Mango Brulee

This simple but elegant dessert lets us enjoy a taste of the tropics right here at home this summer. It’s probably not hard to guess that Brion & I enjoy the flavor of mango by the number of recipes I’ve featured on the site.

The word brulee simply means burnt in French and we’ve come to know it through the dessert called ‘crème brulee’. If its not familiar, it is simply a soft custard that’s sprinkled with sugar and then caramelized with a butane torch. The surface bubbles and then hardens to a paper thin, crisp crackly sweet crust that shatters when you dig in.

I think mangoes are so good, they don’t need anything done or added to them but a few extra touches can make it into a simple but elegant dessert.

For this mango brulee, I have sprinkled brown sugar and spices over the cut sides and placed them under the broiler (or use a brulee torch) until the sugar has browned and bubbled. The sugar forms a thin crust, just like the classic French crème brulee.

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Mango Brulee
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword mango brulee
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword mango brulee
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
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Instructions
  1. Turn on the broiler; position the rack 6-inches below the heat source. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Cut through the mango on either side of the pit as evenly as possible.
  3. In a small bowl, combine sugar & spices & sprinkle on top of each mango slice. Place mango slices on the prepared baking sheet. Make sure the mango slices are level so the sugar does not spill out. If you need to, use crumpled foil paper to steady the mango.
  4. Broil for 3 minutes or until the sugar has caramelized.

French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto

Thanks for the memories! This phrase says it all when I think back to the wonderful time we spent in France. Although this holiday is now 20 years past, the memories remain very vivid and special.

My sister, Loretta had joined Brion & I on this French vacation which had made it even more special. Our journey began in Paris where we had rented a car, then travelled south (about 613 km/380 miles) to the sleepy little village of St Thibery. For this segment of our trip we had rented an apartment to use as ‘home base’ during our time in this part of France. Many of these houses are from the 14th,15th & 17th century. The apartment was quaint but adequate even having a roof top patio.

St Thibery is situated between the larger towns of Agde & Pezenas and is just a short distance from the Mediterranean Sea. On one of our day trips we visited the town of Agde. It is one of the oldest towns in France and is captivating by its maze of narrow streets. Agde was built of black basalt from a volcanic eruption thus the black color of its buildings.

It was here we discovered a nice restaurant where we enjoyed some classic French steamed mussels. It would be an understatement to say how much the three of us enjoyed this feast of fresh seafood.

During the time we spent in the area, we made the 20 minute drive from St Thibery to Agde just to have some more mussels on numerous evenings.

Brion & I decided to revisit the taste of those ‘French’ mussels today with our supper meal. Of course, nothing compares to the ‘taste of a memory’!

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French Mussels w/ Bacon & Leek Risotto
Instructions
Risotto
  1. Bring vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan, then turn heat to low & keep at a simmer.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add bacon & sauté until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain & set aside.
  3. Remove all but 2 Tbsp bacon drippings from skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary to equal 2 Tbsp) then add leeks, mushrooms & shallot. Turn heat up to medium-high; season with salt & pepper. Sauté until vegetables are tender & starting to turn golden brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic & sauté for 1 minute. Add rice; stir to coat & cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Turn heat back to medium; add wine & stir until absorbed by rice. Add hot vegetable broth; stir near constantly until rice is tender & all the broth is absorbed, about 25 minutes. If broth gets to a hard boil, turn heat down. Remove skillet from heat; stir in thyme, parmesan cheese & cooked bacon. Keep warm until mussels are ready.
Mussels
  1. Heat olive oil & butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Sauté the onion & garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the mussels, wine, cream, butter & parsley. Season well with salt & pepper to taste.
  3. Mix well, cover pot with a lid & cook until mussels are cooked through & opened, about 12-15 minutes.
  4. Serve mussels along with the juices in the pan with risotto & crusty or garlic bread.

Strawberry Madeleines

A summer twist on classic French madeleines. Not quite cookies and not quite cakes, madeleines are a buttery seashell shaped treat that’s usually flavored with nothing more than a wisp of vanilla. With the addition of some fresh strawberry puree and lemon zest these strawberry madeleines are transformed into something quite special.

Fruit puree is the go-to companion for desserts. Who doesn’t enjoy the taste of fruit, accompanied by the backdrop of something sweet? Its hard to replace the taste of real fruit with fruit flavored extracts.

Fruit purees can be used for a range of different things although baking seems to be one of the most popular. The natural sugar in fruit, alongside the retained flavors, colors and smells help create some really good baked items. Purees can also be frozen to last longer.

Strawberry madeleines are simple and quick to make but special enough to stand out!

