I love my mom's lemon bars. They are the best. But they're not exactly transport and finger friendly. You can take them to a potluck fine because there are plates. But sharing at work or informal get together, church, whatever venue without plates, makes them a bit too messy. I wanted to make a portable, bite sized, finger friendly version of mom's lemon bars. I like tassies, specifically pecan tassies, because I like the ratio of crust to filling. But in this case I did not want a tassie crust, which is a cream cheese pastry crust. I wanted the shortbread-like crust of the bars. And I definitely did not want a sugar cookie crust, which is all I found when I went looking for mini lemon bar tarts. Lots and lots of lemon cookie cups. Well that's just too sweet. Lemon bars, in my opinion, should have a rich crust with just a hint of sweetness, and nice a puckery, sweet-tart filling. I cannot abide a lemon or lime bar with a sweet, bland filling that tries to pass itself off as citrus based. Blech. So here is what I came up with, using my favorite-of-all-time lemon curd (10 minutes from blender to done), and a short crust that is just like the bar, but finger food friendly.
The dough should not be crumbly when done, but easy to mold and form into a ball in your hands without sticking to them. The way I measure, 2¼ cups was perfect, but when my mom tried, it wasn't quite enough flour and we needed just a couple tablespoons more. She lightens and spoons into the cup and then levels off. I spoon but do not lighten much. Next time I make these I will weigh my flour and put weights in for consistency.
I love how these tarts turned out! Really not much more work than a batch of bars, and so cute! Not to mention portion controlled. They were well appreciated by all who tried them and disappeared quickly. Hubby's work team loved them as well. I think the comment was made that I could make more any time. Soon. Please. They were the favorite of the four things I sent in and had no leftovers.
The curd recipe makes enough for all the tarts, plus enough for spreading on a couple scones or muffins. And it really is a brilliant lemon curd. Definitely my favorite of all time. You can halve the recipe for the crust. I haven't tried a half batch of the curd but it should work if careful with the heat.
Mini Lemon Bar Tarts
makes 4 dozen
2½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 cup butter
¼ cup sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2 egg yolks
makes about 2 cups
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest (use organic lemons please to avoid pesticides)
Extra powdered sugar for garnish
For the curd:
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and no butter grains show, a few minutes. Pour into a saucepan and cook over low-med until thickened. If using a thermometer it should be done around 170ºF. It will thicken noticeably and coat the back of a spoon. Do not boil.
Transfer to a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming. Chill until ready to use. Will keep up to a week in the fridge and 2 months in the freezer.
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Combine flour, salt, soda, and cream of tartar in a bowl and set aside. In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter, sugars, and lemon zest. Mix in the yolks. Gradually add the flour until the dough comes together into a loose ball. It should be firm enough to roll into balls without sticking to the hands.
Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. Using a small cookie scoop, portion into scant tbsp sized balls and press into the liners. I used the floured end of my marble pestle, it was perfectly sized. You can use a wooden muddle, large wooden spoon handle, or there are tart tampers made for the purpose of pressing mini tarts. You can also just press down with your thumb.
Bake crusts for 10 minutes and remove from oven. They will have puffed up a little. Refresh the holes in the crust shells with the end of your tamper (don't use your thumb this time, they are hot), and fill with a generous teaspoon of lemon curd. Return to the oven and bake for another 6-8 minutes.
Remove baking tins from oven and set on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the tarts carefully and finish cooling on the wire rack. I found a seafood pick worked well to get them out, a bamboo skewer would also work well. They are delicate when warm, so be gentle removing them.
When cool and ready to serve, dust with a little powdered sugar for garnish. Don't do this too far ahead or the filling may absorb the sugar after a few hours.
Approximate nutrition per tart: