The title “Swiss Tarts” may be a bit of a misnomer. All I know is that years ago when I first tried to make these, I was attempting to re-create a tiny frosted treat I once had. It was a firm little tart filled with soft, fragrant almond paste, topped with a sweet, snow-white glaze and the glowing dome of a perfect, glossy, half maraschino cherry. Some brief research online tells me that these are also known as Bakewell Tarts. Whatever they are, they have become a bit of a Christmas treat tradition in our house and they are only ever made for Christmas. Unfortunate, because they are very delicious. They are a labour of love if you make your own pastry. If you are at all inclined to skip that step (as I almost always do) they will turn out beautifully (and be so much quicker) if you go the route of frozen pastry shells. If you are a lover of almonds or marzipan, these little gems will undoubtedly make an appearance on your holiday dessert table.
For the pastry:
Prepare 1 recipe of pâte sucrée. Once the dough has chilled and rested, roll out and cut into rounds the appropriate size for the tart or muffin tins you’ll be using. I used a standard mini muffin tin which meant that my rounds of pastry were 2 ½”. Your pans might be different, be sure to do a test.
Line the pan with the dough, pricking the bottom of each tart shell. Blind bake for 8 minutes at 350° or until the dough starts to appear dry and set, but uncoloured. Remove tart shells from oven and allow to cool as you prepare the filling.
For the almond filling:
2 C blanched almonds
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract (or paste)
In a food processor, pulse together the almonds, sugar and flour until the almonds are ground down to the consistency of cornmeal. Once they are well mixed, stop the machine and add the remaining ingredients. Mix until the paste comes together and is smooth, damp and glossy.
Spoon a small amount of cherry jam (or your favourite jam/preserve) into the bottom of each tart shell. Cover the jam with a mound of the almond filling, filling them about 3/4 full. (how much you use will depend on the size of your tarts.)
Bake at 350° for 22 minutes. The filling should be puffed and golden. My preference is for nice flat tops, so I usually push them down gently with the back of a teaspoon. Cool completely.
Frosting and finishing:
1 C icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract
maraschino or glacé cherries
Mix until smooth and pourable. The frosting should be a thick liquid, but still thin enough to slowly pool when poured. The surface will lightly crust when dried.
Maraschino cherries make a beautiful last minute decoration, but the moisture of the syrup will disrupt the smooth glaze.
Glacé cherries work well if you are decorating the tarts ahead of time.