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Home » Mini Fruit Tarts with Pastry Cream and the BEST Shortbread Crust

Mini Fruit Tarts with Pastry Cream and the BEST Shortbread Crust

Sneak Preview: This recipe makes the best shortbread-crusted mini fruit tarts filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with fresh fruit. Perfect for a party or buffet.

Why mini-tarts are an impressive choice to serve a crowd:

  • Mini-tarts are pre-portioned. Avoid the hazards of slicing a pie with a crumbly or tough crust, a runny or frozen filling, or customizing the serving size.
  • Small enough to eat out of hand–forks not required
  • Choose fruit according to what’s least expensive.
  • Not too much crust, not too much filling. The ratio is ju-u-u-ust right.
  • Make the crusts ahead of time.

Don’t miss the tip at the end for an easy way to freeze the egg whites leftover from making the vanilla pastry cream.

Mini Fruit Tarts with Vanilla Pastry Cream displayed on a cooling rack

The shortbread crusts are so fresh and tasty when they are homemade. The pastry cream comes together quickly in a microwave. Top each tart with fresh fruit of your choice. Add sparkle with a touch of glaze (currant jelly).


Is this recipe easy enough for beginners?

The filling is easy enough for anybody who can operate a blender and a microwave. If you haven’t tried making pudding or pie filling with a microwave yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. 

Note: If you don’t have or want to use a blender, use a whisk and a bowl. Combine all the ingredients and give them a whippin’. If your final product has any lumps, run it through a sieve.

Making the cream pastry is so easy with a microwave!

Here’s why?

  • No worries about scorching the milk or letting it boil over
  • No tempering the eggs
  • No lumps if you use a blender and whisk according to the directions
  • No double boiler needed (thank goodness since I gave mine away years ago)

About the crust…

These mini-crusts are somewhat tedious and may be challenging for people who have never made a pie crust. Store-bought, pre-baked mini crusts are readily available if you are a novice baker or trying to make these in quantity.

By way of encouragement…

You can make the crusts ahead of time. The raw dough pressed into the molds will keep in the freezer for over a month. Planning ahead will give you plenty of time to practice and build your confidence.

Why is the pastry cream not getting thick?

If you have cooked the pastry cream according to the directions and it is still not thick, keep cooking.

Remember, microwaves vary wildly in how fast they cook. Differences in the starting temperature of your ingredients is another variable.

It may take less time than I have suggested if you have a fairly new and powerful microwave. On the other hand, it may take even longer than the recipe states if you have a smaller or less-powerful microwave oven.

Your pastry cream mixture will get thick if you cook it long enough and you followed the recipe exactly.

Related Post: Mini Strawberry Tarts: Simple to Serve, Easy To Eat


What fruit is best for fruit tartlets?

Small strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and kiwi are my favorite. The fresher and sweeter they are, the better. Stay away from watery fruits like melons.


How can I keep the fruit on top of the tart fresh as long as possible?

Don’t wash fresh fruit under running water. Wipe them off with a damp paper towel or cloth. This will help the glaze to stick and keep the fruit looking nice for longer.


Can I make these mini fruit tarts ahead of time?

Crusts: The tart dough can be made 1-2 months ahead of time and stored in the freezer. You can store the roll of dough, or you can make the individual tart shells and freeze them (unbaked). Prepared crusts, whether frozen or not, can be baked the day before.

Filling: You will need to make the custard at least 3 hours ahead so it can firm up as it cools. If you make it a day ahead, give it a good whip before pouring into the shells.

Putting tarts together: Assemble the tarts the day you want to serve them. If you do it the day before, the crusts will absorb moisture from the custard and lose their crispness.

Add the fruit as you’re getting ready to serve them. The fruit will eventually leak juices that will affect their appearance. On the off chance you have leftovers, call me and I will gladly come and eat them for you.

 assembling fruit tarts
Make the pastry shells yourself with this recipe for the shortbread crust. Molds available from Amazon.

4 Secrets for Making Miniature Shortbread Crusts

#1  

Grease and flour your molds generously.

If you use silicone molds like the ones shown in this post, you won’t have to worry about this. Otherwise, Baker’s Secret is perfect for the job.