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Strawberry Madeleines
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Strawberry Puree
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Strawberry Puree
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Instructions
Strawberry Puree
  1. In a food processor, place strawberries & sugar. Process until smooth.
Madeleines
  1. Butter madeleine baking pans. Sprinkle with some flour then shake off excess.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs & sugar until mixture becomes almost white & foamy. Add strawberry puree, flour, baking powder & lemon zest; whisk until flour is incorporated. Stir the butter gently into the batter using a spatula.
  3. Using a pastry bag, fill each madeleine cup of the tray 3/4 full. Refrigerate the pan with batter for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  5. Remove the pan with the batter from the fridge & bake for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool a little bit on a wire rack before serving. Dust with powdered sugar if you wish.

Herbs de Provence Shrimp

If you are not familiar with ‘Herbs de Provence‘, it is a mixture of dried herbs considered typical of the Provence region in Southeastern France. This region is known for endless vineyards, olive groves and its vibrant, purple lavender fields. Lavender is the herb that adds a distinctive scent as well as working beautifully with the rest of the herbs (thyme, marjoram, savory, oregano & rosemary) that make up this blend.

Prior to the commercialization of the product in the 1970’s, the person responsible for bringing the French phrase into the vocabulary of cooks around the world was non other than Julia Child (American-turned-French chef), who included it in a recipe in her classic cookbook ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking‘.

This iconic French spice blend can easily elevate any number of meals. Like most spice blends, there is no set formula for the ideal Herbs de Provence. While it uses ingredients that are found in the North American creation known as ‘Italian Spice‘ (with the exception of basil), it also includes lavender flowers and has a strong floral taste.

Although I am using the individual herbs in this recipe, you can easily substitute with bottled, dried Herbs de Provence with no problem. They are readily available in the larger grocery stores. This makes such a great tasting meal …. well worth your time.

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Herbs de Provence Shrimp
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on a paper towel. Saute mushrooms, onion & garlic in bacon drippings until softened.
  2. Add peas, basil, lemon zest & 1 Tbsp oil. Season with salt & pepper.
  3. In a bowl, combine shrimp, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, lavender & remaining tablespoon of oil. Add shrimp mixture to saucepan; cook, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 2-3 minutes. Place in a dish & set aside to keep warm.
  4. In the saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil & add couscous. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add shrimp mixture along with cooked bacon, lemon juice & tarragon. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.

Leek, Turkey & Mushroom Quiche w/ Rye Crust

At one time, the typical North American pantry included a single cannister of flour. Today, supermarkets stock a host of milled options, reflecting increased consumer demand for diversity in the baking aisle. Whether you are exploring health trends, culinary interests or ethnic cuisines, when it comes to flour, there are more choices than ever.

I chose a mixture of rye and all purpose for my crust today because I think rye pairs well with these quiche ingredients. Rye flour is almost malty and sweet in flavor with hints of molasses. Rye also has the benefit of being lower in gluten than wheat flour, which means the dough can be handled longer before becoming tough as compared to traditional pastry. Rye pastry, besides being flavorsome and flaky, is great paired with both sweet and savory fillings.

One of the things I find most fascinating about working with food, is that even if you’ve been doing it for a long time, there’s always something new to try, or a new way to try something you’ve already perfected. Food is amazing!

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Leek & Mushroom quiche w/ Rye Crust
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Rye Pastry
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Rye Pastry
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Instructions
Rye Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flours & salt. Using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms & small lumps remain. Slowly sprinkle dough with cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time, quickly stirring with a fork or your fingers until the dough becomes sticky & begins to clump together.
  2. Form dough into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least one hour. Once chilled, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Carefully transfer the dough to a quiche pan & neaten edges.
  3. To avoid a soggy quiche crust, prebake the crust on 400 F. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom of the crust. Take a sheet of aluminum foil & layer it on top of the pie crust, gently nudging it down so its snug on the bottom & the sides. Fill the foil covered crust with pie weights to hold it in place. Bake 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven & remove pie weights & foil.
Filling
  1. Cook rice; set aside. In a skillet, brown ground turkey. Transfer to a plate & set aside.
  2. Wash & trim leeks well. Dry with paper towel & slice thinly. In the skillet, heat oil & butter combo. Add the leeks & a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic & mushrooms & saute until browned.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings. Grate cheese.
  4. Place cooked ground turkey on bottom of crust. Top with cooked rice & a small bit of the cheese. Next add the leek/mushroom mixture. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Carefully pour egg/milk mixture over the entire quiche.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until set & just beginning to brown on top. Remove from oven & allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • I divided my pastry & made 2 individual quiches instead of one 9-inch size. Just a matter of personal preference.

French Tian w/ Chicken & Turkey Sausage

A tian itself, is a no-frills round earthenware dish that goes from the oven to the table. Its usually filled with layered, overlapping vegetables and sometimes a sauce, baked in the oven and served as a main or side dish.

