Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Queen of Tarts

I like to think that I don't have a really big sweet tooth.

I like to think that. But who am I kidding?

Maybe I can go without having home-baked cookies around the house for a week. Maybe I don't bake cakes every day. But after a good dinner... no matter what... I usually feel the need for a little smackerel of something sweet.

Doesn't have to be much, really. Just something to take the edge off. A cup of herbal chai laced with honey, a handful of chocolate chips, a small glass of dandelion wine... just a little something.

But last night I decided to take advantage of the cooler weather (post-thunderstorm) and make jam tarts. I've never made them before, but the idea seemed pretty simple... make a single recipe of whole wheat pie crust dough, then divide the dough into smaller portions, add dollops of jam, and bake.

So I hauled out my mini muffin tin, divided the dough into a dozen small pieces, rolled them into balls and dropped them into the tins. I pressed them out with a well-floured knuckle, then spooned in three different kinds of jam: strawberry-mint, plum, and blueberry-orange (homemade) topped with bits of candied orange peel. I baked them at 400 degrees for only about 10-12 minutes so as not to scorch the jams or burn the crusts.

Happy sight! to have all those little jewels of jam tarts winking up at me when I pulled them from the oven. And a trio of tarts -- one of each flavor -- sufficed for a sweet little something after dinner.

Of course, now that I've experimented with this one idea, the possibilities for other variations have suddenly opened up before me. Little cheese tarts for appetizers? Chocolate tarts? Hmmmmm.

Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

Jam Tarts

The pie crust recipe is the basic one from the classic Betty Crocker cookbook; the trick is always to use ice water for a flaky crust.

1/3 c plus 1 T shortening
1 c whole wheat pastry or unbleached flour
1/3 tsp salt
2 to 3 T ice water
12 tsp jam (your choice)

Cut shortening into flour and salt until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle in water, 1 T at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl. (1-2 tsp water can be added if necessary.)

Gather pastry into a ball. Divide dough in half, then in half again, and then each piece into three sections. Roll each section into a ball. Place each ball of dough in a cup of a mini muffin tin; press down dough with a well-floured knuckle so that dough is evenly spread around the sides of the cup.

Add 1 tsp jam to each crust. This should not fill the cup more than 2/3 full; otherwise, you risk an overflow of jam and burnt jam and crust.

Bake at 400 F for 10-12 minutes until crust is lightly golden. Allow to cool half an hour before removing tarts from tin.

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