This beautiful yet elegant finger food dessert is a standard at Grandma Joyce’s catered events. A mini pastry shell is filled with a heavenly lemon custard filling, similar to what you would find in a lemon meringue pie. Here, we reveal two of the secrets of great mini pastries: How to bake a miniature pastry shell that won’t collapse, and how to stabilize whipped cream so that it will hold it’s shape for long periods of time.
Line up several Lemon Tassies in your prettiest serving dish. Guests will be back for seconds.
1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. shortening
3 Tbsp. cold water
1. Chill shortening in the freezer for 15 min before use. This makes a flakier crust. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and then cut in shortening with a pastry blender, or rub it in with your hands, to distribute the fat as evenly as possible. The mixture should resemble tiny peas or a coarse meal. Do not overwork the mixture or the shortening will become soft and sticky and make a tough, hard crust.
2. Sprinkle water over the dry ingredients a tablespoon at a time and mix with a fork until dough comes away from sides of the bowl. If pastry is too dry to form into a ball, add more water a teaspoonful at a time. Mixture should feel moist, but not wet. This is the key to good pastry. Add only as much water as is absolutely necessary.
3. Form dough into 3 or 4 balls and roll out one at a time to 1/8-inch thick on a lightly floured board.
4. Cut dough into circles with a 4″ cookie cutter. Save any scraps to re-roll later.
5. Grandma Joyce’s Pro Tip/Trade Secret for making perfect pastry shells:
Turn a mini muffin pan upside-down and lay each pastry circle on the bottom side of no-stick mini-muffin cups. Pinch all four corners slightly, so pastry fits snugly around the muffin cup. Poke the bottom of each cup 2 or 3 times with a floured fork to prevent pastry from developing large air bubbles.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 5-8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool slightly before removing pastry from muffin cups. If the pastry “resists” being removed, gently twist from side to side to release it. This recipe makes enough pastry for about 30 mini tarts.
Note: Shells can be made ahead and stacked (gently) in a plastic container, a plastic shoe box with a lid, for example, and kept in the refrigerator or even at room temperature for several days.
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cold water
7 Tbsp. corn starch
2 egg yolks slightly beaten
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon) with grated zest
Combine sugar and hot water and bring to a boil in a heavy saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix cold water and corn starch to make a smooth paste. In a second bowl, beat egg yolks until well integrated. Add cornstarch paste to hot sugar mixture and stir until mixture thickens. Stir a small amount of hot mixture into beaten egg yolks; when thoroughly incorporated, stir eggs into hot mixture. (Note: This step warms the cold egg yolk and helps keep it from “cooking” into lumps before it mixes into the custard.) Cook about 2 minutes longer or until thickened, stirring constantly. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and butter. Stir to blend.
Transfer to a storage container, seal with a lid (or cover with plastic wrap) and cool, stirring occasionally
Refrigerate until ready to assemble Tassies. Custard can be made a day or two ahead and kept in the refrigerator until ready to use.
1. Stir custard to incorporate any separated ingredients.
2. Spoon lemon custard into prepared pastry shells.
3. Garnish with a dollop of Stabilized Whip Cream. Whip cream until soft peaks form, add 1 tablespoon of instant vanilla pudding, and 1/4 cup powdered sugar or sweeten to taste. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Stabilized whipped cream will not lose its loft or “melt” as quickly as regular whipped cream, so this trick is a great way to make sure your pastries look great on your party buffet table. We always pipe whipped cream onto the top of pastries using a large star-shaped pastry tip.
4. Place on a platter and provide a small spatula for pick up. If preferred, insert Tassies into small paper liners to make handling easier. Makes enough custard for about 30 tarts.