#2 

Freezing the raw tart crusts is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.

Otherwise, they will shrink and melt the minute they hit the oven.

#3

Place foil inside crusts before baking.

Press the foil down against the crust. This will keep crusts from rising up in the middle while they bake. No other weight is necessary.

Save the used foil if you want to. It’s reusable with your next batch of crusts.

#4

Turn the crusts out of the pan within 3-4 minutes after coming out of the oven.

Do it quickly, but gently.  These are a bit fragile. On the other hand, they taste like a cookie so the broken ones make great eating all by themselves. (The crusts NEVER sticks to the silicone molds. I can’t recommend them enough.)

variation--a full-size fruit tart with vanilla pastry cream filling
Make small tarts or a larger one if you prefer.  A dab of currant jelly adds sparkle.

Related Post: Mascarpone Cheesecake Mini-Tarts–Easy To Customize

How To Make Mini-Tart Crusts

This picture from my post about Chocolate Ganache Mini-Tarts illustrates the process of making the tart crusts. Don’t miss the video on this post.

How To Make Vanilla Pastry Cream in a Microwave

Step #1: Pour milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks into a blender. Blend 5 seconds.

Step #2: Pour filling into a 2-quart microwave-safe Pyrex bowl or pitcher.

Step #3: Microwave on HIGH for 6-8 minutes, stopping halfway to stir and then again after every minute.

Keep microwaving until your cream starts to thicken like the picture above.


Step #4: Whisk butter and vanilla extract into the cream filling until smooth.

As pastry cream cools it will get thicker but will not set up firm until the mixture is completely chilled.

Step #5: Fill tart shells with warm pastry cream. If not ready to assemble tarts yet, cover with plastic wrap. Press the wrap next to the surface of the cooked filling so it won’t form a skin.


Kitchen Tip: How To Freeze Leftover Egg Whites

Since you only need egg yolks to make the cream filling, I like to freeze the whites. The silicone molds I recommend for these tarts are the perfect container for one egg white.

As soon as the egg whites freeze solid, you can peel the silicone away from the egg white. Collect them in a zippered plastic bag and stash them in the freezer. When you get enough, try these spicy pecans or this chocolate and vanilla angel food cake.


More Recipes for Pie Lovers:


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    Did you enjoy this recipe? You can help others (and me) by leaving a rating on the recipe card itself underneath the picture. No comment required. Thank you.

    Hope to see you again soon!
    Paula

    p.s. Questions? Email me: paula at saladinajar.com.


    Yield: 13-14 tarts

    Mini Fruit Tarts with Vanilla Pastry Cream

    Mini Fruit Tarts with Vanilla Pastry Cream

    These shortbread-crusted tarts are filled with a light, creamy custard and topped with fresh fruit of your choice.

    Prep Time 45 minutes
    Cook Time 45 minutes
    Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

    Ingredients

    Mini-Tart Crust:

    • 1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
    • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), chilled
    • 1 egg yolk (from a large egg)
    • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

    Cream Filling:

    • 2-3/4 cups milk
    • 2/3 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup cornstarch
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 4 egg yolks
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Glaze

    • 1/4 cup currant jelly

    Instructions

    Crust:

    1. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.
    2. Cut butter into 8 slices and add to flour, pulsing several times until mixture resembles oatmeal. Add egg yolk mixed with cream.
    3. Pulse until all ingredients are moistened. Then allow the machine to run a few seconds until the dough starts to stick together. (Add additional drops of cream if the dough seems too dry.)
    4. Press dough into a roll like refrigerated cookie dough. Wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
    5. Spray molds generously with Baker's Secret or something like it. (Baker's Secret is an aerosol spray mix of flour and oil.) If using silicone molds, no greasing is necessary.
    6. Slice your roll of dough into 12 pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap into a circle slightly larger than tart molds. Press into a mold with fingers being careful to keep the thickness consistent. Use a knife to trim off any extra at the top. Freeze for at least 30 minutes, overnight or up to a month. (See video for this step.)
    7. Place frozen tart shells on a cookie sheet. Press a small square of foil down into each crust and mold it to the shape of the crust. See the picture above.
    8. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, usually about 3-4 minutes.

