monday bites: mini lemon tarts.

mini lemon tarts.

So I spent the last 4 days on muscle relaxers. On accident. Here’s my story, and then we’ll bake something, I promise.

I had an appointment to discuss a resurgence of headaches with my doctor, and as luck would have it, I happened upon a sinus infection just before my scheduled visit. Went in Thursday, had to wait an hour and a half due to some sort of random emergency earlier in the day, and found out that my doctor’s office was having one of those comedic “everything is going wrong” sort of days.

Warning: this is not a good time to discuss multiple events with your doctor, because neither of you are 100% functional. I ended up finally seeing her during what was to be her lunch hour, and you know how people get when they haven’t eaten anything. Moving on.

We talk about headaches and my sinuses, she says she’ll prescribe an antibiotic, we talk about courses of action for headaches, and I depart. I get to the pharmacy, pick up my prescription, assume it is my antibiotic, as this is the only thing I remember talking about in terms of medicine. I take it diligently for 4 days, but by the fourth day (yesterday) I begin to wonder the following:

  • Why do I have a burning desire to nap every 2 hours?
  • Why is it that every time I stand up, the room spins?
  • Why is it taking me 15 minutes to find the bathroom at my own house?

This must be a doozy of a sinus infection. Or, as it turns out, this must be due to my actually getting muscle relaxers instead of an antibiotic from the pharmacy, because my doctor called in something to treat tension headaches and left off the antibiotic, and I was only expecting one prescription for the antibiotic.

I took a muscle relaxers for four days straight. Maximum dose, people.

I blame myself a little for not doing what I normally do and really reading the fine print, but really: I was in a fog of sinus. I got the problem fixed, they were lovely about it, and honestly, she’s been my doctor for over 15 years, so we’re good. I may not remember what I said or did the past few days, but I do feel better and have no headaches to report. Probably because I had no functioning muscles to report, but whatever.

Thankfully I did some Valentine’s Day baking a few weeks ago, and because I wasn’t high on painkillers at the time, they turned out perfectly. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been craving lemons lately. Indeed, an unbelievable amount of feeds in my Google Reader answered my unspoken prayers for lemon this morning with lemon offerings, and it also reminded me that this is the time of year all of us food bloggers go crazy.

The Meyers are back in town. And who among us doesn’t love a Meyer lemon, right? Right.

Alas, I haven’t seen Meyers hit my favorite grocery as of yet, which means I may have to venture out to find them later this week. If you’re having the same problem, you can mock up the flavor of Meyers (purists, look away) pretty easily by using an orange, at least in these.

So make them lemon tarts, make them Meyer lemon tarts, do as you wish, but make them. Lest you be afraid of the work involved in making individual tarts, I promise you these are actually easier than making a big one. Here’s why: miniature quiche pans. Or rather, they used to be called quiche pans, but now they just refer to them as tart pans. They’re not expensive, they come in sets of 6, and they’re my favorite way to make a mini-tart. I use the Gobel traditional-finish ones from Williams Sonoma, but I’m sure that Sur La Table and Amazon carry something suitable.

You see, individual mini-pans are taller and more flared out than the sort you see housed muffin-tin style into a sheet pan. Why does it matter? Because if they’re singular, you can treat your tart dough like sugar cookies and actually cut out a perfect shape, like so:

mini lemon tarts.

mini lemon tarts.

mini lemon tarts.

See how that works? Not only do you have a perfectly even crust with edges that hold tight to the pan, but you’ll also have petal-like perimeters around your filling. Your tarts will look like a bouquet of flowers with minimal effort.

mini lemon tarts.

This is my favorite recipe for lemon filling; it’s the one I used for the DIY Dessert Bar. If you want to make it more Meyer lemony, use them in place of regular lemons. If you can’t find them, substitute the juice of one orange to make the 3/4 cup of juice, and use the zest of 1/2 your orange (versus that of the lemon) in your recipe.

