Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late. You already are one.
–Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
I listened to an episode of NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett this morning in which Ms. Tippett interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and, most recently, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Ms. Gilbert talked about how many people believe that creativity is reserved for the artists of the world, and that they themselves are not creative. She went on to say that we can easily disprove this theory by looking to our ancestors. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were creative makers, somewhat out of necessity, but also because human beings are inherently creative. We have a desire to make things, and to make beautiful things…it’s simply the way we are. “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person,” she says. “You and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers.”
These little tarts remind me of my own legacy of creativity, the one that began with my Scandinavian ancestors spending long cold winter days in the kitchen baking exquisite breads, cookies, cakes, pies and tarts. Why? Because they wanted to create something that went a little above and beyond the ordinary….it’s what we are hard-wired to do. Little tarts like these are lovely and delicious works of art, a small offering of beauty made for no reason other than the pleasure of doing so. Oh, and the pleasure of sitting down and savoring their sweetness with a strong cup of coffee, of course.
How will you be the artist that you already are today? What will you make that’s just a little more beautiful than it needs to be? Perhaps these charming little almond tart shells are just the thing to get you started. The blank canvas of fika treats, these simple tart shells can be dressed up with any manner of fillings…jam, sweetened berries, pastry cream, lemon curd, whipped cream just to name a few. They are also delicious on their own, served upside down and dusted with a little powdered sugar.
You will need a set of small tart pans for this recipe. I am fortunate to have inherited my pans from my mother, but if you do not already have a set, they are available through Amazon for a reasonable price.
Mandelmussla (Almond Tart Shells) Makes 25-30 tart shells, depending on the size of your tart pans
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 cup blanched, slivered almonds, ground fine in a food processor
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
2. Add the egg, followed by the ground almonds, salt and almond extract. Mix until incorporated.
3. Add the flour and mix on low until just combined. Do not overmix.
4. Remove bowl from mixer and knead the dough gently with your hands inside the bowl for a minute or two until it all comes together into a cohesive whole. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and chill dough for at least 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter 25-30 small tart pans. Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator and tear off a piece that is approximately the size of a walnut. Pat the small piece of dough into the tart pan using your fingers. The dough should be uniformly 1/16th inch to an 1/8th inch thick across the surface of the tart pan. Be mindful to create a nice even edge at the top of the pan.
6. Place 8-10 filled tart pans on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper and slide them in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until they are light golden brown in color.
7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow tart shells to cool before handling. Once they are cool enough to touch, tip them upside down and remove the tart shell from the pan. This may take a little help from your fingers and by tapping and/or wiggling the pan a little to loosen the tart shell from the sides, all the while being mindful of the fact that the tart shells are fragile. This may take a little practice. Let the tart shells cool upside down on a wire baking rack. Repeat with remaining tart pans, baking 8-10 on a baking sheet at a time. Fill (or don’t fill) as desired.
*These tart shells freeze beautifully. Put any tart shells that you are not immediately eating or filling in a freezer bag and consume at your leisure.