These yummy tartlets are inspired by fall ingredients and are a wonderful balance of salty and sweet. In fact, they would make either an excellent appetizer OR could be part of a cheese-course dessert. They would also be a nice accompaniment to either soup or a salad. I made them with different size and shape cookie / biscuit cutters so the sky is really the limit!
Don’t be intimidated by the multi-step process, it goes very quickly! In fact, if you make the apple cider “caramel” in advance, you can have these on the serving tray in under 30 minutes!
Apple Cider Caramel:
Making the caramel is quite easy, but it does require you to watch the pot. The process makes your house smell wonderfully like autumn!
Place the apple cider, salt, pepper, and 1 Tbsp of the brown sugar in a sauce pan with a heavy bottom over medium high heat. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low (low if you have a particularly hot burner) and reduce to 1 cup. The time this takes will vary depending on your stove and the cider. Mine took between 20 and 30 minutes.
Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, increase the heat and bring to a boil. You will see foamy bubbles on the surface. Allow to boil for between 30 and 60 seconds and then reduce the heat to medium low / low and reduce to 1/3 cup.
The “caramel” would also be great over vanilla ice cream OR on grilled pork OR drizzled over a bagel with cream cheese OR on oven roasted sweet potato fries…..oh, the possibilities are endless!
Cooking the Bacon:
This is another step you can do in advance. In fact, if you’re making bacon for breakfast, save a few pieces for this recipe! Everyone has different methods for cooking bacon, but I like to do it in the oven. My stove does not get spattered, I can use the time it’s in the oven to be prepping something else or cleaning as I go, and I think it gets perfectly done! Place the bacon slices on a half sheet pan and put it in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the oven, using tongs flip the slices so they get evenly browned, and place back in the oven for an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Check for doneness – depending on how crispy you like them you may want to leave the bacon slices in the oven for a little longer. Remove the slices from the pan to a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool. Crumble or chop as needed.
Toasting the Pepitas:
Pepitas are the hulled kernel of a pumpkin seed and are delicious when toasted and lightly salted. They are popular in Mexican cooking and good as a snack. You can typically buy them in the bulk section of better grocery stores. The store I buy them from sells them unroasted and unsalted so I do it myself, which is a great way to control what goes on them.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pepitas on a lightly greased baking sheet in a single layer, spray them with cooking spray and lightly salt them. I normally cook with kosher salt, but I find it a little too coarse for this application so I use regular table salt.
Place the baking sheet in the oven until the pepitas are toasted and lightly browned – about 5 minutes. Remove the pepitas from the baking sheet to a plate and allow them to cool until ready to use.
Caramelizing the Pears:
Melt 1 1/2 Tbsp of butter in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the pears, salt and pepper. Saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Raise the heat slightly and allow the pears to cook without stirring for one additional minute. After one minute, check the bottom of the pears to see if they have caramelized. If not, allow them to cook without stirring for one additional minute.
Assembling & Baking the Tartlets:
Roll the thawed puff pastry according to package directions and cut to desired shape(s) with cookie or biscuit cutters. Do not “jiggle” the cutter as it can seal the edges of the shape and prevent them from achieving a nice puffed edge. Instead, use a firm, even pressure to cut through the pastry. If you have trouble at an edge, use a paring knife on the outside edge of the cutter to release the shape from the rest of the pastry.
Move the cut shapes to a baking sheet. I like to use a silicone mat on my baking sheets. Cut the outline and dock a small square or circular area in the center of the shape where you will add the filling. Docking (pricking repeatedly with a fork) will prevent that area from rising or puffing and will allow a space for the filling.The size of the docked area will depend on how much filling you wish to add and how much “edge” you wish to puff around the filling.
Brush the edge (the area that will puff) with egg wash, which will give the edges a nice golden brown appearance. If you like, sprinkle a small amount of kosher salt on the brushed edge for a nice hint of salty flavor. Cover the docked area with a small amount of blue cheese.
Place the tartlets in a preheated oven according to package directions and bake as directed for puff pastry until they are puffed and golden. I used Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and baked the tartlets at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes.
Finishing the Tartlets:
Remove the tartlets from the oven to a cooling rack. Drizzle with the apple cider “caramel” and top with crumbled bacon and toasted pepitas. Serve warm and enjoy!!!