You guys, I made pie crust! Well, sort of. I made tartlet crust, and it actually worked for me!
It’s on my culinary resolutions list for 2014 to finally master pie crust from scratch. I have baked all sorts of finicky and complex things over the years (with generally positive results) but for some reason, pastry has always been a challenge for me, and I’ve had more pie crust attempts ending in frustration/rage that I care to remember. To be completely honest, I’ve even managed to somehow mess up store-bought pastry, including the pre-made crusts that come in the tin foil pans. Once I made nice, perfect, flaky pie crust for a delicious spinach and feta pie and I thought I had the technique mastered, but my very next attempt was so bad it was not fit for consumption. My quest continues.
However, this tartlet dough is incredibly easy – so easy, in fact, that not only did I not mess it up, but it came out perfectly golden, buttery and flaky, and didn’t crumble away to nothing &/or stick to the pan &/or resemble a brick in any way. The dough contains only 3 ingredients: flour, softened butter and cream cheese, which are blended together until smooth and simply pressed into tartlet pans. No cutting cold butter into flour or rolling or resting or any of the usual pastry steps.
Okay, maybe this doesn’t count as real pastry, but I’m taking baby steps here.
I love any dessert containing citrus. When my Better Half and I go for dinner, if there is something on the dessert menu with lemon curd or other tart, citrusy flavours, it’s generally a given that “we” will order it to “share.”
Although I love my lemon desserts puckeringly tart/sour, these tartlets have a more balanced sweetness that I enjoy as well. Blood oranges are wonderfully tart and a beautiful red colour, but if you can’t find them in your grocery store, you can still make this recipe with regular oranges – just reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup or the curd will be far too sweet. I had initially hoped using blood oranges would result in a darker reddish-orange filling, but the golden yellow colour they turned out is lovely as well.
If, like me, you struggle with pastry, I encourage you to try these tarts. They have a number of steps (e.g. making the dough, chilling, blind baking, making the curd, etc.), but each step is simple and straightforward and I promise you will be pleased with the result.
- ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 oz (90 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large whole eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
- ½ cup fresh blood orange juice, strained
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, strained
- 1 cup sugar (if you're using regular oranges, cut it back to ¾ cup)
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
- In a stand mixer (or by hand), combine the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the flour and mix until a smooth dough forms.
- Transfer dough to a work surface and cut into four equal-sized pieces, rolling each piece into a ball. Place 1 ball in each of 4 x-inch tartlet pans. Press dough evenly into tartlet pans using your fingertips, making sure the bottom and sides of the pans are covered evenly. "Cut" any overhang away using your fingers. Freeze tartlet crusts for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove crusts from freezer and line each with a piece of aluminum foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights and set on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Check for doneness by peeling back one corner of the foil; if the foil sticks, the crusts aren't done, so return to oven and bake for a few more minutes.
- Reduce oven to 350 degrees F. Remove foil and beans/weights and continue to bake for another 10 minutes, until crusts are golden brown. Leave crusts on baking sheet for filling & baking.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In the top of a double boiler, whisk together eggs, yolks, blood orange juice, lemon juice, and sugar. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on a candy thermometer, and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in butter and orange zest, mixing until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Let stand for 10 minutes. Spoon or pour the filling into the crusts, dividing evenly.
- Bake tartlets until the centres are just set, about 13-15 minutes; the filling will continue to set as they cool and chill. Let tartlets cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
- Serve with whipped cream (if desired). Tarts will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
Source: Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking: Recipes and Techniques for Succcessful Home Baking