I have never been one for playing cards. Despite an ancient copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games laying around in a state of shambled de-pagination, it’s been the rare occasion that I have detoured from the board saga of Monopoly into a world fit for only one player, solitaire. I suspect I probably never would have ventured any interest at all except for my endless fascination with the picture, or court, card. Even as a child, beyond the immature cravings for all things visually dramatic, I sensed something mysterious and stylish about these fine figures with their opulent attire, uber-groomed tresses and stately bearing. Beyond that, I was intrigued by their faces, sorting through the almost imperceptible distinctions, selecting which ones I thought pretty or handsome, retiring or bold, making up elaborate stories that would animate them as I did when playing with my dolls.
As an adult, I still enjoy studying them in the same way, but with an obviously far more discerning eye and a keen interest in who these prototypes actually were. Scanning the twelve countenances, I am repeatedly struck by how each royal is preoccupied by a range of world-weary emotions from consternation to induration. There are no smiley faces here. Clearly, it is uneasy lie the heads that wears these crowns. But what’s with the queen of red romance, the queen of hearts? Is she really that much more morose than the rest of them, or do we expect more from the promise of love and notice it more sharply when it doesn’t deliver?
If I could fill in the blanks of her life, I suspect she was raised in the claustrophobic confines of royal responsibility, groomed since birth to be the consort in a politically expedient marriage to the sovereign of another territory. Unless she was particularly well positioned in lineage, she would not exercise any real clout during a formidable reign as Elizabeth I and Victoria did. This would make me peevish, too. Though love matches were not unheard of, she was probably at the mercurial mercies of a king who was likely a knave, and a jack who certainly was one. I want to invite her over to my place. You can tell she needs to commiserate; you can tell she needs some sugar. I’ll get the kettle going and the fancy cake plates arranged, but first I’ll give her a lesson in how to bake. She’s never been in a kitchen before; birds in gilded cages aren’t allowed. By the end of the afternoon, she will be mussed up with flour and giddy with accomplishment. She will actually crack a smile. Teach a woman to apply lipstick, and she will be happy for a night. Teach a woman to bake, and she will be happy for the rest of her life.
Almond Cherry Mini Tarts - Slightly adapted from the Williams-Sonoma recipe
Twelve 2-2 1/2-inch miniature tart tins (removable bottom preferred)
1 recipe double-crust pie dough - From the Betty Groff recipe
Cherry preserves (see below)
Almond filling (see below)
2 ½ cups all-purpose white flour
½ stick butter
½ cup vegetable shortening
In a large bowl, cut or rub between fingers butter and shortening into flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add water a little at a time, tossing & folding with a rubber spatula between additions. As you continue to add, toss and fold small amounts of water, press the mixture with the spatula against the bowl until the dough can easily form a ball. Use as much ice water as you need, adding it incrementally. It is better the dough be moister than dry; dry dough will not roll out evenly.
Transfer dough onto a well-floured rolling surface, gently shaping into an even ball. Cut ball in half. Working with half at a time (keeping the other half under plastic wrap), roll out each ball to a thickness of approximately ¼ inch. With a round cookie/biscuit cutter, rim of a glass or knife, cut rounds of dough a little wider than the circumference of your tart tins. You want to fit and shape the dough into the contours of the tins without stretching, in addition to allowing some extension above the rims. This ensures that the edges will be full; the dough will shrink as it bakes. Center each dough circle on an ungreased tart tin, then press down to fit, trimming edges, but leaving a little of the dough neatly extended above the rim. Cut small circles of parchment paper or foil to set down on the floor of each shell, then add pie weights, beans or rice to prevent the dough from buckling during baking.
Bake on center rack of a 350 degree F pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove tart tins from oven, allowing to cool slightly. Remove the weights and linings, then return the tart shells to bake another 5-7 minutes until more deeply browned and dry. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool before adding the filling and completing the baking.
1 jar cherry preserves rubbed through a fine strainer
1 8-ounce can or box sweetened almond paste (canned is softer and easier to work with)
8 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
Almond slices (for optional garnish)
In a large bowl, whip the butter with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add almond paste by the tablespoon, beating well after each addition. Beat in eggs, then the flour, then the almond extract.
If you are not using tart tins with removable bottoms, lift each shell to line the tins with enough greased aluminum foil to slightly extend beyond the rims. This will help to remove the tarts from the tins without breakage. Fill each pastry shell pan with a teaspoon of cherry preserves, then mound a generous tablespoon of almond mixture on top of the preserves. Do not worry that the mixture does not fully cover the preserves; it will expand while baking. Press almond slices into mixture if garnishing. Arrange prepared tins on a cookie sheet and place on the middle rack of a 350 degree F pre-heated oven. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the almond mixture is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes before carefully removing the tarts from the tins. If using foil liners, peel off the foil. The tarts can be served slightly warm or fully cool. Makes 12 approximately 2-inch mini tarts. --
This post is being submitted to Ann of Redacted Recipes who is sharing hosting duties with Karyn of Hot Potato for Mini Pie Revolution Event #2 .
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