The classic vessel is a truncated cone, flattened at the base and flaring outward to a wide rim. It is traditionally glazed on the inside but is unglazed on the outside.

As far as the ingredients go, tian and ratatouille generally share a lot of similarities. Both use some combination of vegetables such as squash, potatoes, onions and tomatoes, etc. The difference between the two is largely found in how they are prepared and cooked. With tians, thinly sliced vegetables are aesthetically arranged in a casserole baking dish. Ratatouille, on the other hand, usually involves cooking cubed or thinly sliced vegetables in olive oil until they create a hearty stew.

If your a vegetable lover, this recipe will work for you. We rounded it out with some nice chicken/turkey sausage but I’m sure just adding a loaf of French bread would be just great.

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French Tian w/ Chicken & Turkey Sausage
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine French
Keyword French tian
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil spray.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic & cook for another 60 seconds. Spread onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.
  3. Slice potatoes, zucchini, squash & tomatoes in 1/4-inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly into a spiral, making only one layer. Season with salt, pepper & dried thyme to taste. Drizzle the last Tbsp of olive oil over the top.
  4. Cover the dish with foil paper & bake for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Uncover & sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top & bake another 25-30 minutes or until browned.

Raspberry Souffle

Soufflé is a light, airy cake that originated in France. In the dessert department, they are a hallmark of French culinary tradition.

The word itself comes from ‘souffler’, meaning ‘to breathe’ or ‘to puff’, which is what the egg whites do to the base once they hit the oven’s heat.

A soufflé has two main components, a flavorful base and glossy beaten egg whites that are gently folded together just before baking. It somewhat resembles angel food cake, but even lighter.

This billowy creation can be served as a sweet dessert or a savory meal. Sweet soufflés make spectacular desserts with fruit, chocolate or liquors. Savory soufflés usually incorporate cheese, vegetables, meat or seafood and are appropriate for a light meal or as a first course.

Soufflés are found all over France, with every region applying its own ‘spin’. This raspberry soufflé, with its nice pink color, makes a great Valentine dessert idea for that special meal.

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Raspberry Souffle
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Raspberry Puree
  1. In a saucepan, combine raspberries, orange juice & sugar. Cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until sugar dissolves & raspberries have released their juices. Remove from heat.
  2. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl & using the back of a wooden spoon, push excess pulp through sieve. Return juice to the saucepan.
  3. Combine cornstarch with water & add it to raspberry mixture. Bring to a boil, allowing puree to thicken to a custard consistency. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place an oven tray in the oven to preheat. Brush 4 ramekins with melted butter & dust with sugar. Set aside.
Raspberry Soufflé
  1. Using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form adding 1 tablespoon of sugar while mixing to get a glossy texture. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the raspberry mixture, starting with half of the quantity.
  2. Once the egg whites have been fully incorporated into the raspberry mixture, pour evenly among prepared ramekins & fill them. Run your spatula around the top of each ramekin just above the soufflé mixture to remove the extras & clean the ramekins.
  3. Place soufflés on the preheated hot tray & bake for 15-17 minutes or until puffed & cooked through. Remove from oven & place on serving plates. Dust with powdered sugar & serve immediately.

Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines

Quiche is one of those meals that appeals to me at any time of the year. The choice of ingredients is truly only limited to one’s imagination and what’s in your fridge or pantry. In this particular quiche, I opted to use bacon as my ‘crust’ since it was filled with vegetables.

I have been wanting to make some savory ‘madeleines’ for a while and think they will compliment this quiche well.

The madeleine or petite madeleine was first created in northeastern France in the Lorraine area. Technically — they are tea cakes, not cookies and are nothing like scones, very light, puffy and soft — not heavy at all.

Madeleines have a distinctive shell-like shape acquired from being baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions.

The appeal of them is how easy they are to make, how cute they are and how light and airy they are. And while they’re delicate and generally a sweet cake, madeleines hold up to having cheese and onion added to them as well. Many savory versions exist so I decided to go with a cheese madeleine today.

