Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 6: Lemon Tarts with Almond Shortbread Crust

Day 6: Lemon Tarts with Almond Shortbread Crust - made November 26, 2014
Here’s another technically-not-a-cookie recipe for my 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. I’m counting it as a “cookie” because it’s individual-size like a cookie and really, little tarts are just cookies with sides and a filling. 

I like to include something lemony when it comes to my holiday baked gifts because it offers a nice flavor contrast to more decadent desserts built around chocolate and I like variety. Plus my baking recipients seem to like lemon at any time of the year. Which is handy since that’s when lemons ripen where I live. This is a shot of my mom’s lemon tree. Mine is nowhere near as prolific. Hers have lemons clustered like fat grapes and they’re equally juicy. My mom has a serious green thumb.
A small section of my mom's lemon tree

These tarts are a marriage of the tart crust from the Almond Joy Tart and the filling from my go-to recipe for Lemon Bars. I made these for Thanksgiving and, in deference to my mom’s preference for that particular crust, I paired it with the lemon bar filling for foolproof tarts. If you want to make these for the holidays, these are great to do-ahead because you can make and refrigerate the crusts for a day then the filling takes only a few minutes to make when it’s time to bake them. During the heart of holiday frenzy (like now), I favor treats you can make ahead of time, make easily, and break up into easy-to-fit-in time periods. Bake these off the day you need them or the night before. Dust with confectioners’ sugar right before serving. If you want to add some extra lemony flavor, skip dusting the confectioners’ sugar on top and make a simple lemon glaze with confectioners’ sugar, fresh lemon juice and grated lemon zest to glaze the top of the filling instead.
Almond Tart Dough
1 large egg
¼ cup whole toasted almonds
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons lemon juice
powdered sugar
  1. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg and set it aside.
  2. Put the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely ground.  Add flour and salt and pulse again just until mixed.  Add the butter and pulse just until sandy (about 6 to 10 quick pulses).  Pour in the egg and pulse just until the dough begins to cohere into a ball.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  3. Dust a work surface with flour.  Place the disk of chilled dough on the work surface and divide it into 6 equal portions.  Shape each into a smooth disk. (Note: the dough will be sticky.  Make sure to turn it with a bench knife or offset spatula as needed and keep the working surface floured.)  Use a rolling pin to roll each piece of dough into a 5 ½-inch circle just over 1/8 inch thick.  Very gently press each dough round into a 4-inch tart pan with removable bottom.
  4. Place the tart pans in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375⁰F. 
  5. Line the tart crusts with aluminum foil, and fill each one three-quarters full with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake them for 15 minutes then remove the foil and weights.
  6. While the tart shells are baking, make lemon filling: in small mixer bowl combine all filling ingredients. Beat at low speed, scraping bowl often until well mixed. Pour filling into tart shells, dividing evenly. Continue baking for 10-12 minutes or until filling is set. Sprinkle with powdered sugar; cool.

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