Monday, March 3, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Time flies, it's March, and we Avid Bakers are rising to our monthly challenge: a savory pastry from King Arthur Flour: Mushroom Cheddar Tarts. For me, a welcome change after all those holidays sweets (some sticky meringues are still uneaten!)

Like many other reviewers, I halved the recipe, since there was no big party to supply. Also, the best of all husbands left me to my fate, eating everything I bake by myself (to the detriment of my waistline), while braving a 29-hour flight and a rickety bus to visit Cambodia and Angkor Vat.

Exploring ruins instead of helping me eat - I'm left alone with my tarts!

I used my recently purchased mini-muffin pan (a bargain from HomeGoods, my home-away-from-home). Fellow bakers made regular muffin sized tarts with half the dough, but needed the whole amount of filling. For my tiny bite sized tarts half the filling was enough.

For the Hi-Maize Natural fiber in KA's recipe I used the more interesting natural fiber, contained in Einkorn flour, and Parmesan cheese instead of cheddar cheese powder. Otherwise I followed the recipe.

Don't be intimidated by a crumbly dough - it will come together
Except for one thing: "Cook's Illustrated's" secret weapon for a foolproof pie crust.

Instead of adding more (gluten enhancing) water to keep the crumbly dough from falling apart, I used Vodka!

The little tarts turned out really nice, and, left to the task of eating them alone, I "forced" myself to dine on half of the batch - a great sacrifice!

Next time (and there will be a next time!) I might try them with another vegetable, leek or tiny  broccoli florets. And perhaps some fresh herbs, too.

MUSHROOM CHEDDAR TARTS  (adapted from King Arthur Flour)
(24 mini tarts)

113 g/1 stick cold butter, cubed
120 g/1 cup all-purpose flour
34 g/1/4 cup Einkorn flour
28 g/1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/16 tsp. cayenne pepper
43 g/3/8 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup ice water
1-2 tbsp. Vodka (doesn't taste, but moistens the dough without enhancing gluten formation)

57 g/1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tbsp. butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
3/8 cup milk or half-and-half (I used half-and-half)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
28 g/1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

A food processor makes cutting in the butter a cinch

For the crust: combine dry ingredients in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until an unevenly crumbly mixture forms (with pea sized butter pieces.)

Vodka - secret ingredient for a foolproof pie crust

Transfer mixture to a bowl, sprinkle with cheddar and water, and, using a rubber spatula, mix and press, until dough is cohesive; add 1-2 tablespoons Vodka, if necessary (more water makes the dough less tender!)

The dough will be crumbly and have a marbled look from the butter pieces

Pat dough into a disk, wrap in plastic foil, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling: saute mushrooms and red pepper in butter until the water is evaporated and vegetables are browned. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and thyme. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200ºC.

Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter, cut rounds

Roll dough into a 10" x 13"/25 x 33 cm rectangle, and, using a round (2 1/2"/6 cm) cookie cutter, cut 24 rounds for mini-muffin pans (re-roll dough pieces, there will not be much leftovers.)

A tamper is a great tool for fitting the rounds in the mini muffin cups

Fit rounds into cups of mini muffin pan (using a tamper helps!)

Place 1 teaspoon each of sauteed mushroom mixture and shredded cheese into each cup. Then fill with egg mixture (about 2 teaspoons).

Ready for the oven!

 Bake tarts for 18 - 22 minutes, until they are golden, and the crust browned.

Allow tarts to rest for 10 minutes before removing them from the pan.

Serve warm. (Or refrigerate and reheat for 10 minutes in a 375°F/190ºC oven.)

Great for a party buffet, or just for Sunday brunch

If you would like to participate in our monthly baking challenge, here is the link to the Avid Bakers.


  1. that's a great tip - my next pie crust is definitely going to have Vodka!!!

    1. It really works like a charm, Mireille. Since I first read about it, I always use Vodka for the additional moisture in pie crusts, and they are are tender and flaky.

  2. Great looking tarts! I'd never heard of einkorn flour so looked it up - fascinating stuff!

    1. In Germany they have it for some time already in natural food stores, I recently discovered it in our local store, imported from Italy. It has a nice, slightly nutty taste.

  3. Gorgeous little tarts! I have not tastes vodka in my life but now I know what I will do with vodka instead of drinking it ;) And by the way, I love your description about your husband: "a guinea pig". That's what love is for. sharing is caring tehehe.

    1. I have a whole battery of liquors I only use for cooking. Vodka is good in "Penne alla Vodka", too. You are so right, I liked you funny description of this "low-calorie" pastry, too!

  4. I hope I will remember the vodka, sounds really nice. And some other vegetables, I think I would like that very much.

    1. This is definitely a good basic recipe to try with other vegetables - and I wish I could get chanterelles or porcini mushrooms here.

  5. Your tarts look cute...a pity you had to finish them on your own :-). Great idea adding vodka and will have to do that when husband is not around to share these with-he is a teetotaller besides not eating eggs. Sigh! Life is not easy :-).

    1. Sunita, the Vodka totally cooks off. He wouldn't taste anything. Yes, I suffered horribly from having to dispose of them all by myself :)

  6. These look great and your instructional photos are fabulous! I loved this crust. I should have tried vodka!

    1. Thanks, Karen, Cook's Illustrated is always a source for (often surprisingly unusual) tricks that help achieving something in an easier way, without compromising taste.

  7. Awesome tarts, Karin! I heard a lot of good things about ATK's Vodka crust. I think the filling options are endless. Definitely worth experimenting with.

    1. Thanks, Hanaâ, since I first heard about it, the Vodka crust is my default pie crust. As you will know, pie crusts are quite unusual for Europeans, nothing you would ever learn from your Mom. My first crusts were tough as nails, because I overmixed them and, also, added too much water, being only used to German pastry.

  8. Vodka in your pie, yes this is really party food!!
    Totally love that handy wooden tool you used, I'll keep my eyes open for that.
    Beautiful tartlets!

    1. Thanks, Lien! When I saw that tamper the one and only time in the discount shop where I also bought the mini muffin pan, I jumped at it. Its really cool tool for pressing pie or tart doughs.

  9. Hi, thanks for this recipe. I baked the tarts in ramekins. Came out great! Only modification was taking it out the ramekins at the end and leaving it in the oven to finish the bottom crust. Everyone loved, thanks again for a great recipe!

    Sid aka "crustandcrumb"

    1. How nice! I sometimes use ramequins, if I have too much muffin batter for one pan, works usually well, too.
      Thanks for the feedback, Sid!