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How-To

Stylish Tarts from a Quick Crust

Use cookie crumbs to make a short-cut crust, and then add a creamy filling for an impressive but easy dessert

Fine Cooking Issue 68
Photo: Scott Phillips
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I like to serve elegant desserts when I entertain, and a stylish tart is ideal for almost all occasions. But I’m especially busy during the holidays (or for that matter, any time of year), and I don’t always have the time or patience to make a traditional sweet pastry dough. Luckily, I’ve found that using store-bought cookies, crushed into crumbs, makes a delicious, quick, and easy crust for tarts. My short-cut crust allows me to serve up a fancy dessert—and elicit “oohs” and “aahs” from my guests—without sacrificing excellent flavor or valuable time.

Crisp cookies make a crust with the best texture

With only three ingredients—cookie crumbs, a little sugar, and melted butter—this crust mixes up quickly and effortlessly. Any crisp cookie will work well, but avoid the sandwich or soft-and-chewy varieieties, as they’ll leave you with a soggy crust. I stick with chocolate wafers, vanilla cookies, and good old graham crackers, as these are cookies I usually have on hand.

A food processor pulverizes cookies quickly and easily

As far as I know, only graham crackers are sold already crushed into crumbs, but you can also make your own. A food processor makes easy work of chopping cookies into fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, just pop the cookies into a heavy-duty zip-top bag, press out the air, zip the bag closed, and gently pound on the cookies (a rolling pin or mallet works well) until you get fine, uniform crumbs.

Once you’ve made a crust, you can use it as a base for delicious tarts. I’ve included recipes for some of my favorite tart fillings: chocolate truffle with mascarpone topping, creamy orange ricotta, double-ginger pumpkin, and chocolate-glazed peanut butter. I’ve also suggested some filling-crust combinations, but the nice thing about these recipes is that you can mix and match to suit your own  taste.

1. Grind the cookies to crumbs.
2. Mix in the butter.
3. Press the crumbs into the pan. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the crumbs as you spread them so they won’t stick to your hands.
4. Bake and cool, then fill.

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