Shelf Life. Your Ultimate Food Court Is Now In Session. Your Ultimate Food Court Is Now In Session.

Frozen Tart Shells

By amy • • Dec 13th, 2008 • Category: Baked Goods, Supplies, Columns, Frozen Foods

No offence, Santa, but this year Shelf Life is looking for another, more upgraded dude to come along and jingle our bells. We’re dreaming of a superhero – an entity we call Santa 2.0: The Yule Timelord. His special power is to confer extra chunks of time on deserving mortals. On Christmas Eve, down the chimney he comes, with his big, cosmic sack of gifts: actual hours and minutes and afternoons, all wrapped up and placed under the tree. The next morning, Shelf Life is ecstatic – we get exactly what we wanted! First, we receive back all the time we spent watching Kevin Costner films. Also, the blissed-out 48 hours we spent on the beach in 1981 with those guys in the van – these were restored in a really nice souvenir box. Best of all, Timelord Santa has replaced every single moment we wore ourselves out in the kitchen.

Shelf Life actually enjoys the culinary labour of Christmas, time permitting. Given lazy days by the fire, we’re happy to embark on elaborate recipes and table settings and last-minute shopping. In recent
years, however, our spare seconds seem to have been snitched by the Grinch (these days re-branded as Grinch 2.0: The Amok Shapeshifter). Always hurrying, always late, we’ve rarely had a moment to stop and smell the cloves. Now, thanks to Reloaded Santa, Shelf Life has been given a giant parcel of time.We may spend it chopping vegetables and measuring flour, or we may not. We may drive ourselves crazy, or give ourselves a break. Apron, or freezer aisle? What the hell, time is precious – let’s cut a few corners and party.

Fantasizing about what they would do with extra days and hours (“drink wine and eat cheese” “go to Jamaica” “browse in a bookstore”) are this week’s expert judges: Chris Matthews, Executive Chef, Presidential Gourmet Catering Company; Tawfik Shehata, Chef, Vertical Restaurant; and Victoria Zielinski, Culinary Productions Custom Cakes, all in Toronto. Space limitations prevent us from evaluating every brand in a given category; entries reflect the luck of the draw. Items are blind taste-tested and awarded between zero and five stars. Each judge was asked to create a holiday filling for the winning tart shell.

Brand One

Unsweetened Tart Shells
228g, $2.69
12 – 3” tart shells
available at Loblaws and affiliated stores

Chris: My favourite savoury party treat would probably involve duck – but I wouldn’t choose this product to serve it with. Brand One has that manufactured ‘traditional’look. It tastes and smells unassuming – it might work in a pinch.

Tawfik: Bacon! That’s what I look for in an hors d’oeuvre. C’mon, what’s better than bacon? Er, not this product. It’s too thick. It smells of flour and shortening. Wait a sec – uh oh, there it goes – it’s falling apart in my hand.

Victoria: The thing you have to get used to with these products is the stuff they use instead of real fat. Sometimes the oil – or whatever it is – has a processed taste. Brand One is okay, it browns nicely, it has a little bit of crispness, and not too much salt.

Brand One Total SEVEN AND A HALF STARS *******1/2

Brand Two

255g, $3.99
12 – 3″ tart shells
widely available

Chris: Brand Two looks quite artificial but has a firm, flaky texture, and a sweetish taste. I don’t like the aroma, but once you add filling there’s less of that fried oil smell.

Tawfik: It’s got a little bit of salt, and a little bit of sweetness. I agree about the smell – for some reason I’m getting a very funky hit off it, which completely disappears if I pick up an identical shell with quiche in it. Mysterious. But the flavour is good.

Victoria: It does look commercial, but I’m surprised at how flaky it is. Brand Two has a surprisingly fine balanced flavour. It tastes and smells better when cooled.

Brand Two Total NINE AND A HALF STARS *********1/2

Brand Three

225g, $2.99
12 – 3″ tart shells
available at Sobey’s and affiliated stores

Chris: The perforations around the rim make Brand Three a bit different from the others – otherwise they could all be from the same factory. It’s got a crumbly, gritty, dry texture, and the flavour has an effective
mix of sweet and savoury.

Tawfik: I have to give Brand Three a compromise score. One the one hand, it has a bizarre, acrid aftertaste. On the other, the ‘uh-oh’ sensation goes away very quickly, leaving you with a crispy, flaky, really attractive mouthfeel.

Victoria: I like the way Brand Three holds together. If you put aside the good-texture-but-odd-undertone-problem for a minute, and look at the way it comes out of the foil cup but doesn’t fall apart, then there are possibilities.

Brand Three NINE STARS *********

Brand Four

WP/General Mills Canada
3.4kg, $19.99
180 – 3″ tarts
available at Costco stores

Chris: Wow, Brand Four is really salty. It’s got a pleasant smell, and the texture doesn’t kill you, but the sodium content makes it taste like a sodacracker.

Tawfik: Don’t pass the salt! Wait a minute – Brand Four just crumbled into fragments and fell on the table. I think it’s trying to crawl to the salt shaker.

Victoria: The salt content is too bad, because the thickness is about right. But earlier you were asking what my ideal appetizer would be. The answer is a cream and mushroom combination – I’m a slave for that.

Brand Four Total FOUR AND A HALF STARS****1/2

Results: Judges decided to make time for top scoring Tenderflake. Compliments brand tart shells hurried to catch up. Meanwhile, docile, plodding No-Name Unsweetened sat patiently as we stuffed it with filling.
Costco frozen shells were taken out to the bird feeder, where snow settled gently on their tragic shapes.

