Tiny Tart Shells—Finally

I walked into the kitchen store a few weeks ago to buy spatulas and walked out with the solution to a baking problem that had plagued me for years.

Yes, it’s a single-use pan. Yes, it cost $37. No, I don’t regret it, and yes, I remembered to buy some spatulas.

Anyone who has ever tried to bake sweet mini tart shells will relate to my dilemma. You make the cookie-like dough, painstakingly roll it out trying not to use too much flour, cut it into discs and…proceed to lose your mind forcing them into mini muffin pans. It’s fiddly, frustrating work, and they always come out thick and ugly and sad.

So I took a chance on this NordicWare French Tartlette Baking Pan (post not sponsored by NordicWare!). Then I had the inspired idea to use Dorie Greenspan’s sweet dough that I use for her jammer cookies…and…success! The shells come out thin and buttery and crumbly, and they make me happy.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Make the dough, roll it out into discs, and freeze it on a sheet tray on parchment (see details below). When frozen, proceed to the next step OR remove it from the parchment paper, wrap it in plastic wrap and then in foil. It makes two large discs and keeps for months. You could use one disc to make 12 jammers and the other to make 12 tartlette shells (jammers roll to ¼-inch thickness and tart shells roll to 1/8- inch thick).
  2. Prepare pan by brushing each indentation with softened butter.
  3. Take a disc from the freezer, unwrap it, and let it sit on the counter for just a couple of minutes. As soon as it’s soft enough to get the cutter through, use a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter to cut 12 rings. Note: you can gather the scraps as is, put them in a plastic container in the fridge for weeks and roll them right from the fridge. Just don’t dawdle as you roll and cut, and don’t try it when the kitchen is super hot.
  4. Set each cut-out disc on top of a tart indentation. Don’t push down. Wait a couple of minutes, and they will soften enough to gently push them in using two fingers in the middle of the disc. Try not to fuss with them too much.
  5. Put them in the fridge to chill (this helps reduce shrinkage) while you heat your oven to 460°. Bake 5 minutes, turn pan 180, bake another 2 minutes.

I filled mine with a teaspoon of Nutella topped with ganache, then used shaved Callebaut gianduia for garnish. (This is super easy—it’s already soft, so you can use a vegetable peeler to form curls.) Fill yours with whatever you like; maybe pastry cream topped with fruit or strawberry mousse.

Dorie Greenspan’s Cookie Dough

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups AP flour

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add both sugars and salt; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour and mix just to combine. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky. (I use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.)

Divide dough in half. Place each half between sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Flatten dough into disks. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough, occasionally lifting paper on both sides for easy rolling. Roll to ¼-inch for jammers and 1/8–inch for tart shells. Freeze dough in paper on a sheet tray until firm, at least 2 hours.