We used shortcut products, but combined them in ways that make them delicious.
We doctored up ready-made puddings to produce richer flavors. We combined bottled toppings with creamy fillings and nuts. We even found some canned products that performed beautifully ó including Reddi-wip. The canister dispenses one star-like dab of lightly sweetened whipped cream thatís perfect on a tiny tart.
Then we garnished away, giving each tart a distinct look and complementary flavor accent. You could make dozens of dazzling tarts, with no two looking exactly alike.
Tina Danze is a Dallas freelance writer.
Butterscotch Banana Mini Tarts
Mix 1 (3.5-ounce) container of prepared butterscotch pudding with 2 teaspoons Pedro Ximenez dessert sherry (an inexpensive brand like Osborne). Place 1 banana slice on the bottom of 8 bite-size tart shells. Mound a spoonful of pudding over the banana to cover it and generously fill the tart. Garnish each tart with pecan pieces.
Gingered Mascarpone Tarts
Mince 3 to 4 teaspoons crystallized ginger; mix with 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese and 2 teaspoons powdered sugar. Spread into your choice of tart shells and top with one of the following: quartered figs, mandarin orange slices, blueberries, sliced strawberries, a larger piece of crystallized ginger or your favorite marmalade.
Chocolate- Hazelnut Tarts
Mix one part finely chopped hazelnuts to two parts Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread, sold near the peanut butter). Fill tart shells with the mixture. Top with a few coarsely chopped hazelnut pieces and garnish with sea salt, such as Maldon flakes, fleur de sel or sel gris. In a pinch, kosher salt will do.
Combine 1 (3.5-ounce) container of prepared vanilla pudding with 2 tablespoons coconut cream, such as Coco Lopez (mix well before measuring, as the thick cream and liquid tend to separate). Whisk until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons coconut flakes. Fill tart shells or crusts with the mixture. Garnish with a dollop of Reddi-wip or other whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes.
Prepare filling for Coconut Tarts. Spread the bottom third of each shell with dark chocolate fudge sauce. Generously mound the coconut pudding mixture into each shell. Top with a squirt of Reddi-wip or other whipped cream. Garnish with chocolate shavings or toasted coconut flakes.
Lemon Curd & Fruit Tarts
Fill your choice of shells or crust with bottled lemon or lime curd. Top with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or sliced kiwi (quarter and fan the slices for bite size shells).
Mini cheesecake tarts
Buy a large piece of cheesecake from the supermarket deli. Slice off the crust and the browned ďskinĒ on top (this will be the cookís reward, eaten after filling the tarts). Let remaining cheesecake come to room temperature to soften. Press 1/2 tablespoon of cheesecake into each bite-size tart shell. Top tarts to cover with any of the following: caramel sauce, fudge sauce, sliced strawberries, whole raspberries, blueberries, orange marmalade, peach preserves or any other fruit topping.
Chocolate Kahlua Tarts
Whisk 1 (3.5 -ounce) container of prepared chocolate pudding with 11/2 teaspoons of Kahlua and 1 tablespoon of good-quality dark chocolate sauce. Mound a heaping teaspoon into bite-size tart shells. Top with a squirt of Reddi-wip or other whipped cream. If desired, garnish with a dusting of grated chocolate or a chocolate-covered espresso bean.
Lemon Mascarpone Tarts
Fill tart shells halfway with mascarpone. Top with a generous dollop of lemon curd. Top with a tiny dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with lemon zest or a small berry.
Chocolate Toffee Nut Tarts
Mix equal parts chopped nuts and Heath toffee bits. Cover the bottom third of each bite-size tart shell. Spoon gourmet chocolate sauce over the toffee-nut mixture to cover. Top with a few more nuts or toffee bits, or a squirt of whipped cream.
Peach &Almond Tarts
Form a thin round of almond paste big enough to cover the bottom of a large individual size dessert shell or graham cracker crust. Fill with Comstock More Fruit Peach Pie Filling. Garnish with small granola crumbles, finely crumbled gingersnaps or chopped almonds.
Caramel Apple Tarts
Fill large individual dessert shells or graham cracker crusts with Comstock More Fruit Apple Pie Filling. Drizzle with cajeta or caramel syrup (warmed if it is too thick). Garnish with chopped walnuts.
Gorgonzola & Apple Tart
Arrange Comstock More Fruit Apple Pie slices inside your choice of tart shell. Crumble blue cheese to sprinkle on top of each tartlet. If desired, warm tarts in the oven or for a few seconds in the microwave.
Ginger Chocolate Tarts With Fruit
Mix gourmet chocolate sauce with chopped crystallized ginger. Fill bite-size tart shells with chocolate mixture. Top with mandarin orange or strawberry slices.
Rice Pudding Tarts
Add 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest and 2 tablespoons coconut cream (such as Coco Lopez) to 1 (3.5-ounce container) Kozy Shack Rice Pudding. Top with sliced mango (may be bottled), mandarin orange slices or pistachios.
Membrillo & Cheese Tarts
Press crumbled sweet gorgonzola cheese into each tart shell to fill by about two-thirds. Top with thinly sliced membrillo (quince paste) to cover. Garnish with a Marcona almond.
Strawberry Rhubarb & Cream Cheese Tarts
Fill a tart shell halfway with cream cheese or mascarpone cheese. Top with Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Filling (sold at Kroger under the Private Collection label).
Suggested shells and fillings:
Hereís a roundup of mini -tart shells available in local supermarkets:
Sable & Rosenfeld Party Cups: Package of 64 one-bite mini-tart shells; sold at Central Market.
Private Selection Shortbread Tartlet Shells: Box of 16 (1.75-inch) shells; sold at Kroger.
Clearbrook Farms Mini Bite-Size Sweet Tart Shells: Box of 24 two-bite tart shells; sold at Central Market.
Clearbrook Farms Large Dessert-Size Sweet Tart Shells: Box of 12 (3.15-inch) individual dessert shells; sold at Central Market.
Pidy Tartelettes: Package of 9 (2.5-inch) tart shells; sold at Central Market
Athens brand frozen Mini-Fillo Shells: Package of 15 two-bite phyllo shells. They defrost in minutes and are ready to serve; sold at Market Street.
Packaged puddings: Enhance the flavor and texture of ordinary puddings by blending in other ingredients. The doctored-up puddings could pass for homemade. We used Huntís Snack Pack puddings.
Nutella: This Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread is sold in most supermarkets near the peanut butter. Itís delicious.
Lemon or lime curd: Look for brands that list sugar, egg yolks and butter at the top of the ingredient list.
Comstock More Fruit Pie Fillings: These canned fillings will surprise you with both the quantity and quality of the fruit. The fruit isnít mushy and holds its shape nicely. We found this brand at Tom Thumb.
Gourmet chocolate sauce: Enrich chocolate pudding with it, or layer it with other fillings. If youíve ever found yourself eating it straight from the jar, then you know itís good enough for a filling. If you donít already have a favorite, try Somebodyís Motherís brand.
Mascarpone cheese: Itís rich, slightly sweet and a good base for mix-ins and toppings
Dallas Morning News, 08 February 2011