This crust is one of my favorites for tarts: I’ve found some tart doughs difficult to work with, and this one is very pliable and easy to use. Simple to make, as well; even someone on muscle relaxers could make it.

Tart dough and lemon filling adapted from Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking: Tips and Techniques for Successful Home Baking by Cathy Burgett and Elinor Klivans. And truly, I love this book; it was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned and it has great foundation recipes and step by step instructions. I always recommend it to anyone who’s just started baking.

Mini Lemon Tarts

for the tart dough:*

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

for the lemon filling:**

  • 3 whole eggs + 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 5-6 lemons)
  • zest of 1 orange (it balances out the lemon zippiness a bit)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes

*This tart dough will yield you either 1 full-size tart or 8 4-inch round miniature tarts. You’ll have enough lemon curd to make 16 minis, so you have two choices: make one dough (8 minis) and have some curd leftover, or make two doughs and have 16 minis total.

**By all means, use Meyer lemons for this if they’re available, but I promise it’s lovely with regular lemons. I use the zest of one orange in my recipe to balance the tartness out, but if you want to mimic the taste of Meyer lemons, simply juice the one orange you’re using for zest into your measuring cup, then juice your lemons until you reach 3/4 cup total juice.

A final note: if you have your own way of doing mini-tarts, or you’re just planning on making one big tart with this, that’s great; do it your way if you’re more comfortable with it.

Make your dough:

In the bowl of a food processor (you can also do this in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment) combine your flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt, pulsing until well-blended. Add your butter cubes and pulse until your mixture resembles large, corse crumbs (like damp sand.)

Whisk the egg yolks and heavy cream together in a small bowl just until blended, then add to your dough slowly, with the processor or mixer running. Continue mixing until your dough just begins to come together in a ball. Remove from the bowl and form a ball, then flatten out on a length of plastic wrap to form a fat, flat rectangle of dough, about 3/4-inch thick. Place in the refrigerator to chill, at least two hours or overnight.

Make your lemon filling:

In the top of a double boiler, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and lemon juice until combined. Place over a pan of just simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan doesn’t touch the simmering water. Whisk frequently and constantly, until sugar is dissolved, which will only take a minute or two. Add your butter cubes and continue to whisk constantly (but be relaxed about it, you’re not going for a Guinness world record for fastest motion) until the mixture has thickened, both visibly and by touch, and it coats the back of a spoon, about 12 minutes. Set aside.

Cut + bake your tarts:

Remove your dough from the refrigerator and set out on the counter for a few minutes (if you’re working with two doughs, I suggest keeping one in the fridge until you’re finished with the first.) Remember how I had you shape it into a fat rectangle? This is why. Cut your dough into 8 equal squarish pieces; you’re rolling these out so you can cut your rounds. Keep as many squares out as you have mini-pans, and place the other squares back in the fridge. Roll out one square on a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper just enough to where you can place the tart pan upside-down (see photo above) on the dough without leaving any holes.

Place the tart pan face down on the dough, letting the inside bottom fall on the dough. Push down as if you were cutting a cookie, then slide your hand under the wax paper and hold it tight to the tart pan. Holding the tart pan with the other hand, flip the whole thing over (see photo) and peel back the plastic wrap/wax paper; the tart pan bottom will have fallen back into place.

Gently push around the inner middle of your dough circle to slide it down the tart pan and into place, tucking the bottom sides into the seam as needed. Gently press a piece of tin foil (I cut mine into squares so I don’t waste big hunks on little tarts) inside the tart, being careful to leave your sides undisturbed. Fill the foil-lined tarts with pie weights or dried beans or rice and place back in the fridge to chill. Repeat with the other tarts, until you have used all of your mini-pans. Chill your prepared dough for about 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400˚F.

Place the mini-tarts in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until dough is set and looks dry, 12-15 minutes. Check under your foil; if the crust isn’t fully dried out, place back in the oven, foil back in, for 2 minutes or so until it dries completely. Remove all of your tarts from the oven and transfer a wire rack. Turn down the oven to 350˚F.

