Morbid Meals – Queen of Hearts’ Tarts

EXAMINATION

The Empress Tarot card inspired me to recall one of my favorite nursery rhymes. Originally published in 1782, it is more famously presented as evidence against the Knave of Hearts in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.
MM03

“The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer day: The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and took them quite away!”

While this theft isn’t worthy of the Queen’s favorite punishment of decapitation, after you eat these tarts, you might agree that the Knave had the right idea.

ANALYSIS

Yield

About 10-12 Tarts

Ingredients

4 oz butter (1 stick)
4 oz cream cheese
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup All-Purpose flour
red fruit jam of your choice

Apparatus

  • Electric stand mixer or food processor
  • Plastic cling wrap
  • Rolling pin
  • Two heart-shaped cookie cutters (One should fit inside the other.)
  • Cookie sheet pan

Procedure

  1. Into the bowl of your mixer or food processor, mix together the butter and cream cheese. Then add the sugar and salt and mix to combine well.
  2. On low speed, add the flour and mix to combine until a smooth dough forms.
  3. Lay down a sheet of plastic cling wrap. Roll out your ball of dough into a circle about 1-inch thick. Now wrap the dough up in the plastic wrap and chill it in your refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up. If you don’t intend to work with it immediately, it can stay in the fridge for about 3 days, but then when you take it out to work with it, it will need to rest at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes to be pliable enough to roll out.
  4. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, if you have some, or a silicon non-stick baking mat is better. If not, spray down your cookie sheet with a non-stick spray.
  5. Dust your work surface with flour and then roll your dough out carefully to about 1/8-inch thick. If the dough breaks up, it is too cold, so let it rest. If it is too sticky, dust the dough and your rolling pin with flour.
  6. Use the larger cookie cutter to cut the dough into hearts. One heart will be used for a bottom crust. With another heart, cut out the middle with the smaller cutter and carefully remove the inside. This outline of a heart then goes on top of a bottom crust. Save all of the inside pieces to roll out again.
  7. With the remaining dough from the inside pieces, roll out again and repeat cutting them out. You might find it easier to make the double cut outline pieces first, reserve the insides, and roll them out to make new bottoms.
  8. Depending on the sizes of your cookie cutters, you should be able to get about 10-12 tart crusts onto a cookie sheet. Depending on the firmness of your dough, you may find it easiest to lay down all of the bottoms first then carefully lay down the outline edge crust dough on top. Gently press together so that the dough will bake together as one.
  9. In the outlined well of each crust dough, fill with a little less than a teaspoon of your favorite jam. Try to smooth it out inside if you can, but don’t worry too much; as these bake, they will spread out inside. If you fill them with too much jam, they will bubble over.
  10. Bake in your pre-heated oven on the middle rack for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the crusts are golden brown.
  11. Let the tarts cool on a rack if you have one. When the jam centers are firm, they are ready to eat.

DISSECTION

This recipe scales easily, since the butter and cream cheese are equal values and match well with a full cup of flour. I originally used 4 oz by weight of flour (a scant cup), but the dough was way too sticky. I added enough flour to make a full cup and the dough was still moist without being too tacky.

POST-MORTEM

I can absolutely see why the Knave of Hearts would steal these tarts, and why the Queen might overreact when they are gone. They are so flaky and tender and delicious. If you make them with different jams, you can have a wonderful variety to enjoy.

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