Cream Cheese Filling:
1-8 oz. (227 grams) package full fat cream cheese, room temperature
1-14 ounce (396 grams) can sweetened condensed milk
Zest of one lemon (outer yellow skin)
1/3 cup (80 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (227 grams) (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour
3 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch (corn flour) or rice flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Any combination of berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries) or other fruit such as slices of kiwi.
Cream Cheese Filling: In your food processor or electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Add the condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and process just until smooth. (Do not over process or the filling will be too runny.) Transfer the filling to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, or preferably overnight. Can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for about a week.
Shortbread Tarts: Lightly butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, 36 miniature muffin tins (approximately 2 inch (5 cm) in diameter).
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together (1-2 minutes) until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and mix just until incorporated. If the shortbread dough is too soft to roll into balls, cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.
Take a scant 1 tablespoon of shortbread dough (about 15 grams) and place in the center of each muffin tin. With your fingertips, press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the individual muffin tin. Once filled, cover and place the tart pan, with the unbaked shells, in the freezer for about 15 minutes so the shortbread can become firm. (This will help to prevent the shortbread from puffing up during baking.)
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. About halfway through the baking time, if the shortbread has puffed up, lightly prick the bottom of each shortbread with the tines of a fork. Once they are fully baked, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cooled, remove the tarts from the pan. (They can be frozen.)
To serve: Using two small spoons, fill the tart shells with a dollop of the cream filling. (Can also place the filling in a piping bag, fitted with a small plain tip.) The filled tart shells can be made several hours in advance and refrigerated. Just before serving top with fresh berries or cut up fruit.
Makes about 36 - 2 inch (5 cm) shortbread tarts.
These bite-sized Shortbread Tarts are irresistible. The buttery shortbread is tender crisp, and each tart shell is filled with a creamy no bake filling that tastes like cheesecake. They look so pretty when studded with fresh fruit, and besides looking and tasting great, they are perfect for large gatherings. You can make the cream filling up to a week in advance and the unfilled shortbread tart shells can also be made ahead and frozen.
To make the tart shells we start with a basic shortbread dough. However, this dough is a little different in that we are adding some cornstarch (corn flour) (you could also use rice flour), which helps to make a more tender and melt-in-your-mouth shortbread. Once the dough is made, if it is too soft to roll into balls, then cover and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes or just until you can form it into balls. Then take small buttery balls of shortbread dough and press them into lightly buttered miniature muffin tins. Once filled, I like to put the shortbread-lined pans into the freezer while I heat up the oven, as this will firm up the shortbread and help to prevent it from puffing up during baking. But if you find the shortbread still puffs up, just lightly prick the bottom of each shortbread, with the tines of a fork, about halfway through baking. Since shortbread is quite fragile, it is best to bake the shortbread until the edges have turned a light golden brown. I know these tart shells can be a little difficult to remove from the pan. So, if you can use non stick miniature muffin pans and always cool the shortbread completely before removing from the pan, as this will help prevent breakage. The great thing about these tart shells is that they store very well so you can make them days in advance of serving and simply store them at room temperature or they can be frozen.
I often like to fill the shortbread tarts with a no-bake cheesecake-like filling, although you could fill the tarts with lemon curd, jam, or pastry cream. The filling is made with cream cheese, and try to use full fat, as fat free is a little too soft and may prevent the filling from becoming firm. Along with the cream cheese, the filling is made with sweetened condensed milk, freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest (outer yellow skin of lemon) and pure vanilla extract. Now, when you first make this filling it is quite soft so it needs to be refrigerated until firm, about 6-8 hours, preferably overnight. This also gives the flavors time to soften and mingle. In fact, the filling can be made and stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Now, depending on how much filling you use for each tart, you may have some left over. While you could easily make another batch of shortbread tarts, another idea would be to make one large shortbread crust and then fill it with the leftover cream and garnish with fresh fruit. To keep the shortbread crisp, fill the tart shells with the cream the day of serving. These are especially nice when garnished with fresh berries or slices of your favorite fruit.