Monday, August 9, 2010

Mini Tart Crusts

Lemon tartlettes were on the dessert menu this weekend along with a wedding cake. Here's how I make the little crusts for these bite-sized lemon delights.

I start by making my standard butter pastry dough (Pate Brisee as Martha would call it) and rolling it out using my parchment paper method. Pie crust is so easy and mess-free when this method is used. Learn more about it on my Pie Crust 101 blog post.

Using a biscuit cutter, which just happens to be exactly the right size, I cut out rounds of dough that fit perfectly into the molds of my mini muffin tin.

These little pie crusts need to be pre-baked because the filling I am putting in them will not be baked. As I showed in the coconut custard pie recipe, pre-baked or blind baked crusts need to have a weight in them to keep them from shrinking and changing shape while baking.
For many years now I have used these little home-made mini pie crust weights. They have seen a lot of use and I decided I needed to retire them and make new ones.

They are simply white rice in plastic wrap. Here's how I make them.

After lining the mini-muffin tin with the pastry dough I chilled the pan in the freezer for about ten minutes. This keeps the dough from getting distorted as I make the weights. When the dough is cold and firm I line each one with a small piece of doubled over plastic wrap and fill each one with some raw rice. I then fold the plastic wrap around the rice, sticking it to itself to seal the rice into the little bag.

Once they are all filled I bake them in a 375 degree oven for about fifteen minutes.

The plastic kind of shrink-wraps itself around the rice. Over time and additional use it shrinks itself more and more making compact little mini-pie weights.

After baking for fifteen minutes I popped the pie weights out (very hot little buggers!) and returned the mini pie crusts to the oven to brown for an additional eight to ten minutes.

These little crusts have a million uses. They can be filled with fruit pie filling, fresh berries, pastry creams or savory fillings for delicious party appetizers. For catered buffets I have made mini-quiches by fore-going the pre-baking and filling the dough cups with cheese and quiche filling and then baking until set.
Tomorrow I will show you the simple yet incredibly delicious lemon filling I put into these. They were so yummy we could hardly restrain ourselves from eating them all.

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