The crust of the tartlets is made of what I call my Version 1 of pasta frolla (Italian tart dough). The recipe makes enough pasta frolla for several tartlets, the number depending on the size of the fluted tartlet pans used. (The kind with removable bottom is recommended.)
- 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon [85 g, 3 oz.] superfine sugar (see Note 1 below) or a scant 3/4 cup of powdered sugar
- 1 and 3/4 cup [230 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour (plus as needed to flour the working surface) or 1/2 cup [65 g. 2 1/4 oz.] whole-wheat pastry flour and the rest all-purpose flour
- a pinch of salt
- 1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 113 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- grated zest of half a lemon
- 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
Note 1: Superfine sugar is also referred to as baker's sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground. The finer the sugar, the better for this recipe, so avoid unrefined sugar, which is coarse-grained.
Note 2: The less gluten in the flour, the better. Do not use bread flour. On the other hand, if you have access to pastry flour, try using it instead of some of the all-purpose flour.
Making pasta frolla with a food processor:
- Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
- Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
- Empty food processor's bowl onto your work surface.
- Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on: place it in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
- Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
- Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
- Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
- Shape the dough into a flat ellipse 1 inch / 2.5 cm thick and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.
Assembling and baking the crostatine:
- Preheat the oven to 375 F [190 C].
- Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away a piece of the dough you estimate will be enough to cover a tartlet pan. Put the rest in back in the fridge.
- To help roll the dough, keep it on top of some plastic wrap. This can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. However, you can also roll the dough directly on a work surface if you prefer.
- Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
- If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin's width each time; turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
- Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.
- If you used the plastic wrap as rolling surface, flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.
- Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.
- Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places. Refrigerate the rolled shell while you work on the other tartlets, if any. Make sure you leave some pasta frolla for surface decoration.
- Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into thin ropes.
- Take out the shells from the fridge and spread fruit preserves evenly over it.
- Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes. (Note: set aside dough scraps to make frollini)
- Add a drop or two of water to the beaten egg and with a pastry brush, glaze the border and strips of dough.
- Place the tartlets on a baking sheet, put in the oven and bake until they are of a nice golden hue.
- When done, remove the tartlets from the oven and let cool. If you have used pans with a removable bottom, release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tartlets are completely cool before serving.