Bakery, Desserts, Pies, Tarts & Pastries

Lemon-Mascarpone Icebox Tarts

2 Comments 20 June 2012

Oh, the joys of making a pastry dough, pressing it into a pan and filling it with yumminess. There’s no end to the possibilities of all the yumminess you can create. But did you know that you don’t even have to go to all the trouble of creating a pastry dough to make a tart? That’s right! Why not shortbread or another such butter cookie? Would we steer you wrong when it comes to convenience? N to the O, baby.

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This is one of those recipes where a little easy step or two comes in handy. It’s not that they’re difficult to make, it’s just that it’s not our usual quick variety. Sometimes a little extra effort is worth it, though, and these little tarts are just wonderful.

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Butter cookies make a perfect crust for these wee tarts. We went with the brand used by the recipe originators – Pepperidge Farms Chessmen cookies, and loved how they came out.

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I totally forgot until writing up this post that there was sweetened condensed milk in these fellas. SCM makes the short list of Ambrosia to the Cooking Gods. In you go, SCM!

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Lemon zest. Know it. Love it. Put it in your tarts.

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Can’t have lemon tarts without the lemon juice either. Pour it in, cuz I bet you juiced those things by hand like we did. Just know that fresh is best in this case. Don’t go for total ease and buy bottled lemon juice. It has its uses, but this time you’ll be glad of a little hand juicing.

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Eggs, several of them. Guess who sucks at separating eggs? I do! Where’s my badge for Suckiest Egg Separator? I think I wasted…oh whatever, best not to dwell on the past. Next time I’ll not separate them over the same bowl as the shells and we’ll just have bonus scrambled eggs after food blogging.

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And after all that neat pouring and incorporating of the tart ingredients you get to make it all into a big smooshy mess! Yay for playing with food! In fact, where’s my Best Ingredient Smoosher Badge? Bueller?

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So you pre-baked your tarts shells, right? And you let them cool sufficiently? Good. You may pass Go and proceed directly to Pouring 101. Fill ’em on up!

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When the tarts are done in the oven, they’ll wiggle and jiggle to their own beat a little as they’re removed, but not to worry, they are done. They will set up even more in the fridge as they chill their way to being plate-ready. These are a lot like a lemon curd tart except that chilling will give them a much more firm texture. Where curd tarts are more like putting a very thick jam into a tart shell, these have a lot more substance and body to them. You can see this is so when fruit is placed on top for that added picture-quality-finish and it doesn’t just sink right in. And of course, the mascarpone doesn’t hurt anything either. Put that in a recipe title and I’m all Yes, Please!

If you love lemon desserts, you have to try these. If you’re a lemon curd fan – you’ll love this little tart. You may find yourself loving more than one! I did. I admit it.

Lemon-Mascarpone Icebox Tarts

from Southern Living, June 2012

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Cook Time: 27 minutes (plus cooling and 4 hours chilling)    Level: Intermediate    Serves: 12

  • 2 2/3 cups butter cookie crumbs (about 1 1/2 [7.5-oz.] packages butter cookies)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese
  • Toppings: fresh berries, sliced peaches or plums, fresh mint or thyme sprigs

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together first 4 ingredients; firmly press crumb mixture on bottom and up sides of 6 (3 3/4-inch) round tart pans with removable bottoms (about 6 Tbsp. per pan). Place tart pans on a baking sheet, and bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack completely (about 30 minutes).

Whisk together sweetened condensed milk and next 3 ingredients until well blended; whisk in mascarpone cheese just until blended. Spoon mixture into prepared tart shells.

Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes or until almost set. (The centers will not be firm but will set up as they chill.) Cool completely on wire rack (about 1 hour). Cover and chill 4 hours. Arrange berries and fruit decoratively over tarts just before serving.


When covering the tarts, just know that if your foil or plastic wrap is touching the top of the tart, some might pull away when you take the cover off. It’s not the end of the world, but if you’re going for a purty, smooth top, try just covering them loosely on top. If it happens, just pile on some of that gorgeous fresh fruit.

There was no one in the world I could find in my time frame that had the specific mini tart pan size called for and ours ended up being 4 inches or so wide – good enough. There was plenty of cookie crust fixings and tart filling to go around, enough for a seventh mini tart really.

We opted for crushing the cookie crumbs in my mini food processor, to get them to an extra fine consistency. We think this worked better than just placing them in a zip-lock big and crushing with a rolling pin. If that’s all you have for cookie-crumb production though, just make sure you get them as finely crumbled as possible. It makes smooshing  them into the tart pans a lot easier.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Meg says:

    These are absolutely adorable and look perfect for summer! Your photos are lovely, too.

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