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Apr 24, 2011 01:38 AM

The teeny tiny pastry shell project (miniature tartlets)

It started in the supermarket. I fell in love with a box of the teeniest, tiniest, most perfect little pastry cases ever. Until I looked at the price. $2.99 for eight? That's highway robbery! Tell 'em they're dreaming! It would have cost them a few cents to make those! Granted, they were surrounded by swathes of ridiculous packaging, but as this was not edible and was going to become landfill, I resented paying for this.

So I got to thinking about how to make them myself.

Frozen shortcrust pastry was a fail. My fingers were too clumsy, they were difficult to form. They were so tiny I couldn't blind bake them (they were barely an inch across) so when they went in the oven, they puffed up, making the holes where the filling should go even smaller than they were. They were also rather lopsided and very... crude and rustic. Not at all like the perfectly formed, absolutely symmetrical overpriced tartlet cases languishing some 10 km away in the supermarket.

Second experiment: spring roll pastry. Cut to size, two - three layers, in my mini muffin tin. Fail! Too thin, too brittle, very, very fragile.

Third experiment: won ton skins. I bought two types, one slightly thicker than the other. I tried with the thicker skins. Some success! Though the edges browned way before the bottoms had cooked. This could have been because I used silicone mini muffin cups (my mini muffin tin is prone to sticking). What was brown was lovely and crisp, but not like pastry... hard to describe. A little like fortune cookies, only not sweet, and harder. Also need to work on the shaping of them. They looked a bit like amoebas (amoebae?) on some kind of psychedelic drug binge! One other thing is that you can't squish the won ton pastry together in the same way that you can with regular pastry dough.

Next, I'm going to try the thinner won ton skins... and maybe some soft bread that has been rolled flat...

My biggest challenge is to find a way to mould them so that they're at least even... I know that the ones in the shop would have been formed by a machine, but there must be a way for me to at least approximate this!

I found some tiny tartlet tins on ebay, I think they were swedish... but they were all silver and shiny and fluty, and I could see myself prying flakes of pastry out of them and swearing like a pirate despite greasing them well, because somehow I'm very unlucky about getting those sorts of things to not stick to whatever I'm trying to cook in them.

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  1. Cut the pastry in a circle with cookie cutter or pastry cutter, then use a shot glass or a salt shaker the size of the bottom of your tartlet tins and you form the tartlet on the shot glass then you transfer it on the bottom of your tin, then put them in the oven with a cookie sheet on top of them so that they won't puff.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TDEL

      Thank you TDEL :)
      I'll keep an eye out for a suitable thing to use as a shaper.

    2. It sounds like you are interested in savory, not sweet, pastry -- is that right?

      I have some of those tiny monsters -- size as pictured -- that's a teaspoon. The few times I've used them, it was for a sweet filling. The pastry recipe is "Press-In Butter Pastry" from Sunset magazine, years ago. It doesn't shrink or change shape when baked, but is sweet and I don't know if it would work without the sugar. After baking, just a tap or at most the point of a toothpick is needed to get the little tarts out of the tins.

      If you want this recipe, let me know here.

      3 Replies
      1. re: blue room

        I'd like the recipe please! Summer's coming - berry tartlets!

        1. re: morwen

          Here 'tis:

          2 cups unsifted all purpose flour
          4 tablespoons sugar
          3/4 cup butter
          2 egg yolks

          Mix flour and sugar together; add butter and crumble it into the flour with your fingers until mixture is mealy in texture and there are no large particles. Stir in egg yolks with a fork until well blended. Then work dough with your hands until it holds a smooth, non-crumble ball (the heat of your hands softens and makes the dough stick together).
          Press the pastry into pan or cupcake pan, pushing it firmly to make an even layer. Allow about 1 teaspoon dough for tart pan 2 inches wide and about 1/5 inch deep, about 2 tablespoon dough for tart pans 3 inches wide about 1 inch deep, about 1 cup dough for a 9 inch pie pan (shape dough up to but not onto pan rim) and about 1 1/2 cup dough for an 11 inch tart pan. Bake pastry at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until pastry takes more time to brown.

          Let pastry cool in pan; invert small tarts and tap lightly to free then turn right side up. The 11 inch tart pastry can be taken from the pan only if supported by a removable metal bottom. Makes 2 cups dough.

          1. re: blue room

            @ blue room - yes, more savory than sweet, but sweet is good too. Thanks for the recipe, I'll have a play with it and see what comes out. That it doesn't change shape when baked sounds very promising!

            btw, I love your tiny tart tins - I think those ones are even smaller than the ones I saw on ebay!

      2. One of Jacques Pepin's books shows blind-baking a pie crust by putting an identical pan into the filled pie pan, then inverting the "sandwich". Baking the crust upside down keeps the sides from slumping. The same idea works with mini-muffin tins, whether you are using a pate brisee or pate sucree.

        1 Reply
        1. re: greygarious

          Thank you greygarious :)
          If I decide to get those tiny tartlet tins, I might give it a try.

        2. What I do is take a sheet of phyllo, butter it lightly and cut it into small squares (I usually get 12 out of a sheet). I line the cups of a mini-muffin tin with one square in each hole, allowing the edges to flare out. I repeat with 2 more sheets of phyllo, so each cup gets three layers, and I stagger the corners a bit so that each one has multiple flaring crispy edges. Bake and fill as desired. They aren't perfectly symmetrical of course, but they are super cute and a lot cheaper than $3 for 8!

          1 Reply
          1. re: biondanonima

            Thanks for your input! I will have to give it a go :)

          2. I know you're looking for tiny and tidy, but I have a great method that is a bit more rustic. Make your fave pie crust, adjust it for sweet or savory as you like. Then enlist the help of someone with patience. Use a 3" biscuit cutter to cut circles when you have the dough rolled out to 1/8 inch. Chill the circles a bit if they get too soft. Further roll the disks until they are as thin as possible, pick them up with a bench scraper and fold three pleats as you shape them into a dark mini-muffin pan. The pleats should be poking up straight. Skip every other hole in the pan so that they don't bake together. Chill the pan if they start to wilt.

            Fill these tarts as you like. I never blind bake them, it seems with the dark muffin tin and the very thin pastry they don't bake up soggy. My ideal use for these is to put butter tart filling in at Christmas.

            I do rub the muffin tin with canola oil and paper towel, making sure that I cover every bit of the depressions and the top of the pan. If you are fast you can grab the newly baked tarts between finger and thumb and pop them onto a cooling rack before they fry your fingers.

            3 Replies
            1. re: applgrl

              Thank you - cutting them into rounds and then flattening them further sounds like a great idea. Luckily my mini muffin tin is a dark one too :)

              1. re: applgrl

                applgrl I'm not sure what this means -- "fold three pleats as you shape them"
                Do you mean around the top edge? Or inside of the cups?

                1. re: blue room

                  The flattened circles will be too large to smooth into the pans---I just fold 3 pleats around the edge, sort of like I'm shaping it into a cone. I don't spend any more time fitting it smooth into the bottom of the cup--just plunk it in. Mostly I just adjust the top so that I have a nice large opening so that I can get the filling in easily with a small ice cream scoop. Sorry I don't have a photo----haven't made them for awhile.