or baking paper (around twice the size of your muffin-tray slots) and place them on top of the crust, molding them to the shape of the pan.
5. Fill your foil-covered crusts with dried beans (I used dry kidney beans) and bake for around 10 minutes, until they begin to turn light brown. The aim of these beans is to weigh down the crust and keep it from losing its shape in the oven!
6. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool completely before gently removing the beans. (Caution: the beans will be extremely hot at first).
7. Gently remove tart-crusts from pan and set aside to cool entirely.
Step 3: Making Your Lemon Filling and Pies
3 unwaxed* lemons
1/2 cup granulated sugar (64g)
4 tbsp creme fraiche (or sour cream)
Preheat the oven to 375F (185C)
1. Separate THREE of your eggs and save the yolks and whites in separate bowls.
2. Zest and juice your lemons into a large mixing bowl - you want about 2/3rds a cup of fresh lemon juice total.
3. Add your sugar to the bowl and using an electric mixer, beat until combined.
4. Add your creme fresh and beat into your sugar and lemon mixture.
5. Gradually add your four whole eggs, and three egg YOLKS one at a time, beating in between. *Note to save your egg whites for making the meringue later!*
6. You'll now want to place your little pie shells back into the cupcake tin you used. Carefully spoon your custard mixture into your little pie crusts- this is easiest done with a pitcher.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the filling is set.
8. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
* Many lemons in the supermarket are coated with a thin layer of candle wax to keep them fresh for longer. Since it's the peel we're after, it's important to have unwaxed lemons to avoid getting a load of wax in your custard!
Step 4: Making the Meringue
Your remaining 3 egg whites
1/3 cup of sugar (43g)
a pinch of salt
1. Combine all your ingredients in a mixing bowl and using an electric mixer beat on medium/high until stiff, but not dry, peaks begin to form.
Step 5: Decorating Your Mini Pies
Finally, using the meringue and whatever else you fancy, decorate your little pies however you like! Simply a dollop of meringue on top would look exquisite! Below I have detailed precisely how I decorated my tarts: I cut little curls of lemon zest and candied tiny slices of lemon to put on top. I also used a culinary blow torch to lightly toast the meringue.
a few springs of thyme
1. Using a zester or vegetable peeler, cut off thin shavings/curls of the lemon rind.
2. Slice tiny (1/4 inch) segments of lemon and sprinkle gently with granulated sugar.
3. Spoon your meringue into a piping bag fitted with a star tip (if you don't have a piping tip you may cut the corner of any plastic sandwich bag into a zigzag to create a star shape).
4. Gently pipe various star-patterns and swirls of the meringue into a crescent around the pie.
5. Using a blowtorch, lightly toast the tips of the meringue. This is best done slowly, keeping the torch a good distance away from the meringue.
6. Lastly top with little leaves and springs of thyme, and your prepared lemon curls and slices.
7. Serve and enjoy!