Parisian Fruit Tartlets

After finding and purchasing the most adorable collection of tartlet pans at Williams-Sonoma, I turned to my current favorite baking cookbook The Modern Baker (by Nick Malgieri) for ideas of what I could make with them.

I planned to make dessert for a picnic (bbq, cookout -- whatever it's called in your neck of the woods) and was looking for something that would be a crowd pleaser. Making Malgieri's Parisian fruit tarts in miniature seemed like a great idea to me.

I made his press-in cookie dough, sprayed all my tartlet pans with baking spray (even though they are nonstick -- I wasn't taking my chances), and carefully pressed the dough into the small pans. Following Malgieri's instructions, I pierced the dough with a fork. Then I put the shells in the fridge for a while. The chilling step is meant to prevent the dough from shrinking during baking.

The night before making the shells I had attempted to make Malgieri's pastry cream. I thought it looked okay, but the next morning when I started on the tartlet shells, I realized the cream had curdled. So while my shells baked, I frantically sought a simpler version and found one in Francois Payard's Chocolate Epiphany and whipped that up instead.

Then I went back to my shells. I had taken them out of the oven when they were nice and golden. And even though Malgieri's recipe says to leave them in the pans, I took them out. I had this horrifying thought that I would have the tarts all filled and ready to go and then I'd dump them out of the pans and ruin them. I think it was a good idea to take them out first because while most slipped right out, some were rather stubborn.

With the shells baked and cooled and my new batch of pastry cream chilling, I cleaned fruit and made a glaze by boiling water and raspberry preserves. This glaze is what makes the fruit look so shiny and perfect -- well, in bakery versions. I don't think my fruit looked all that perfect. I probably should have skipped the raspberries -- they're just too delicate no matter how gently you treat them. Some of them separated and made friends with the other fruit.

With all the pieces ready -- shells, cream, and fruit -- it was time to assemble the tartlets. I used a small offset spatula to spread small amounts of pastry cream on each tart shell and then topped the shells with a couple of pieces of glazed fruit.

While they didn't look as pretty as I had hoped, they were delicious. The dough had a nice crunch to it, and the pastry cream and fruit added a nice hint of sweetness. Although that was when I tried one right after making them. As the day went on, the crust softened. They still tasted great, but they lost some of their luster. I recommend making them when you can serve them right away or within a couple of hours.

More mini tartlets are on the horizon... because my pans need a lot more use! I may go for a chocolate ganache filling with unglazed raspberries for toppers next time. Or maybe I'll miniaturize Malgieri's chocolate orange hazelnut tart.

Do you like tarts and tartlets? What's your favorite?