bite-sized Shortbread Tarts are irresistible. The buttery shortbread is tender
crisp, and each tart shell is filled with a creamy no bake filling that tastes
like cheesecake. They look so pretty when
studded with fresh fruit, and besides looking and tasting great, they are
perfect for large gatherings. You can make the cream filling up to a week in
advance and the unfilled shortbread tart shells can also be made ahead and frozen.
To make the tart shells we start with a basic shortbread dough.
However, this dough is a little different in that we are adding some cornstarch (corn flour) (you could also use rice flour),
helps to make a more tender and melt-in-your-mouth shortbread. Once the dough is made, if
it is too soft to roll into
balls, then cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes or just until you can form
it into balls. Then take small buttery balls of shortbread dough and press
lightly buttered miniature muffin tins. Once filled, I like
to put the shortbread-lined pans into the freezer while I heat up the oven,
as this will firm up the shortbread and help to prevent it from
puffing up during baking. But if you find the shortbread still puffs up, just lightly prick
the bottom of each shortbread, with the tines of a fork, about halfway
through baking. Since shortbread is quite fragile, it is
best to bake the shortbread until the edges have turned a light golden brown.
I know these tart shells can be a little difficult to remove from the pan.
So, if you can use non stick miniature muffin pans and always cool the shortbread completely before
removing from the pan, as this will help prevent breakage. The great thing about these tart shells is
that they store very well so you can make them days in advance of serving
and simply store them at room temperature or they can be frozen.
I often like to fill the shortbread tarts with a no-bake
cheesecake-like filling, although you could fill the tarts with lemon
curd, jam, or pastry cream. The filling is made with cream cheese, and try
to use full fat, as fat
free is a little too soft and may prevent the filling from becoming firm.
Along with the cream cheese, the filling is made
with sweetened condensed milk, freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest
(outer yellow skin of lemon) and pure vanilla extract. Now, when you first
make this filling it is quite soft so it needs to be refrigerated until
firm, about 6-8 hours, preferably overnight. This also gives the flavors
time to soften and mingle. In fact, the filling can be made and stored in
the refrigerator for about a week. Now, depending on how much filling
you use for each tart, you may have some left over. While you
could easily make another batch of shortbread tarts, another idea would be
to make one large shortbread crust and then fill it with the leftover
cream and garnish with fresh fruit. To keep the shortbread crisp, fill the
tart shells with the cream the day of serving. These are especially nice when
garnished with fresh berries or slices of your favorite fruit.
Cream Cheese Filling:
In your food processor or electric mixer, beat the
cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Add the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon
zest, and vanilla and process just until smooth.
(Do not over process or the filling will be too runny.) Transfer
the filling to a bowl,
cover, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, or preferably overnight. Can be covered
and stored in the refrigerator for about a week.
Lightly butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, 36 miniature muffin tins (approximately
2 inch (5 cm) in diameter).
In the bowl of your
electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together (1-2
minutes) until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour, cornstarch
and salt and mix just until incorporated. If the shortbread dough is too soft to
roll into balls, cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.
Take a scant 1
tablespoon of shortbread dough (about 15 grams) and
place in the center of each muffin tin. With your
fingertips, press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the individual muffin tin. Once filled,
cover and place the tart pan, with the unbaked shells, in
the freezer for about 15 minutes so the shortbread can become firm. (This
will help to prevent the shortbread from puffing up during baking.)
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place
rack in the center of the oven.
Bake for approximately
20 minutes or until lightly
golden brown. About halfway
through the baking time, if the shortbread has puffed up, lightly prick the bottom of each shortbread with the tines of a fork.
Once they are
fully baked, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, remove
the tarts from the pan. (They can be frozen.)
To serve: Using two small spoons, fill the tart shells with
a dollop of the cream filling. (Can also place the filling in a piping bag,
fitted with a small plain tip.) The filled tart shells can be made several hours
in advance and refrigerated. Just before serving top with fresh berries or cut up fruit.
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