Spoon lemon filling into each warm tart shell towards the center, using a spoon to gently work the filling out to the sides. Use your judgement when filling; these won’t puff when you cook them, so what you see is what you get; try not to go overboard.

When you’re done, place your tarts back in the oven and cook until just set, 12-14 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes, then chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.

If you are making more mini-tarts than your individual pans will allow you to make in one round, here’s my shortcut to getting your pans back for reuse. Follow my directions about letting them cool, then place them in the fridge. After about a 1/2 hour in the refrigerator, you can (carefully!) unearth your tarts from their pans by pushing them up from the bottom (as you would do normally) and then using a thin knife or spatula to ease them off their metal bases and onto a waiting plate. Wipe them down and repeat the process above with the remaining dough and filling.

These will keep in your refrigerator (and in a tightly sealed container) for up to 3 days, but they are best the day they are made or the day following.

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  • Reply Emma February 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    That sure sounds like a foggy four days… at least you remember as much as you do! I had some crazy medication once upon a time that sort of made time disappear, for OVER TWO WEEKS. Thank goodness you’re back at full capacity, and that you only lost a couple of days.

    Keep those headaches at bay! Please 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      it was not good; i think i handled it okay, but it wasn’t fun to just feel like an underwater sleepwalker for four days, you know? i like to get things DONE! 🙂 and oh my goodness, two weeks of medicine-induced space time? EEEEK. i can’t even imagine. you remind me that it could have been worse.

      So far, no headaches! And i’m on the mend from the sinus, so double happy about that.

  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina February 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I have meyer lemons. If you come here, we can make a deal and I’ll let you have some.

    • Reply shannon February 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      *sigh* in your backyard? with the horses? you have my favorite backyard of all time *lemons!*

      let’s make a deal. especially if that deal involves me flying to texas for some R&R&F. (rest + relaxation + fruit)

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    hahaha, omg! I hope you weren’t driving around while on those major meds! Glad to hear you figured out the problem and that you weren’t just lazy. Some days I seriously have no energy and I wish I could attribute it to mistakenly drugging myself.

    I love tart desserts…and by tart I mean sour, not little pie-like things (although I guess this is both?). Lemon, in particular, is my fave. I could eat lemon curd by the spoonful. So obviously, I think these sound amazing 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      ha! NO, no driving, Amy! Thank goodness, too: the Wee One is sick right along with me, so we were blockaded inside trying to steer clear of germs. I felt so weird that had I wanted to drive, I would have been smart enough to think the better of it. And some days, i’m just lazy too, so it’s okay; happens to the best of us.

      Me too! Do you crave them now? This is when my cravings kick in, and i attribute it to the onslaught of sweetness in December; it begs for post-holiday tartness a little bit, and i’m thankful it’s when the citrus kicks in.

      I think i need to start a little “12-step” group, only it’ll be a 2-step group. Mostly for food bloggers, but it will allow us to be okay with saying “i DO eat lemon curd by the spoonful” (because we all know we do it) versus “i COULD eat lemon curd by the spoonful.” Everyone who’s stood by an open fridge, curd in hand, spoon in mouth, say aye.

      I thought so.

  • Reply Brianne February 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Yikes, lady! Good thing you have such a great relationship with your doctor. I’m glad your headaches are gone! I am seriously jonesing for Meyer lemons. I love the pro tip you give so we make make little lemony flowers; however, my mini tart pans are star shaped, so I sadly cannot partake. But my mini tarts can be cut into 5 diamond shaped pieces that can then be arranged to look like a flower. You know, like petals? I did that once, but I can’t remember what I had filled the tarts with. I think it turned out kind of ugly. Definitely worth another shot, though.

