Ellen Clifford
November 01, 2013 5:00 pm

One more Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland inspired eat and I promise I’ll stop. It’s just that there are so many. Hey, I refrained from also conjuring up recipes for a lot of other things mentioned in the book, like pepper stew and magical mushrooms. Although mushroom stew sounds like it would be good autumn food.

For my last Alice eat, I decided to create the infamous Queen of Heart’s Tarts.  Because if it rhymes it must taste good. These tarts are wicked important. They are so very important that when one of them is stolen, the suspected thief is put on trial, with the Queen and King in attendance. Gosh, don’t they have better things to do? Like playing croquet with flamingos? Or drinking tea?

As he did with the tea party food, Carroll confounds us by never specifying what type of tarts these are. All we know is that there is a large plate of them, and they are making Alice hungry. When the cook is questioned as to what they were made of, she responds, “pepper, mostly” but is contradicted by the dormouse who says “treacle”.

Carroll knew what he was doing. He left out the details and let our imaginations create our own spectacular tarts. After realizing this I decided I wanted tarts that were flexible to your preferences. Tarts that could be tarted up in a variety of ways.

I had more demands. They were the Queen’s tarts so I wanted them to be pretty. And even, dare I say it (I do) feminine.

I settled upon making light as air meringue shells. I don’t know if some would say these aren’t tarts because they don’t have a flour-and-butter based crust, but enough cookbooks reference meringue crusts that I believe these count. Once I settled on the crust I tried a lot of different fillings. In honor of the pepper and treacle mentioned, I tried the meringues filled with strawberries, drizzled with honey (I could not locate treacle in time), balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with pepper. That was a supreme winner. I also adored vanilla ice cream and Luxardo jarred cherries with some of the syrup they come in drizzled on top. In addition to the cherry and strawberry renditions I also tried and liked:

  • Pistachio pudding
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Whipped cream and pomegranate seeds

I’d like to try

  • Chocolate ganache
  • Butterscotch
  • Apple butter and caramel
  • Raspberries and mint

Here is your base recipe. From then on you are Queen of your own Tart.

 Tarts for Hearts (meringue shells adapted from Baking Illustrated (ADD LINK)

For meringues:

  • two egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have a whisk attachment for your mixer, now’s the time to use it. If you are beating these egg whites by hand, I’m sorry. Your arm is going to be sore when you are done. Beat the egg whites at medium-low speed until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase speed to medium-high. Beat until thick and billow-y like newly lathered shaving cream. Slowly sprinkle in ¼ cup sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat just until incorporated. Turn off mixer. Use whisk to fold in the rest of the sugar. Scoop it out in ¼ cup amounts onto the parchment (you should get six) and use a big spoon to create hollows that you will be putting filling in. I had to do a bit of cheating, spooning extra around the edges to create a basin in the middle. Do what you gotta do. Bake about 1 ½ hours, or until dry and sturdy exteriors. Turn the oven off but leave the shells in for several hours to get dried. If you store these in an airtight container they will keep for about two weeks. You can use them day-by-day and have a different tart experience each time. Good times!

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