Appetizers are an essential part of our nightly dinner routine. These spontaneous whatever’s-in-the-fridge creations are usually nothing fancy, just a little something to nibble on while we prepare the main course. We also like to set the mood, so we’ll pick out music, lower the lights, and—when the weather is cool—light a few candles. Sometimes these snacks are as simple as a bowl of edamame tossed with soy sauce and aleppo pepper, and other nights when we are feeling spicy, we might try sliced beets dressed with fresh-squeezed lime juice, cayenne pepper, and flaky sea salt. Just last week, the hors d’oeuvres of the evening were crackers with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. A light went off in our heads and we immediately began thinking of ways we to turn this simple snack into an elegant baked treat. So we got right to it: made a pie crust, caramelized shallots until sweet and golden brown, selected seasonings and fresh herbs, and welcomed these delicious and adorable tarts into the world.
These tiny tarts are tremendously tasty. Starting with a flaky and buttery pie crust, these addicting appetizers are filled with creamy goat cheese and topped with caramelized shallots sautéed with sun-dried tomatoes. Simply seasoned with crushed red pepper, flaky sea salt, and fresh basil leaves, we use a classic baking technique: cook the empty pie crusts first to get them crispy, then we add the filling and bake again briefly so the goat cheese and topping keep their tangy flavor. When cooked too long, goat cheese loses its sharpness, so we keep the baking to a minimum.
These bite-sized treats are fun to prepare, and perfect to make ahead for your next party! The simple dough comes together in minutes, and the caramelized shallot filling just needs an occasional stir, so you’ll have plenty of time to get ready, pick out an outfit, and plan your cocktail menu. You can even make the crust and the filling the day before, so all that’s left is to watch your friends’ faces light up as you carry out a tray of delicious warm tarts, fresh from the oven.
Goat Cheese Tarts with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Caramelized Shallots
makes 8 to 10 four-inch tarts, or about 20 two-inch tarts
For the crust:
1 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons (165g) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (113g) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
¼ cup (58g) greek yogurt or sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ cup (60ml) ice water
For the filling:
2 tablespoons oil from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes
14 ounces (396g / about 4-6 large or 8-10 small) shallots, halved and thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
3.5 ounces (100g) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces (226g) goat cheese, softened at room temperature
flaky sea salt
red pepper flakes
Make the crust:
Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add the chilled cubes of butter, and use a pastry blender or your fingertips to cut the butter into the flour until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, and ice water, then pour the mixture into the bowl with the flour. Stir gently to combine, adding a few teaspoons of flour if the dough is sticky, then gather into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400ºF. Remove the dough from the fridge, remove the plastic, and roll it out on a floured surface until you have a sheet of dough 1/8-inch thick. Place a mini tart pan on the dough, and cut around the edge of the pan, making a circle of dough. Press the circle of dough into bottom and sides of the tart pan, making sure that it is an even thickness, and removing any extra or overhanging dough. Repeat with the remaining dough until all tart pans are filled, re-rolling the scraps of dough if needed. Use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the dough, then place tart pans on a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until beginning to turn golden, then remove from oven and let cool slightly. If the tarts have puffed up, use the back of a spoon to press them back down and form a cup for the filling.
Make the filling:
While the tart shells are baking, pour the sun-dried tomato oil into a large skillet, and place over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced shallots and the salt, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots have softened and caramelized slightly, about 20 minutes–by the end they should be soft and golden, not crispy, so reduce the heat to low or medium-low if they seem to be cooking too quickly. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and black pepper, stir to combine, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.
Assemble the tarts:
Spread a generous layer of goat cheese in the bottom of a tart shell, then top with a spoonful of tomato-shallot filling. Repeat with remaining tarts, then place tart pans back on the baking sheet and bake at 400ºF for 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the tarts from their pans, then sprinkle each one with a pinch of flaky sea salt and red pepper flakes. Top with a basil leaf, serve warm, and enjoy!
– The tomato-shallot filling can be made up to a day in advance, and kept refrigerated until ready to assemble and bake.
– The tart shells can be pre-baked several hours in advance, and kept at room temperature until ready to fill and bake the second time.