Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Chaeschuechli:  Swiss Cheese Tartlets

 These easy to prepare tarts are a specialty of Chaes Vreneli, Zurich’s and one of Switzerland’s most revered cheese shops.  I visited recently and spoke with Joerg Wartmann, the owner, by whose family the shop has been run for several generations.  It was a mistake on my part to go in the late morning just before lunch because the scent of all the delicious Swiss and foreign cheeses made me ravenously hungry.

At Chaes Vreneli, these are baked in individual slightly sloping sided molds that are about 4 inches in diameter.  Here in the United States it would be most practical to use individual aluminum foil pie dishes.

Makes about 8 tartlets, depending on the size of the molds used

Pastry Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into 8 or 10 pieces

4 tablespoons cold water

Cheese Filling

1 cup (about 2 ounces) coarsely grated Swiss Gruyere

1 cup (about 2 ounces) coarsely grated Swiss Emmentaler

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups half and half, or 1 cup each milk and heavy cream

3 large eggs

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch each of salt and freshly grated nutmeg

About 8 individual pie or tart pans set on a jellyroll pan

  1. For the dough, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse several times to mix.  Add the butter and pulse until the butter is in 1/4-inch pieces.  Add the water and pulse until the dough forms a ball.  Invert the dough to a floured work surface, carefully remove the blade, and form it into a thick cylinder.  Chill the dough for an hour, then cut it into as many slices as you have pans.
  2. Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
  3. Flour a piece of the dough and roll it to a 6-inch disk.  Fit it into the one of the pans and place on the jelly roll pan.  Repeat with the remaining dough and pans.  Fold the dough in half and transfer it to the pan, lining up the fold with the diameter of the pan.  Unfold the dough into the pan and press it well into the bottom and side of the pan.  Use a bench scraper or the back of a knife to sever the excess dough at the rim of each pan.  If you have one, use a 6-inch diameter fluted cutter to shape the dough and just fit it into the pan so that the fluted edge shows.
  4. Toss the cheese with the flour and evenly distribute it among the pastry crusts.  Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour over the cheese in each pan.
  5. Bake the tarts until the crust is baked through and the filling is set and well colored, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Cool the tarts briefly on a rack; serve immediately or later at room temperature.