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Mini Tartlet Shells, Food Art & an Optical Illusion

Posted By Lynne On October 3, 2010 @ 7:52 pm In Baked Goods, Cookies, Desserts and Pastry, WOW! | 45 Comments

Yesterday my plan was to make these Mini Tartlet Shells and photograph them. Next I was going to make the Lemon Curd and fill the tart shells. A couple of weeks ago I made the Little Buttercream Bees that were going to embellish their tops. Then I was going to photograph the finished tarts and write my blog about the whole thing. Well, guess what, that isn’t what happened.

Here you can see the 2-inch mini brioche tins and the ball of dough.

You fill a ½-tablespoon measure with dough, which is then rolled into a ball and placed in a tin.

I made the tart shells and photographed the process. Then just to make sure they were ok, I looked at them on my computer monitor. I take a lot of photos, hand held, so I have no idea what the photos are like until I see them on my screen. I mean, how interesting are tart shells, really. On a scale of 1 to 10, they’re a 1 at best. But this bunch of photos of the tart shell process were really interesting to me. Usually I photograph one food item at a time. If they’re small and alike, maybe three items. But here I had 24 small metallic brioche tins. That were also shiny. When they were lined up on the baking sheet, all of a sudden there were these visual patterns that were mesmerizing. And I had to show you… forget about the lemon curd.

Here you can see how to press the dough into the brioche tin. Poke a hole in the middle with your finger and start spreading it up the sides. Make sure when you’re done that it is flat on top.

This photo was a complete surprise to me. When I looked at it for the first time, I said to myself, “Whoa, that’s gorgeous.” I don’t mean to be blowing my own horn here, because I have no plan when I shoot and the way the photos turn out is a complete surprise to me. I think I’m going to print this out, frame it and hang it in my kitchen.

While your first batch of shells is baking, you can measure out and roll up the dough for the next batch.

This photo has been endlessly fascinating to me and is the optical illusion I discovered hiding in my photos.  The first time I looked at it, all of the wells were in-ies. The next time I looked at it, the upper left corner well was an in-ie and all the rest of the wells were out-ies. Now when I look at it, I can get one well to be an in-ie if I really concentrate on it, but when I blink it is an out-ie. I cannot get two side by side wells to be in-ies no matter how hard I concentrate. Our brain is such a mysterious thing. How do you perceive the wells?

I was doing some research on patterns and why the human brain likes them, which you may enjoy reading:

James Kent says: “If there’s one thing the human brain loves, its ordered patterns. The brain likes audio patterns (rhythms); visual patterns (stripes, mandalas, mosaics); syntactic patterns (language, logical formulas, melodies); interpretive patterns (charts, graphs, symbols); metabolic patterns (respiration, hormonal pulses, circadian rhythms, action potentials); behavioral patterns (routines, habits); etc. In fact, it is not a stretch to say the brain’s entire function is ordered pattern recognition, memory, and recall. That’s it.”

And if you are weird like me and want to read more about patterns, particularly Fibonacci numbers, you can go here at World Mysteries. I thought this was very thought provoking.

Ok, so back to the Mini Tartlet Shells. Here they are in all their golden glory and the recipe is below. Next I will make the lemon curd, fill them and some little bees will be landing on top.

Tartlet Pastry

Yield: 6 dozen

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
8 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut in ¼-inch slices
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven rack on lower 1/3 of oven.

2. In a processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add cold butter slices and process to consistency of cornmeal.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and vanilla. Add egg to flour and process until it forms a ball. Remove dough ball from processor and press together with heels of your hand until smooth and cohesive.

4. Arrange 24 ungreased 2-inch tartlet tins on a baking sheet.

5. Pinch off  a small piece of dough and press it into a ½ tablespoon measure, returning excess to the ball of dough. Roll the ½ tablespoon of dough into a ball and and press into tartlet tin. Repeat until all tins are filled.

6. With oven at 350 F, bake tartlets 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove and cool. When cool enough to handle, remove from tins.

7. Store in air tight container at room temperature up to one week.

Note: Well wrapped dough can be refrigerated for one week; freeze for one month.

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