At the coffee shop the other day, Greg was looking for a slice of banana bread, like he always does. I glanced through the tiered pastry baskets – on top, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread. Bottom, sugar cookies.
“No banana.” I checked one more basket, and held something up. “Banana muffin?”
Greg took the muffin. Locally baked and individually wrapped, the sticker read:
He turned it over a few times. “But… it says Banana Bread.” He looked at me. “It’s a muffin.”
“Hmm,” I said. “Technically, it’s the same thing, I mean, pretty much the same batter. Just a different shape.”
He was still turning it over. Oh, dear.
I looked to our friend Barista Girl, behind the counter. “I don’t know,” she said. “They’re just labeling them like that now.”
All three of us looked at the muffin-bread. I imagined a stream of banana bread lovers, weak from confusion.
“They shouldn’t do that,” she offered.
“No,” I said. “they shouldn’t mess with names like that. Muffin is muffin and bread is bread.”
We agreed. I mean, you can’t just change names. You can’t decide that stick is suddenly leaf or dog is now called table. There are rules about these things. Peoples’ heads will explode.
Back home I was baking, and thought, there are exceptions to the name thing, even delicious ones, like these Two-Bite Jam Tarts. Are they a cookie or a tart? They use Cream Cheese Dough, one I frequently roll into rugelach and other cookies. But, as I noted to Josie, they have little edges. They stand up and hold jam. And they’re flaky, too – all clearly pointing to tart.
Josie had a mouthful of crumbs and raspberry. “Cookie,” she said.
“Oh, no, tart. I think – see, see how it’s like a little galette, with the edges…”
In a flash there was cold milk, three more treats and she was gone, leaping two steps at a time. Name talk over.
“Whatever,” she threw down behind her, “they’re just good.”
These mini tarts – I’m making the call here – are little gems. They tip the happiness scale because the easy-to-satisfaction ratio is so absurdly high. A one-step dough, simple rolling skills and a bit of jam are all you need to enjoy warm two-bite tarts. Flaky little cookies. Whatever you call them – they won’t last long.
Almost-done preserves and jams sitting around? This is their moment.
Ziplocs make handy disposable pastry bags: fill with jam, cut a small opening, and pipe about a teaspoon onto each circle.
Pull up and pinch edges all around jam, pinching and overlapping slightly to seal. No uniformity necessary – just pinch and have faith.
Optional pistachio version – for Greg the pistachio-lover, who just wants banana bread to look like banana bread.
Baked, and they’re sunny perfection – actually, imperfection. Just look at those nooks, those crannies, the lopsides and jam spills! Even my orderly self embraces their sweet mess. A sifting of powdered sugar, however…
…brings them right back to perfect.
Two-Bite Jam Tarts
1 recipe Cream Cheese Dough (below)
Jam or Preserves, your choice – I like blackberry, raspberry and orange marmalade
pistachios or pecans, chopped (optional)
powdered sugar, for sprinkling
Dough: make Cream Cheese Dough as directed. After kneading lightly, cut dough in half. Wrap and reserve half for another use (snacking is good.)
Roll remaining half of dough on lightly floured surface to about 1/8″ thick. Using a medium-round fluted cutter – I use a 2 1/2″ round – cut circles from dough, re-rolling scraps and cutting circles until done.*
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Fill Tarts: line baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Transfer dough circles to baking sheet, fitting as many as you can – as you fill and pinch the tarts, you’ll have room for more.
Place jam (how much you have is up to you) in a ziploc bag. Keeping top open, twist tightly over jam and cut small opening at the tip. Hold tip facing upwards until you are ready to pipe! Standing over baking sheet, place tip just above one dough circle and release about one teaspoon of jam in center. Working quickly, repeat with remaining circles, changing jam as desired.
(alternately, you can spoon jam onto dough – but once you get the hang of piping, you’ll appreciate the speed)
Pinch Crusts: using both hands, pick up edges of dough circle and pinch together and upwards, working all the way around until complete, resembling a pie crust or raised bottlecap. Repeat with all mini-tarts until done.
Optional nuts: before baking, sprinkle finely chopped pistachios or pecans over tarts
Bake: bake tarts at 375 F for 15-18 minutes, until edges and bottom are lightly browned, and jam is bubbling. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
Serve: sift powdered sugar lightly over tarts, and serve. Or just…eat. Enjoy!
* with this flaky dough, a fluted round cutter will produce a raised pattern along the sides and create a terrific little “tart crust.”
makes about 30 two-bite tarts (or cookies. Your call.)
Cream Cheese Dough (also found here)
8 oz cream cheese, cold
8 oz unsalted butter, cold
2 cups all-purpose flour
Place flour and salt in food processor and process a few seconds, to blend. Chunk butter and cream cheese in pieces over flour, then process, using on-off motion, until dough just forms a ball. Turn out onto floured surface and knead lightly into a smooth mass.
Roll, shape and bake into tart crusts, sweet turnovers, rugelach, and other cookies. Keeps several days wrapped in the refrigerator, and freezes well.