Often when I’m baking, I catch myself wondering how something with so few ingredients can possibly turn into a dish worth sharing. Then, nearly as soon as I finish the thought, the oven timer dings and I open the door to a find a lovely reminder of how amazing a few simple ingredients can, in fact, be. If ever I waver in my trust of a modest recipe again, I’ll think of these tiny maple tarts. Then I’ll run to the kitchen as fast as my hungry legs can carry me.
I’ve been on such a tart-baking kick lately, ever since picking up a four-pack of tartlette tins a few weekends ago, and though I considered tucking this away for a while so as not to post two tarts back to back, I decided it was worth sharing now. As I mentioned, this recipe is wonderfully simplistic. For the crust, I used the leftover pâte sucrée from last week’s apple tartlettes, so aside from a bit of rolling and a single bowl’s worth of whisking, the tiny tarts practically made themselves.
This recipe is everything a good maple tart should be: sweet, creamy, caramely and rich. They’re good at room temperature, though I actually preferred them straight from the refrigerator the next morning. (Yes, we ate tarts for breakfast. Being a grownup is grand.) Beany could hardly contain her maple tart love; a single bite elicited high-pitched squeals and a succession of fast-moving claps, which are the telltale signs of her supreme approval.
Tiny Maple Tarts
Adapted from Food52.com
Makes 7 to 8 4-inch tartlettes
For the pâte sucrée (crust):
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
• pinch of salt
• 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• ½ cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
For the maple cream filling:
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• ¼ cup maple syrup (preferably grade B)
• 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
• ¼ cup all purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
To make the pâte sucrée: In the large bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, place the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt, and pulse a few times to combine. In small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk and vanilla, then add it to the flour mixture. Add the butter cubes, too, and pulse to incorporate the eggs and butter, just until the dough comes together. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead it for a minute or two until it’s smooth (careful not to overwork it!). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Divide the pâte sucrée into four equal pieces, and roll each piece out on a lightly floured surface into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough circles to four 4-inch tartlette molds, and press the dough firmly into them and up the sides. Run a rolling pin over top of the molds to cut off the excess dough, which can be rerolled and used for three to four additional tartlettes (I was able to get 7 total tartlettes from one batch of pâte sucrée). Allow the dough-lined molds to chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F, and place a baking sheet on the center rack. Take the tartlettes out of the refrigerator, line the tart dough with parchment paper, and fill it with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then remove the pie weights and parchment and place the tarts back in the oven to cook until the bottoms are dry, about 5 minutes more. Remove them from the oven, and let them cool completely.
To make the filling: Lower the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl (one with a pouring end works quite well), whisk together the sugar, maple syrup, cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Pour the mixture into the cool crust, leaving a bit of room on the top for them to rise while baking. (Depending on how many tartlettes you’re making, you might have a bit of filling left over. I poured my excess filling into two small ramekins and baked it that way. Alternatively, you could make one large tart instead, which will use most, if not all, of the filling. Just alter your cooking time, noted below).
Bake the tiny tarts until the maple cream just sets (it should still jiggle a little), 15 to 18 minutes (20 to 25 for a large tart). Let them cool slightly, then carefully remove the molds. Finish cooling on a wire rack.