#9 : Heart Tarts
("While you were at the dentist...")
Just before Christmas last year I ventured into the local thrift shop. It's run by Eastern Long Island Hospital so I know all the money raised goes to a good cause, and on occasion they have a book on my must-have book list. I'm happy to pay 50 cents for a book that sells for $25. I tried to zip by the table of kitchen gadgets (a set of dishes with hearts or Paris landmarks always appeals to me and I have to remember we don't have room for the dishes we already have!) Something called a pocket pie mold caught my eye and I stopped to look.
Keep moving - we don't need it!
Turned out there were two pocket pie molds, one in the form of a star and one heart-shaped, still in their unopened boxes. They were made by Williams-Sonoma and were originally $10 each; these were on sale for $3. Nothing we really needed, but...hmmm...
The thrift shop accepts cash only and I had none on me, so I set them back on the table and headed out. On the way home, I realized that the heart-shaped mold would have made a really cute mini pie for Valentine's Day. "Ah, well...too late."
A few days after Christmas I read that the thrift shop would be closing until mid-January and that everything there was on sale at half off before the closing. I thought I'd just pop in to look, to see if those Paris plates were still there. They were...but this time I noticed they were made in China, so I lost interest. There on the table were the two pie molds, now half off. How could I resist them at $1.50 each? (I also looked them up online to find that Williams-Sonoma no longer makes them, so, a real steal.) I brought them home, put them in the pantry and forgot about them.
Since nothing says "Valentine's Day" like chocolate, I had initially planned on some appropriate pie or tart that night, maybe a chocolate cream pie or chocolate-mocha tart for the blog. Jeff happened to mention that we have a terrific recipe for make-ahead mini chocolate soufflés that go into the freezer until they're ready to be baked...and then gobbled up in ecstasy. I then remembered the pie molds but decided the "heart tarts" would have to wait until some other time. But it turned out that Jeff would be away much of the morning on February 14th, going to the dentist and running some other errands. I thought I could make and freeze the soufflés for dessert and still have time to make little Valentine's Day tarts which would be a nice after-lunch treat. (Lunch was the leftover leek/goat cheese galette.) Once Jeff headed out I made pie dough and let it chill. A couple hours later I rolled it out and used the pie mold to create perfect mini heart tarts.
The mail brought late birthday presents from my sister which included a terrific photo from our Washington visit last fall. That put me in an extra cheery mood. But what to use for the pie filling?
Luckily, there's always something in "Rusty's magic pantry," so dubbed by Jeff as I keep it well stocked so that we almost never run low on needed supplies. (I say almost because this morning we were totally out of peanut butter. Big oops in this house.) The pantry had a jar of sour cherries (easier than digging through the freezer for my own and thawing them; also, probably time to use these up) and a jar of homemade peach jam our friends Terry and Kathy gave us for Christmas. Perfect - two tarts of each flavor.
Jeff was delighted to come home and find mini tarts greeting him, and I was happy I'd made the cute tarts as he'd brought me home some tulips. Tarts successfully made, I was able to focus on the chocolate soufflé, seen being prepared in the bowl on the right. How bad can a day be when you get tarts after lunch and a chocolate soufflé after dinner? And tulips besides? (Not to mention some gooseberry pie still in the fridge....we have to catch up on our pie eating. Who was it that asked me, "If you make sixty pies, will you be able to eat sixty pies?" They were right.)
The Verdict: Star Baker or Leaving the Tent?
The mini pies were a huge success - tasty with a perfect crust and fillings that were just right - not too sweet. "You can make these any time," Jeff said. We're already looking at mini tarts for traveling - their size makes them easy to transport and easier to eat than a slice of pie, say, on a car trip or airplane flight. I'm contemplating additional filling flavors and planning to get a lot of use of the star-shaped pie mold at Christmas time...and all for 3 bucks! So I would declare this experiment as Delicious. Be prepared to see more mini tarts in the future!
(In case you were wondering, our Valentine's Day dinner was shrimp scampi over basmati rice, with roasted fennel and a chardonnay from Baxter, a favorite winery near Mendocino. Just sensational.)
And if you're interested in making the chocolate soufflés, a recipe is here. (I used the America's Test Kitchen recipe which is similar but only available to ATK subscribers.)