Christmas Tree Tartlets

I still remember how my siblings and I used to hear the bells approaching our neighborhood on Christmas Eve as kids. We would immediately run to the windows, hoping to get a glimpse of Santa Claus riding his reindeer-drawn sleigh his car with a huge inflatable reindeer on top. How we used to wish he’d stop by our house too, until mom got the idea eventually and invited him in!

This Christmas tree tartlet is one of the tartlets I sold at the little pop-up event I threw last year with two friends of mine. I have to admit, it was an interesting (and quite stressful) experience. It was fun to meet my virtual cake-loving friends and discover how much love and support I get from my family and friends, even when I’m late to my own event by two whole hours.

I wasn’t late on purpose of course. I’m usually pretty punctual. At a fairly late stage of the planning I decided not to bake all the tartlet crusts a week in advance, but only two days before the event. You know, so they’ll stay fresh when I sell them. What a mistake. I ended up with only 3 hours of sleep the night before. I wasn’t about to give up on any tartlet. Whoever came to the pop-up might have noticed that the meringue Christmas tree was decorated with white sugar crystals instead of the dried fruit that I planned.   

Pop Tart
Pop Tart
Pop Tart

In the end, the taste is what matters, and this festive tartlet did not disappoint. A pistachio crust, filled with raspberry and dark chocolate ganache, topped with a Christmas tree made out of pistachio flavored Italian meringue.

True, I’m not Christian. I’m not supposed to celebrate Christmas. I’m not Jewish either. I’m not supposed to celebrate Chanukah, but I’m crazy about jelly doughnuts. I’m not supposed to celebrate Passover, but I eat more Matzah than the average Israeli. And don’t get me started about Hamentashen.

There’s something magical about this holiday that captivates those who don’t celebrate it. Something in that glittery decorated tree, that warm fire burning low in the fireplace, those wrapped gift boxes under the tree and those cheery songs… something that makes you feel peaceful and happy.

Pistachio crust
Raspberry and dark chocolate ganache filling
Piping pistachio Italian meringue
Cutting red dried fruit and pistachios
Christmas Tree Tartlets

Crust
175 g flour
20 g shelled pistachios
65 g powdered sugar
2 g salt (½ tsp)
100 g cold butter (cut into cubes)
45 g eggs

Pistachio paste
60 g shelled pistachios
10 g grape seed oil

Raspberry chocolate ganache
35 g butter (cut into cubes)
220 g dark chocolate
90 g heavy cream
165 g raspberry mash

Pistachio meringue
70 g water
200 g sugar
90 g egg whites
2-3 drops of green food coloring (gel based)
50 g chopped pistachios

Decoration
A bit of powdered sugar
Dried red fruits
(Or any other decoration)

Equipment
6 baking rings, 8 cm diameter & 2.5 cm height
A pastry bag fitted with a 16 mm smooth piping tip


The recipe makes 6 festive tartlets


Crust

Grind pistachios and powdered sugar in a food processor until you get a powder. Transfer the mixture into the mixer bowl and add flour, salt and butter cubes. Keep in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Remove from fridge. Using the paddle attachment, start mixing at low-medium speed until the batter reaches sand-like consistency. Make sure the butter chunks are as small as possible at the end of the process without melting the butter.

Add the eggs all at once and keep mixing at medium speed until the dough starts to form but is not yet completely uniform. Remove dough parts from the bowl and combine. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Roll out the dough a little bit, giving it a rectangular shape. Keep in the fridge for at least an hour. (It’s always better to prepare the dough in advance, the dough keeps for up to a week in the fridge and for about two-three months in the freezer.)

When the dough is stiff and cold, remove the plastic wrap and divide the dough into 6 equal-sized pieces. Leave one piece of dough on the counter top and put the rest back in the fridge. In a cool room, flour the work surface, place the dough on top and dust it with flour as well. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin. Keep turning the dough throughout and make sure it doesn’t stick to the surface. Roll out the dough to a 3-4 mm thickness.

Please note (!) If at any point the dough starts to soften, put it back in the fridge until it is stiff again.

Fonçage:
Lightly butter the inner side of the baking rings so that the dough sticks to it. Place the ring gently on top of the dough and cut a larger circle around the ring. Place the ring on a parchment paper and place the dough gently on top of it. Lift the edges of the dough, gently push the rest of the dough down and attach the edges to the sides of the ring, starting from the bottom of the ring to the top. Gently press down on the sides so that the corners at the bottom form a right angle. (It’s not the end of the world if the dough gets torn accidentally. Just attach the sides that have been torn apart and move on). Go over the top of the ring with a sharp knife and remove the excess dough. Put the tartlet crust in the freezer and repeat the process with the rest.

Blind baking:
Prick the bottom of each crust all over with a fork and put back in the freezer until the dough is stiff again (about half an hour). Line each crust with apiece of parchment paper (the size of about 13×13 cm). Fill the crusts with pie weights or dry chickpeas. Keep in the freezer. Preheat the oven to 170 ºC (340 ºF). When the desired temperature is reached, remove the crusts from the freezer and set them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and gently remove the parchment papers containing the pie weights (be careful not to break the crust in the process). Put the crust back in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes more until the crust begins to brown. Set aside to cool.

Brush the top of each crust against a flat mesh sieve to straighten the edges and give it a cleaner,sharper look.

Pistachio paste

Preheat the oven to 160 °C (320ºF). Scatter the pistachios on a baking tray and roast for about 7 minutes until they brown a bit. After the pistachios have cooled, grind them to a powder in a small food processor. Add the oil and grind again until it becomes a paste.

Spread a thin layer of the pistachio paste at the bottom of each crust. Flatten the surface with a spoon.

Raspberry chocolate ganache

Break the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a measuring pitcher. Add the butter cubes to the pitcher as well. Put heavy cream and raspberry mash in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour immediately over chocolate, making sure all the chocolate is covered. Mix a little bit with a spatula and then use a hand blender to blend it to a uniform consistency.

Pour the ganache into each crust almost to the edge. Let the ganache set in the fridge for a few hours.

Pistachio meringue

Put water and then sugar in a saucepan. Place on medium heat. Stir the sugar with a spatula to dissolve it. Once the water starts to boil, stop stirring and remove the spatula. Let the syrup boil and check with a thermometer that the temperature does not exceed 115°C (240°F).

While it’s boiling, whip the egg whites in a mixer on medium speed. When the syrup reaches 105°C (220°F), increase the speed of the mixer so the egg whites get to soft peaks (white foam consistency).

As soon as the syrup reaches 115°C (240°F), turn off the stove, reduce the mixer speed to medium, and slowly pour the syrup into the mixer. Increase the mixer speed to high and continue to whip for about 10 minutes, until the meringue cools. Towards the end, add a few drops of green food coloring and keep whipping.

Sift the shopped pistachios to get rid of the powdery part of it. This will give you a more stable pistachio meringue. Fold half of the chopped pistachios into the meringue. Add the rest of the pistachios and keep folding just until uniform.

Fit a pastry bag with a 16 mm smooth piping tip and fill it with the meringue. Pipe at the center of each tartlet and pull the bag up in a right angle to form 3 to 4 layers (or any form that resembles a pine tree).

Chop the dried red fruit into small pieces. Decorate the meringue trees with them. Sift a little bit of powdered sugar on top just before serving. Keep in the fridge for up to two days. Allow these Christmas tree tartlets to sit at room temperature for an hour or two before serving.

Christmas Tree Tartlets
Yum

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