    Cream Filling:

    1. Add milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks, to a blender or food processor bowl. (You can use a bowl and a whisk if that's all you have.)
    2. Blend 5 seconds and pour into a 2-quart glass microwave-safe bowl.
    3. Microwave 6-7 minutes on HIGH, whisking until smooth after 3 minutes, then every minute thereafter. (Keep microwaving if not thick after 7 minutes.)
    4. Add butter and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
    5. If not ready to assemble, cover the top of the warm custard with plastic wrap and smooth it to touch the surface. This prevents a skin from forming on top of the cream.

    Assembly:

    1. Fill each baked tart shells with cream filling. Top with fruit of your choice.


    Glaze:

    1. Melt 1/4 cup currant jelly and use a brush to dab some shininess on each piece of fruit. It's OK if some drips onto the cream.

    Notes

    NOTES

    1. If dough in the food processor seems too dry to press into a ball, add a teaspoon or two of milk or cream.

    2. Tarts are best eaten the day they are assembled.

    3. A dollop of whip cream makes these even better.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    14

    Serving Size:

    1 tart

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 266Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 98mgSodium: 170mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 1gSugar: 17gProtein: 6g

    Did you make this recipe?

    Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest


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      Stact

      Thursday 3rd of September 2020

      I was wondering if instead of using a microwave to heat the filling we could use a stove top?

      Stact

      Thursday 3rd of September 2020

      @Paula, Thank you!

      Paula

      Thursday 3rd of September 2020

      Yes, you absolutely can use a stove top. I recommend a double boiler for the process. If you don't have one, perhaps you can use a smaller pan or pyrex glass bowl inside a larger pan that holds boiling water. You don't want to scorch it, which is easy to do on the stove.

      Deb

      Wednesday 29th of July 2020

      How many tarts would it make if I just used the frozen individual tart shells?

      Paula

      Wednesday 29th of July 2020

      Hi Deb, It depends on how much the frozen tarts hold. For reference, the silicone mold I use holds about 3 ounces without the crust in them. With a crust, I'm guessing 2 ounces. They measure 3 inches in diameter at the top and are 1-1/4 inch in depth.

      The recipe for the pastry cream makes more filling than you can use with 1 batch of the homemade tart recipe. So unless your store-bought tarts are really big, you should get more tarts that the recipe says.

      Eli

      Friday 10th of July 2020

      Can we replace the heavy cream with milk? Because they don't sell heavy cream where I live.

      Paula

      Saturday 11th of July 2020

      Yes.

      Nerissa

      Wednesday 17th of June 2020

      We went cherry picking over the weekend so I wanted to make cherry tarts. I took the crust recipe from this post and filled it with cherry filling. Made this in a muffin pan and it turned out really good. I must have done a better job in buttering the pan in some but not all because I had a really hard time lifting them out without the crust breaking apart. I only succeeded with 8 out of 12. It was also a little difficult to put the crust in the muffin pan because the dough broke easy. Is that how its suppose to be? I'll be making this crust again and experiment with different fillings. Thank you for sharing this!

      Paula

      Thursday 18th of June 2020

      Hi Nerissa,

      I'm sorry you had a hard time getting the crust out of muffin tin. The crust should not be crumbly when you are putting it into the muffin pan. Are you using a food processor or stand mixer? Mix it longer until it no longer crumbles. To be honest, I have never used muffin pans. The silicone molds are WAY EASIER. They are quite inexpensive on Amazon. I don't know where you are--maybe not available where you live? My last suggestion is to spray your pans well with Baker's Joy. It is so much better than butter. There's really no homemade substitute although you can try greasing with butter, then coating with flour. Shake pan upside down to get rid of the excess flour. Good luck.

      Khy

      Thursday 23rd of April 2020

      I make this every year for my boyfriends birthday. It’s his favorite!!! Literally the best to pack for a picnic and the cookie crust is so delicious. The custard is so easy to make and taste creamy and amazing. BEST FRUIT TART RECIPE EVER!!!!

      Paula

      Friday 24th of April 2020

      Thanks for the comment, Khy. I agree that the custard is creamy and amazing.