Lemon desserts are always popular in my house. The sweet-tart flavor of lemon cakes and other goodies is addictive – especially when, like me, you’re a big citrus fan in the first place. These Bite-Sized Lemon Curd Tarts showcase lemon in a tiny little tart shell that is almost too cute to eat. Almost. I baked these tarts are in mini muffin pans, which are just the right size for a two-bite dessert. If you happen to have mini tart pans, you can also use those with this recipe, but there is no need to pick up any special equipment if you want to get started on this recipe right away.
The tart crust is crisp and buttery, perfect for holding in all that silky lemon curd. The crust is not a pie pastry dough, but a shortcrust pastry dough that ends up being tender and shortbread-like, rather than flaky. There are several advantages to using this style of dough in this recipe. First, the dough does not need to be rolled out and can be shaped to fit your tart pans (or mini muffin pans) completely by hand. Second, the dough will not rise up like a flaky pastry dough, so there is no need to use pie weights to hold them down while they bake. The dough can be be used almost right away or prepared several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it, making it very easy to work with regardless of what kind of schedule you’re on.
I used White Lily Enriched All Purpose Wheat Flour to make my tart dough. Performance wise, this all purpose flour is not going to differer significantly from the unbleached all purpose flour that you already use, but it does have something that other wheat flours don’t: traceabilty. The non-GMO flour comes from wheat that is domestically grown in the Pacific North West by Shepard’s Grain farmers and you can trace it right back to the farmer who grew it using a code on the package on the White Lily site.
The tarts are filled with my favorite homemade lemon curd. It has just the right balance of sweet and tart, like a perfect lemonade. You’ll need plenty of fresh lemon juice because the recipe requires a fairly large batch to fill all those tarts! The curd should be cooked after the tart shells have cooled completely, as the curd is added to the shells just as it comes off the stovetop so that it can set up right in the crust. Fortunately, these mini tart shells don’t take all that long to cool, so you won’t need to wait too long to finish the assembly of your desserts.
The tarts are best within two days of baking and should only be loosely covered to ensure that the tart crusts remain crisp before serving. If you are looking for a make-ahead option, you can prepare the crusts and curd separately, then simply spoon in the chilled curd before serving. Tarts made this way will not be as firmly set as tarts that have the filling added just after cooking, but with this option the tart shells can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container without the risk of them getting soggy. No matter how you serve them, these mini tarts are sure to be a hit with anyone lucky enough to eat one!!
Bite-Sized Lemon Curd Tarts
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tbsp milk
In a large bowl, beat together butter, salt and sugar until well combined. Gradually blend in the flour, followed by the milk. The dough will first become sandy, then it will begin to come together into a ball. Gather dough together and press into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 15 minutes, just to make it slightly easier to work with.
The dough can be prepared a few days in advance and stored in the refrigerator, but you’ll need to let it come to almost room temperature before working with it or it will be quite crumbly and may be more difficult to shape.
Shaping and Baking the Tarts: Preheat oven to 375F. Gather a 1-inch ball of tart dough. Press your thumb into the center of the ball to create a cup shape, then drop the cup into a cavity in mini muffin pan. Press the dough firmly against the base and sides of the pan, creating a crust that is less than 1/4-inch thick on all sides. Pinch off any excess dough from the top of the pan and return to the main piece of tart dough.
Repeat until 24 mini tarts have been shaped. You can work with 1/2 of the dough at a time if you only have a 12-cavity mini muffin pan.
Bake for 15-19 minutes, or until tart shells are golden brown. Allow shells to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Fill cooled shells with lemon curd as directed below, or store in an airtight container until ready to use.
2/3 cup strained, fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, combine sugar and lemon juice. Cook, stirring until sugar is dissolved completely, until mixture comes to a simmer.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat egg. Whisking constantly (or with an electric mixer on low), very slowly stream the hot lemon-sugar syrup into the egg. Beat until very smooth. Strain mixture back into your saucepan, then cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the curd just comes to a simmer.- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, salt and butter. Stir until butter is completely incorporated. (Makes about 1 1/3 cups curd)
Tart Assembly: Spoon approximately 1 tbsp into each cooled tart shell. Allow lemon curd to set up at room temperature for at least 2-3 hours before serving.
Makes 24 mini tarts.