Off The Menu: Each judge was assigned jury favorite Tenderflake tart shells and asked to match them with a tasty festive flourish. Shelf Life suggested a range of fillings: meat (Tawfik); sweet (Victoria); vegetarian (Chris);and a sweet and savoury combo (Shelf Life). The resulting creations turned out to be absolutely delectable, so tangy and conversation-friendly that we lost track of time. Is it Christmas yet? Ready or not, Shelf Life wishes our readers the happiest of holidays.Visit our website for more titbits and tinsel @ Love every minute!




Serves 6

The Filling

• 2 good quality Italian pork & fennel Sausages (from a local butcher not a supermarket)

• 6 cloves garlic, 2 sliced thin, 4 crushed with the side of a knife

• 4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped, stems reserved

• 1⁄2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

• 100 g Pecorino Romano, a small amount shaved with a peeler for garnish, the rest grated.

• 1⁄2 bu. arugula, chiffonade

• 6 frozen tart shells, thawed

• 4 bay leaves

• 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

• salt & pepper


1. In a bowl toss quartered tomatoes, crushed garlic, bay leaves, thyme stems, 2 tbsp oil and salt & pepper to taste. Put on a tray into a 300°F oven. Bake for approximately 1hr checking every 15 minutes. Tomatoes should be dehydrated. It is fine if there are some dark brown areas on them, this will give them a sweeter flavour. Remove from oven & cool. When cool enough to handle remove and discard garlic and herbs.

2. Cut open sausage casing, and crumble filling. heat 2 tbsp oil in a fry pan, over medium heat, add sliced garlic. when garlic begins to brown add sausage and sauté until just cooked (it will cook further in the oven) remove from heat and let cool.

3. In a bowl mix cooked sausage, 3/4 of the tomatoes, chopped thyme, the Pecorino and salt & pepper to taste (Pecorino is salty so err on the side of less salt).

4. Divide sausage mixture among the tart shells and bake according to package directions.


1. In a bowl mix the arugula with remaining tomatoes, some olive oil and season. When tarts are baked, put a small pile of the arugula on top of each and garnish with a pecorino shaving.

Serve while the tarts are hot.


Victoria Zielinski’s HOLIDAY FIG TART with Mascarpone Cream

These Tarts are inspired by my mother’s wonderful Christmas fig cookies. When I think of the holidays,
I think of the wonderful aroma of figs and oranges.

Fig preserves:

1 package dried Calimyrna figs
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon rind with a clove stuck into it.


Zest from 1 orange
Juice from 1 lemon
1 egg
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar (to taste)
2 Tbsp. Marsala Wine
1 cup walnut pieces

Mascarpone cream:

1 cup of whipping cream, chilled
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
2 tbsp. Sugar

24 frozen tart shells, thawed

1/ Place all preserve ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15  to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove lemon rind, clove and cinnamon stick.

2/ Mash fruit by hand or place in a food processor and add all filling ingredients except walnuts and pulse until fairly smooth. Stir in walnuts.

3/ Spoon mixture into shells and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. at 375 degrees. Allow tarts to cool.

4/ Whip cream, vanilla and sugar to soft peaks and fold in Mascarpone cheese.

5/Garnish tarts with a dollop of whipped cream and mint leaf.



Yield – 24 – 3” tarts

24 frozen tart shells, thawed

• Preheat oven to 350 F
• Dock the bottom of each tart shell twice with a fork
• Trim crimped edge of tart before baking
• Bake 10 – 15 minutes or until the inside is lightly golden
• Set aside to cool – will keep covered in an airtight container for up to 1 week


1⁄2 red onion, brunoise
1⁄2 red bell pepper, brunoise
1⁄2 yellow bell pepper brunoise
1⁄2 cup eggplant, brunoise
1⁄2 green zucchini, sliced lengthwise into quarters then across into thin triangles
1⁄2 pint red grape tomatoes, halved
1 clove minced garlic
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
seasoning to taste

• preheat olive oil in sauté pan until almost smoking, add onions and reduce heat to medium
• sweat onions for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, add peppers cooking 5 minutes more
• add eggplant to pan, blending with the other vegetables, and cook until soft – approximately 5 minutes – add more oil if necessary
• add zucchini and garlic to pan and toss, cooking 3 more minutes
• season and set aside to cool
• pre heat pan with 1 tbsp. olive oil, add tomatoes, cooking on high until blistered, then set aside to cool


Line each shell with two small leaves of baby arugula and add 1 tsp. of filling, garnishing with 1⁄2 tsp. tomatoes, small crumble of chevre, 2 thyme leaves and slivers of olives.



Makes 12 – 3″ tarts
12 frozen tart shells, thawed

* 1/4 cup Membrillo (quince paste) + more for garnish
* 70g Manchego cheese, finely grated
* 2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves + more for garnish
* 2 eggs
* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* pinch nutmeg, salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place 1/4 teaspoon quince paste in each pastry tart.
3.Top with cheese and sprinkle with thyme.
4. Using a fork, gently whisk eggs, cream and nutmeg together, season with salt & pepper.
5. Pour egg mixture into tart shells to fill.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden (they will sink on  cooling).
7. Let tarts cool for 5 – 10 minutes before garnishing.
8. Garnish with membrillo cut-out & sprig of thyme.

Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.