There is something very appealing about a miniature tart. It’s so much fancier looking than an ordinary cookie and seems to promise more in the flavor department, while at the same time its small size lets you indulge yourself in a bite or two without guilt. From a preparation standpoint, miniature tarts aren’t much more difficult to make than full-sized tarts are and they are certainly easier to transport and serve.
These Swedish Toscas are miniature almond tarts and the original recipe was a finalist in the 1953 Pillsbury Grand National baking competition. The recipe is supposedly a family tradition, that the winner (a Mrs. Martinson from Michigan) and her relatives brought with them when they moved from Sweden to the US. I decided to adapt the bake-off recipe a bit, making the tarts smaller than called for and using a smoother almond filling in place of a chunky one to make the tarts more visually appealing.
The resulting tarts were great and very easy to make. One of my favorite things about this recipe is that the filling goes into the tart shells while they are still hot, so there is no wasted time sitting around and waiting for the crusts to cool. I used mini muffin pans to make each tart about the size of two bites. The crust is a tender and crunchy shortbread dough that is pressed into the muffin cups by hand, rather than rolled out like a more traditional tart crust might be. The filling is briefly cooked to thicken it before being spooned into the still-hot tart shells and the pastries are finished baking. In the oven, the almond filling bubbles and becomes almost candy-like, without being too sweet.
The almond flavor is surprisingly subtle, so I like to add a bit of almond extract to the shortbread crust dough to boost the flavor. It’s optional, so feel free to omit it or to use vanilla extract, if you prefer. The original recipe calls for using the same amount of slivered almonds as I used here with almond meal. Using the full nuts gives a bit more texture to the tarts, but I prefer the look without. Either way, they’ll still be tasty.
Swedish Toscas (Mini Almond Tarts)
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/3 cup almond meal (finely ground almonds)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tbsp milk
2 tsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Make the tart shells: In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in flour, salt and almond extract (if using) until dough is crumbly and has the texture of wet sand. Spoon evenly into 18 mini muffin cups and press the dough down to create tart-shell shapes going up the sides of the muffin cups.
Bake shells for 6-7 minutes.
While shells are baking, make the almond filling: In a medium saucepan, combine almonds, sugar, butter, milk and flour. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside until shells are ready.
Remove the tart shells from the oven and use a small spoon to press an indentation into the center of each one (because the dough will spread a bit during baking). Fill each indentation with almond filling.
Return tarts to oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until shells and the edges of the filling are lightly browned.
Use a knife to loosen the tarts from the edges of the muffin tin while they are still warm. Let cool in pan for 15-20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 18 mini tarts.