I've realized not too long ago that I'm pretty much obsessed with all desserts that are made in individual servings. And I simply love anything that's a miniature version of its original form. I convince myself that I'm not consuming as many calories when I have a mini cupcake, a mini apple pie, or brownies cut into tiny pieces it would be criminal to have just one. Everything's cuter when it's mini anyway. Like kittens, puppies and humans; I wouldn't advise those to be consumed though...
This brings me to a treat I like to make which is not necessarily tiny but is meant for single servings: tarts! I first started making these tarts in 2009 when I decided I wanted to try making tart crust/dough from scracth, on my own. Since then, I've learned to follow instructions better and I am now able to make crust which is light and flaky. A personal achievement! Really, anyone can make tart crust/dough, it just needs a little bit of patience and some gentle + cold hands (or a food processor if you don't like to make it by hand).
I would say that this is a fairly easy recipe to follow but is time-consuming especially if you are a beginner at making pastries. However, the results always turn out great - even if your tart crust doesn't turn out as flaky as you'd like, it will still always taste good. Practice makes perfect and I myself am still practicing to perfect this technique. After all, we're just baking to put a smile on someone's face and satisfy that sweet tooth! These tarts are great for parties or gatherings; I've baked them for a picnic and several gatherings in the past and they've always been quite a hit. I made these particular ones for my friend Wajiha who kindly invited me to her place for iftar where her mom cooked up a [delicious] storm.
I had a lot of fun decorating the chocolate tarts. Melted some chocolate and piped out flower shapes then topped them off with edible glitter.
There are so many ways to decorate tarts. I've topped the vanilla ones with berries, kiwis, and pineapples, the possibilities are endless. For the chocolate tarts, if I need something quick to top them off with, I chop chocolate and sprinkle it on top or you could even use sprinkles of your own choice. Again, it's totally up to you and what you come up with! :)
Tarts adapted from Fatafeat Magazine's Houriyat Al Matbakh
makes 25-30 tarts
Tools you'll need:
Pastry cutter (optional)
2 or 3 cupcake/muffin tins (This varies with everyone, depending on how much dough you end up with and how thick/thin you roll it out)
Cupcake/muffin liners or papers
Round cookie cutter, about 3 inches in diameter
Dry beans or dry lentils or pie weights. These will be used for blind baking.
For the crust:
200g all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
125g unsalted butter, fridge cold
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
butter spray or softened butter
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt
- Cut the butter into small cubes and throw them into the flour mix. Using a pastry cutter, begin cutting the cubes of butter into the flour. Alternatively, you can use your hands: rub the mix between your hands so as to combine the butter and the flour. Keep doing this until your mixture looks like damp sand; little crumbles of dough. Whatever you do, do not knead. This will help you achieve that lovely light, flaky crust in the end.
- In another bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla until it turns from a dark yellow into a pale yellow color and is fluffy.
- Add the egg mix into the flour mix and fold it in. Again, do not knead the dough. Simply combine the wet and dry ingredients together; you can use your hands or a spatula, whatever you prefer.
- If your dough still feels sticky, add more flour as you go. Continue doing this until your dough can hold its own and is formed into a ball.
- Take a piece of cling foil and wrap your dough in it. Leave it to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Assembling + Blind Baking:
- Prepare 2-3 cupcake/muffin tins; spray a little bit of butter spray in each cup or if you're using softened butter, brush a thin layer of butter into each cup. Set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C
- Take out the dough from the fridge, unwrap from cling foil. To make it easier for you to use, cut the ball of dough in half.
- On a clean, flat surface which is lightly floured, roll out your dough with your rolling pin. Thickness of the dough is totally up to you, I prefer a crust that has a bit of a bite to it so I roll it out about 1/4 inch thick.
- Using your round cookie cutter, cut out rounds; try using up as much dough as possible.
- Take your round pieces of dough and fit each one in a separate cup in your cupcake/muffin tin. Use your fingers to push them into place and shape them as you wish. Don't worry if you mistakenly pierce little holes, just take a little piece of left-over dough and patch them up. Repeat this process till all your dough is done.
- On top of the dough, place the cupcake/muffin papers or liners. Lightly push them into the dough. Now pour in your dry beans/lentils/pie weights and fill the papers about 2/3 to ensure they weigh down the dough.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until you can see the edges of your dough turn a nice golden color.
- Take out the cupcake/muffin tins from the oven. Carry out the cupcake/muffin papers or liners filled with the dry beans/lentils/pie weights. I don't throw away my dry beans as I can use them again for the next time I bake a pie or tart.
- Switch off your oven's bottom burner and light up the top burner. Put the cupcake/muffin tins back in the oven and bake for just 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn your tart shells, this is just to lightly bake the tops which weren't previously exposed to heat.
- Remove your baked tart shells from their tins and allow them to cool on a rack while you make the filling.
For the filling:
700ml milk, at room temperature
120 g sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g corn flour
100g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces or chocolate chips*
- In a large saucepan on medium heat, heat the milk till it simmers. Set aside for a bit.
- In a bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until it is a pale yellow and becomes fluffy. Then add the corn flour and slowly beat that into the egg mix.
- Spoon in about 3 spoonfuls of the heated milk into the egg mix and mix together.
- Now add the egg mix to the rest of the milk in the sauce pan and return to medium heat.
- Constantly stir the mix, do not leave it unattended as it can curdle.
- Keep doing this until your filling reaches a thick consistency; it should have an egg custard-like texture.
- Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool down. *[For chocolate tarts, I separate half the ready filling into another bowl and while it is still hot, I add the chopped chocolate which melts with ease. And viola, you have chocolate filling!]
- Once it is at room temperature, you can either spoon the filling into your tart shells or put it in a pastry bag and pipe it with a star tip.
- Top off vanilla tarts with fruits of your choice and the chocolate tarts with sprinkles or little pieces of chocolate, or whatever you prefer. Place them in an air-tight container and pop in the fridge to cool.