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These tiny tarts, based on a flaky, rich cream cheese pastry crust, proved a favorite of everyone here at King Arthur when we tested one batch, then another, then one more (just to be sure), and one final batch (just because we liked them so much and they're so easy to make). They lend themselves to a wide variety of fillings, from sweet (just plain jam) to savory (salsa and Monterey Jack, or how about walnuts and blue cheese?). Jane Korhonen, one of the team of two (along with Sarah Prunk) who tracks down sources for all of the neat things we carry in our catalogue, named these bite-sized treats "pop tarts," because you pop them in the oven, then pop them into your mouth.
You'll be using a standard muffin tin to make these tarts; if you have two tins, all the better, because the recipe makes about 30 tarts. Measure your muffin tin before you start to cut the dough; the diameter of each muffin cup should be 2 inches at the bottom. If it's less than that, you'll just have taller tarts, but if it's greater than 2 inches, you'll need to use a correspondingly larger cutter to make the dough circles.
An interesting note: You'll observe that the recipe calls for equal weights of flour, butter and cream cheese. If you have a scale, it's simple to scale this formula up or down, just adjusting the salt and sugar as needed. Also, if you have piecrust phobia, this is a great recipe on which to practice your skills. The pastry goes together in a flash and, because of its high fat content and lack of water, it's very supple and easy to roll out without tearing or sticking. Just be sure to flour your work surface well, and use a giant spatula to periodically lift the dough from the board as you're rolling. If you don't have a giant spatula -- well, you should. Many of us here at KAF consider it our MVPT (most valuable piecrust tool).
6 tablespoons cream cheese
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon jam or preserves
1 tablespoon chips: peanut butter, chocolate, butterscotch or white chocolate
1 tablespoon chopped, candied ginger.
2 teaspoons chopped, candied ginger and 1 teaspoon chocolate chips
1 tablespoon chopped dates, drizzled with half a teaspoon of maple or other flavored syrup.
1 teaspoon pepper jelly topped with 1 teaspoon cream cheese, flattened (i.e., don't just leave the cheese in a ball, as it won't melt nicely)
1 teaspoon jam topped with 1 teaspoon cream cheese, flattened as above
Walnuts to cover the bottom of the tart, drizzled with half a teaspoon maple syrup
1 dried apricot half, topped with a sliver of butter and sprinkled with sugar
Currants to cover the bottom of the tart, topped with a sliver of butter and sprinkled with sugar.
1 tablespoon (packed) shredded cheese; Cheddar, Monterey Jack or blue are all good
1 teaspoon salsa topped with 1 tablespoon shredded Monterey Jack
Walnuts to cover the bottom of the tart, topped with crumbled blue cheese, or a sliver of butter and a shake of Parmesan
1 teaspoon cream cheese (flattened) topped with 1 teaspoon salsa
An oil-packed (or water-softened) sun-dried tomato half, topped with a dab of pesto
A thin slice of plum tomato, topped with bread crumbs and a sliver of butter
A thin slice of onion topped with a sliver of butter and sprinkle of Parmesan
1/4-inch thick slice kielbasa topped with 1 teaspoon barbecue sauce or pepper jelly
2 thin slices pepperoni topped with 1 teaspoon shredded mozzarella cheese
For the Dough: Using your favorite tool -- a fork, food processor or electric mixer -- cream together the cream cheese, butter, sugar and salt till smooth. Add the flour and mix (on low speed, if you're using a mixer, or very briefly in a food processor) until the dough has formed a loose ball. Shape the dough into a flat 1-inch-thick circle, wrap it in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes, or up to three days (or even longer; we didn't test it, but it seems this dough should keep well in the fridge for quite a long time). Alternatively, you can roll it out without any refrigeration time at all; but we find the dough rolls more easily, and makes a more tender tart, if it's allowed to cool its heels for a bit.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it's been refrigerated longer than an hour, allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes; this'll make it easier to roll.
Flour a large work surface (you're going to roll the dough to a circle about 18 inches in diameter), and place the dough on the floured surface. Roll it into a circle 1/8-inch thick, rolling from the center out to the sides, and turning the dough around as you go; that's the easiest way to get a round, evenly thick circle. Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter or 3-inch round cookie cutter to cut the dough into circles. Gather the dough scraps into a ball, flatten the ball, wrap it in plastic or waxed paper, and refrigerate.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Transfer each dough circle to a muffin cup, gently pressing it into the bottom and onto the sides. Remove the remaining dough from the refrigerator, and roll, cut and fit it into muffin tins as instructed above.
Fill the tarts with 1 to 2 teaspoons filling, using any of the suggestions below or your own imagination, and bake them for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and use a spoon or butter knife to gently transfer the tarts to a rack to cool. Yield: about 30 tarts
Suggested Fillings: Our first filling idea was just plain jam, and that works fine. But oh, what lengths you can go to if you just open the refrigerator (or look in the pantry) and let your imagination roam! Use 1 to 3 teaspoons filling; the key thing to remember is not to fill the tarts too full with anything that's going to melt and bubble over, as they will then be impossible to remove from the pan in one piece. Use just 1 teaspoon of jam; even though it doesn't look like much, it spreads as it bakes. On the other hand, you can use a tablespoon of something like chocolate chips which, while they'll melt somewhat, won't bubble.
We're sure there are any number of yummy combinations we haven't thought of; these were just "instant inspirations." There's no practical way we could give the nutritional breakdown of each of these fillings, so we'll just give that of the pastry shell itself.
Nutrition information per serving (1 unfilled tart shell, 9g): 40 cal, 3.2g fat, 1g protein, 2g complex carbohydrates, 9mg cholesterol, 27mg sodium, 7mg potassium, 34RE vitamin A, 8mg calcium, 6mg phosphorus.