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Bacon Crusted Quiche w/ Savory Madeleines
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Instructions
Parmesan Cheddar Madeleines
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease depressions in madeleine pan. (If you are using a regular size it will have 12 or the mini size you will have enough batter for 36). It is a good idea to dust the pans with flour as well, tapping out any excess. Sprinkle dried thyme leaves in depressions of pans.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter & honey; remove from heat & cool for 10 minutes. In a bowl using a hand held mixer, beat eggs until pale, thick & doubled in volume.
  3. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold butter mixture into eggs. Next fold in flour, cheeses, yogurt & 1/4 tsp salt until combined. Divide between madeleine cups but don't smooth out.
  4. Bake until risen & golden. The time will depend on whether you are using a regular or petite size madeleine pan. Cool in tin for 5 minutes. Firmly tap tin on surface to loosen the madeleines, then carefully invert onto a wire rack to allow them to fall out onto the rack.
Bacon Crusted Vegetable Quiche
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8-inch round baking pan with foil paper.
  2. In a skillet, fry bacon until lightly cooked but still pliable, 3-4 minutes. Remove the bacon from skillet & blot on paper towel. Drain all but one Tbsp of bacon drippings from pan.
  3. Add the leeks, mushrooms & thyme; cook over moderate heat until veg are tender crisp but not browned, about 5 minutes. Microwave potatoes & slice; drain corn (or cook corn on cob & remove kernels). Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk & remaining spices.
  4. Line the sides if baking pan with slices of bacon. Layer bottom with sliced, cooked potato & half of the cheese. Top with corn kernels & leek/mushroom mixture. Pour egg/milk mixture carefully over vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, until the quiche has puffed up slightly & browned. Test middle to make sure eggs have set. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan & serve with savory madeleines.

French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier

Among the world’s many artisan breads and cakes, the breakfast bread ‘gibassier’ is one of the most popular in the French tradition. This buttery, textured bread is somewhat like an Italian panettone. What makes gibassier unique, is the use of orange blossom water which gives the bread a distinct flavor that is difficult to replicate with any substitute.

The recipe appears to have originated in the rocky, southeast of France, in Lourmarin Village, Provence. Many believe that this generations-old treat is named after the mountain called Le Gibas, which forms part of the village’s horizon.

Gibassier can be shaped and made as one big round loaf or larger or smaller single serve breads. Whatever size they come in, they are slashed or snipped decoratively before they are baked to give the fleur de lis or snowflake appearance.

It is difficult to say whether gibassier is a biscuit, a pastry, doughnut or a cookie. One thing is for sure …. its taste is unique. Traditionally served at breakfast and is dipped into honey butter while it is still warm.

Each Christmas I enjoy to try making a Christmas bread from another culture. Of course, that means as an extra bonus, researching the food history behind it.

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French Christmas Bread/ Gibassier
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Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine European, French
Keyword Gibassier
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Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine water, yeast & 2 Tbsp sugar. Allow to sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar & aniseed. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture & add eggs, butter, orange blossom water, orange zest & candied orange peel. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix to make a 'shaggy' dough. Turn out on a floured surface & knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms, about 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  5. Punch down the risen dough & turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces & shape each one into a ball. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Flatten each ball of dough into a disc about 1.5 cm thick & place each one on one of the baking sheets. Cut the disc into 6 sections, leaving them connected at the center.
  6. Make a cut through the center of each section without cutting all the way through to the edge. Best to use something you can press straight down as opposed to dragging a knife through the dough. Pull the sections outward to separate & elongate them a little. Using your fingers, open out the slits & form a V-shape in the top of each section.
  7. Cover each loaf loosely with buttered plastic wrap. Set aside to rise in a draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  9. Brush each loaf with a little egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden & baked through. Slide the loaves onto a wire rack & brush with honey butter while still warm or dust with sugar.

Fig, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets

As if the flavor alone didn’t make these tartlets special, I decided to make them in some unique, little Scandinavian cookie molds. I’m not sure where and when I actually acquired these vintage tins, but since I have them, it seems a shame not to use them.

The molds are traditionally used to make a Scandinavian cookie known as ‘Mandelmusslor’ in Swedish or ‘Sandbakkels‘ in Norwegian. Some are simple fluted round molds while others are more decorative shapes. The trick is to make sure the dough is pressed down thinly and evenly into the individual tins. This will ensure even baking.

These cookies are traditionally served as a shell tipped upside down on a pretty plate. Alternately they can be filled with fresh fruit or a baked filling.

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Fig, Pear & Gorgonzola Tartlets
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TARTLETS
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Shortbread Pastry
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TARTLETS
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Shortbread Pastry
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Instructions
Shortbread Pastry
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar & salt. Add cold butter, vanilla & lemon zest. Cut into flour mixture with a pastry blender until dough starts to come together & form clumps.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Divide pastry between 12 mini tartlet pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack until you have your filling ingredients prepared.
Assembly
  1. Quarter the pear & remove core. Halve each quarter & then thinly slice each one. Finely dice or crumble Gorgonzola cheese.
  2. Place about a teaspoon of fig jam in the bottom of each tart shell. Top with pear slices, laying them in a fan shape, then divide Gorgonzola cheese between the 12 tartlets.
  3. Place in the oven & bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack until cool enough to remove tartlet pans. Serve warm or cold.
Recipe Notes
  • Put a small ball of dough into the center of the cookie mold then using your thumb, press the dough down, working it up to the upper rim of the mold. 
  • It should be fairly consistent on the sides & bottom.