It may not be fair but cute always wins. A case in point: these berry tarts. I made them for our tea party on Sunday, but there was lots of other delicious stuff too. There were 32 of these tarts and 11 of us. At the end of the party, there were plenty of scones left, some brownies, some canapés and just one tiny berry tart (which disappeared the minute Sebastiaan got home). Which proves that they not only looked good but also tasted good, otherwise people would not have come for seconds (and thirds). Cute can only get you that far. But hazelnut crust, tangy mascarpone-creme fraîche cream and colourful berries will make you friends for life.
Lesson learnt: next time make more berry tarts and don’t bother with scones.
You could use this recipe to make one large tart in a fluted tart pan and for a dinner party dessert, I would probably do that. But for a tea party, these tiny bite sized tartlets are much more suitable, allowing people to taste different things without feeling immediately stuffed. My miniature brioche forms are 5,5 and 6 cm in diameter respectively (the smaller one being deeper) and I got 32 tartlets out of the dough. If you don’t have tiny metal forms, you can also bake the tarts in a muffin pan, in which case the tarts will be a little bigger and I would expect to get about 20 – 24.
Esther was in charge of filling the tartlets with cream and topping them with berries and she alternated between carefully arranging them and just throwing them on. On some of them (baked in a miniature muffin tin), she just put one oversized strawberry. You can’t really go wrong.
Berry and mascarpone tartlets in hazelnut crust
120 g (1 cup) hazelnuts
240 g (1 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
120 g (1 stick) cold butter, in cubes
1 egg yolk
about 2 tbsp cold water
125 ml (½ cup) mascarpone cheese
125 ml (½ cup) crème fraîche
½ tsp vanilla extract
30 g (1 ounce) icing sugar
about 250 g (2 cups) mixed berries, any or all of the following: black, red and yellow raspberries, wild or alpine strawberries, red and black currants
Grind the hazelnuts, either in a hand held grinder or in the food processor (in which case stop in time to avoid making nut butter). In a medium bowl, mix together ground hazelnuts, flour and sugar. Add the cubed butter and use your fingertips to rub it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg yolk together with 1 tablespoon cold water and stir into the flour mixture. Add more water if needed to make the dough come together. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into about 4 mm (1/6 inch) thickness. Cut out rounds slightly bigger than your tartlet forms and gently press the dough into the forms. Refrigerate the lined forms for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (350 F). Line the tart shells with parchment and fill with dry beans. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they just begin to turn golden. Remove the beans and the parchment and bake for another 5 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool completely. If not using immediately, you can keep the unfilled shells in an air tight container for a couple of days.
To make the mascarpone cream, put the mascarpone cheese into a medium bowl and loosen it up with a whisk. Add the other ingredients and whisk until the cream thickens and starts hold its shape when lifted with a spoon. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Fill the tart shells with the mascarpone cream and top with fresh berries.
Note: I did not have any issues with getting the tartlets out of the molds, but if you’re worried about yours sticking, brush them with melted butter first.