In Mexico these tarts are both sold and consumed with panes dulces, Mexican sweetened breads that are eaten for breakfast and later in the day for merenda, the late afternoon meal. The cheese used in Mexico is requeson, which is very similar to Italian ricotta, as it is made from whey rather than milk. But it’s usually clotted at a higher temperature, making the curds harder than ricotta, and has a higher salt content. Part-skim-milk ricotta is a perfect substitute.
Makes twelve 3-inch tarts
One 12-cavity muffin pan lined with Sweet Pastry Dough (see below)
3 cups/1 1/2 pounds part-skim-milk ricotta
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon ground Mexican cinnamon (see Note)
- Set a rack at the lowest level in the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- If the ricotta is very coarse, press it through a strainer into a bowl. Stir in the salt and sugar.
- Beat in the vanilla, then the egg and egg whites, one at a time.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan, filling each crust only to within 1/4 inch of the top to allow for expansion. Sprinkle the filling with pinch or two of cinnamon.
- Bake until the filling is set and slightly puffed, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Cool the tarts in the pan. To unmold them, invert a jelly-roll pan on the muffin pan and flip the whole stack. Lift off the muffin pan and turn the tarts right side up. If it’s cool in the kitchen and you’ve used soft butter for greasing the pan, it will be easier to unmold the tarts if you place the pan in a hot oven for a minute or two to melt the butter.
NOTE: Mexican cinnamon, also known as Ceylon cinnamon or “true cinnamon,” is sweeter and less intense than other varieties and is used liberally in Mexican sweet baking.
SWEET PASTRY DOUGH
Makes enough for 2 single-crusted pies or 1 double-crusted pie
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons/1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 12 pieces
2 large eggs
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse several times at 1-second intervals to mix.
- Add the butter cubes and pulse again until the butter is finely mixed throughout the dry ingredients and no visible pieces of butter remain.
- Use a fork to beat the eggs enough to break them up, and add them to the bowl. Pulse again until the dough almost forms a ball; avoid pulsing too much or the dough might become too soft.
- Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it together 3 or 4 times to make it smooth.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces, form them into disks, and wrap each one in plastic. Chill the dough for a couple of hours before rolling.
- Before rolling the dough, place it on a floured surface and gently knead until smooth and malleable. Form into a disk again before beginning to roll.