  • Reply natalie February 11, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    these look so perfect! and meyer lemons… a tart after my own heart! Maybe Aaron would even eat them because he’s all “lemons are gross” but he ate the crap out of my meyer lemon loaf cake! 🙂

    • Reply shannon February 15, 2013 at 1:51 pm

      …aaaand now I’m mad at Aaron about what he says about standard lemons. LEMONS ARE GROSS?!?! My sister is that way sometimes…she says she doesn’t like “citrus things” in baked goods. It hurts my soul a little bit.

      He didn’t save me any of that lemon cake? MORE MAD. 🙂

  • Reply Ashley February 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Wowza, lady. Four days of muscle relaxers. That’s insane! Glad to hear it was all smoothed out, though.

    I’ve found some meyer lemons in the past month and wasted no time in making lemon curd. Which I can’t stop eating by the spoonful. Or with yogurt and blueberries. This time of year I’m torn between meyer lemons and blood oranges – my two favorite citruses in season simultaneously! Argh! Hopefully those lovely lemons find you soon!

    • Reply shannon February 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Yeah; it was something all right. 🙂 and i know i’ve heard about people getting addicted to things like muscle relaxers, and i don’t see how that’s possible. who would want to feel like that all the time? It’s like you’re there but you’re not there all at the same time. ick.

      Okay, everyone has convinced me that i need to get on it and look for some around here! I should ask the local bloggers to see where they found theirs; this weekend i’m making it a mission. Mmmmm, yogurt and blueberries! perfect. Do i have something for you…please go look at what Emma made: BLOOD ORANGE AND MEYER LEMON SORBET! you’re welcome (in advance). 🙂

      • Reply Emma February 16, 2013 at 9:13 am

        🙂 you are so darn sweet!

  • Reply Sue/the view from great island February 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    So much to respond to in this post—first, your day at the doc’s sounds like my TWO days at the DMV, only my car still isn’t registered and the muscle relaxant would have come in handy! Your lemon tart look incredible, and yes, I am craving lemons. But the best thing of all is that crust technique, I can’t wait to give it a try. I am hamfisted when it comes to fitting crusts into those cute miniature pans, so I really appreciate this. Feel better!

    • Reply shannon February 15, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Sue, YOU WIN: two days at the DMV is FAR WORSE than my four days on meds. Seriously, I’ve had a debacle or two there myself which involved repeated trips, and i don’t envy you.
      thank you! my hamfistedness is why i don’t make mini-tarts very often (until now): i can trudge my way through a normal size tart because there’s just one to do, but minis? multiples? NO. This makes it very easy, i promise. And i do feel better, thank you!

  • Reply movita beaucoup February 16, 2013 at 6:39 am

    I’ve decided that my graduation gift to myself will be four days of muscle relaxants.

    Also, I will eat 2400 of these lemon tarts.

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Best. graduation. gift. EVER.
      I’ll send the muscle relaxants. you make the tarts. or, i mean, i guess we could just crush them up inside?

  • Reply HeatherN February 17, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    I hope you are feeling better. The lemon tarts look amazing. Out here, people give away boxes of lemons. Next time I find some free lemons, I am going to have to make these!

    • Reply shannon February 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      Thanks, Heather; we’re working on it! We’re never, ever sick; she’s been sick maybe once in her entire life, so this one is a doozy for me (where maybe it’s normal for others). I’m a baby about it, but it’s just hanging around, and we’re sick of it.
      You people don’t know how good you have it right now with all the lemons. I suppose it’s a nice treat before the temps start inching up towards the million-degree mark. 🙂

  • Reply Monica February 23, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I love lemon tarts too and tried meyer lemon ones a few wees ago. Yours look wonderful. Hope you’re feeling better!

    • Reply shannon February 25, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Monica, these were so fun to make (and treating them like cookies and cutting them was a big part of that!) It’s nice to be able to make something fancy that didn’t take a ton of fancy work to make. I am feeling much better, thank you very much. It took a little bit, but we’re almost back to normal. 🙂

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