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Shortbread Tarts filled with Cream Recipe & Video

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These bite-sized Shortbread Tarts are irresistible. They are made with a buttery shortbread that is wonderfully tender crisp. After baking, each tart shell is filled with a creamy No Bake Cheesecake Filling. Delicious on their own, but I think they are especially tasty when studded with fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and/or strawberries).  

 

If you're Canadian, you're probably familiar with the "Best of Bridge" cookbooks. This recipe is from one of their cookbooks and it is a family favorite. I have been making them for years. Now, to make the tart shells we start with a shortbread dough that contains a little cornstarch (you could also use rice flour), which makes the shortbread tender crisp. Once the dough is made, you press small rounds into miniature muffin cups (if possible use a non stick pan). Then I like to place the shortbread-lined pan into the freezer while I preheat the oven, as this will firm up the shortbread and helps to prevent them from puffing up during baking. But if the shortbread still puffs up, lightly prick the centers of each shortbread with the tines of a fork, about halfway through baking.

The shortbread tarts are filled with a No-bake cheesecake filling, made with cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, freshly squeezed lemon juice and zest, and pure vanilla extract. When you first make this filling it is quite soft so it needs to be refrigerated until it becomes firm (like pastry cream). So at least eight hours, but preferably overnight. I also find that a day or two of chilling really improves the flavor of the filling. In fact, the filling can be made and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.

A few notes on the ingredients. Use a full fat (regular) cream cheese. Don't use fat free cream cheese as it's too soft and will prevent the filling from becoming firm. Along with the cream cheese, the filling is made with sweetened condensed milk, which is actually a ready made concentrated sugar syrup. It is made from a mixture of whole milk and sugar that has had about 60 percent of its water removed. Its consistency is thick and sticky (like honey) and it is very sweet tasting. When choosing lemons use organic if possible. Look for ones that are fragrant with brightly colored yellow skins. The best ones are firm, plump, and heavy for their size. Don't buy lemons that have blemishes, soft spots, or are hard and wrinkled. Lemons consist of a yellow outer rind (skin) that can be of varying thickness and graininess, and can have either a bumpy or a smooth texture. This outer skin is where most of the lemon's wonderful tangy flavor is located. Before removing the outer rind (zest) make sure you wash the lemon thoroughly (soap and water is best). When removing the zest do not remove the white membrane (pith) that is underneath as it is very bitter tasting.

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No Bake Cheesecake Filling: In your food processor or electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Add the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and process just until smooth. Transfer the filling to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least eight hours, or preferably overnight. Can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

Shortbread Tarts: Lightly butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, 48 miniature muffin tins (approximately 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter).

In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat, on medium speed, until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl as needed. 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 until firm (30-60 minutes).

Then take about 1 tablespoon of shortbread dough (about 15 grams) and roll it into a ball. Place in the center of each muffin tin. With your fingertips, press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides. 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 your oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. About halfway through the baking time, if the shortbread has puffed up, lightly prick the center 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 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 other fruit.

Makes about 48 - 2 inch (5 cm) shortbread tarts.

View comments on this recipe on YouTube

No Bake Cheesecake Filling:

8 ounces (227 grams) full fat cream cheese, at room temperature

1-14 ounce can (396 grams) sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon (5 grams) freshly grated lemon zest

1/3 cup (80 ml/grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract

Shortbread Tarts:

1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon (6 grams) pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups (295 grams) all purpose flour

1/3 cup (45 grams) cornstarch or rice flour

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt

Garnish:

Any combination of berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries) or other fruit such as slices of kiwi.

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