Top Pick Of The Week

September 5, 2006

. .
A jar of filling, a box of tart shells and voilà: you’ve got an impressive dessert!
WHAT IT IS: Ready-to-serve tart shells and fillings.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: For something that you can keep on the pantry shelf, requiring no refrigeration, it tastes as if it just came from the bakery.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Anyone can create gourmet fruit tarts instantly! It’s fun to make, and guests love to eat them. The shells are also wonderful for savory hors d’oeuvres and tarts.

Clearbrook Farms:
All Tarted Up

CAPSULE REPORT: You want a nice dessert, you want it to look great and taste great, you want to pull it out of your hat (or at least, out of the kitchen pantry) in 5 minutes or less. Magic? No, Clearbrook Farms Tart Kits—easy fruit tart fillings and shells.

The tart shells, which come in standard and mini sizes, are delicious. They can be filled with Clearbrook Farms’ Fruit•Tart fillings or a myriad of others we’ve detailed in the main review below, including ice cream and savory preparations like shrimp salad. Clearbrook Farms’ Key Lime is our favorite quick dessert solution (there are 6 filling flavors), and it may well become yours, too. If people drop by, by the time the pot of coffee is made, an impressive tray of tarts is ready. Just don’t tell the secret and let them think you are amazing. Read the full review below.

One-Crust Reading

Great Pies and Tarts The Art of the Tart Tarts Sweet and Savory
Great Pies & Tarts: Over 150 Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy, by Carole Walter. Easy for even beginners to create delicious pies and tarts, including the four basic recipes upon which all other pies and tarts are based. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Art of the Tart: Savory and Sweet, by Tamasin Day-Lewis. There are delicious basics, sweet and savory; but the excitement lies in dishes like Corn and Scallion Tart with a Polenta Crust and Monkfish Tart with Béarnaise. We could go on an all-tart diet. Click here for more information or to purchase. Tarts: Sweet and Savory, by Maxine Clark. Learn the different types of dough, baking blind and creating decorative edges and lattices. A directory of cook’s tools and equipment for tart making are included. Click here for more information or to purchase.

All Tarted Up: Clearbrook Farms Tart Kits



Clearbrook Farms began in Ohio more than 80 years ago, making fruit fillings for the baking industry. They evolved into making preserves as well, committing to buying the best fruit possible from family-owned farms. Their products are made with pure cane sugar, fruit pectin and citric acid—no artificial colors or flavors.

Key Lime TartsA year or so ago they came up with yet another good idea from their bakery heritage: take their Fruit•Tart fillings, combine them with pre-baked tart shells and give busy people an almost instant gourmet dessert solution. Now, every pantry in America can hold the fixings from which fruit tarts can magically be conjured, as handsome and tasty as those from the bakery.

Genius, no?

The tart shells are a shortbread pastry made in France from wheat flour, butter, sugar, eggs and nonfat dry milk—the same as you’d make if you had the time. They are delicious.

The Fruit•Tart fillings are available in Apple, Cherry, Key Lime, Lemon, Red Raspberry and Vanilla. They also multitask as filling for layer cakes. The chunky apples, whole cherries and thick raspberry purée can top cheesecakes as well. We think the standouts are the Key Lime and Lemon: while all of the fillings taste as good as what comes from most bakeries these days, the citrus flavors taste the most homemade and are the best sellers. A charming French canning jar houses the Fruit•Tart fillings; the jar is its own treat, high-quality and perfect for airtight storage of anything from coffee and tea to refrigerated food.

You can purchase a jar of Fruit•Tart filling and tart shells as a Tart Kit, or buy the components separately.

The Best Fast & Fancy Dessert

The pastry shells are available as:

  • Bite-sized mini-shells (1-3/4")
  • Full-size tart shells (3")

The sweet thing is, anyone can put these together. So if you have your hands full and someone over the age of eight is available to help, simply say: “Here, fill these.” It’s foolproof:

  • Open the jar of Fruit•Tart filling(s)
  • Spoon filling into the tart shells
  • Add an optional garnish
  • That’s it—no cooking necessary

You can create an entire dessert tray in less than 15 minutes. The tarts can be kept at room temperature (hold any whipped cream until ready to serve).

Fruit Tarts
A tray of mini tarts.

While the tart shells and fillings require no cooking, the shells can be used in any recipe that requires baking, including quiche.

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Serving Suggestions

You can serve the tarts “straight from the jar,” but a little garnish provides a finishing touch. You’ll want to match the garnish to the specific filling you’ve selected. While there is no end of creative options, some easy choices (and suggested flavor matches) include:

  • Berries (Lemon, Key Lime, Vanilla)
  • Chocolate morsels or shavings (Lemon,
    Key Lime, Vanilla)
  • Chopped nuts (all)
  • Chopped peppermint (Vanilla)
  • Citrus slice (all)
  • Dragées (all)
  • Lemon or orange peel curl (all)
  • Mint leaf (all)
  • Toffee chips (Apple, Vanilla)
  • Whipped cream (all)

Mini Tarts
Decorate with a mint leaf, a few blueberries, a curl of orange peel, half a strawberry...or serve them unadorned.


Top a cheesecake with Apple, Cherry or Raspberry Fruit•Tart.

In addition to Clearbrook Farms’ Fruit•Tart fillings, what else can you fill the tart shells with?

  • Berries, topped with a crème anglaise, whipped cream, or our favorite glaze, made by simply melting currant jelly (not jam) and pouring it over the fruit, then refrigerate so it hardens
    (If you can’t find currant, substitute raspberry jelly)
  • Caramel sauce (The King’s Cupboard flavored caramels are amazing)
  • Conserves (like Frog Hollow)
  • Custard or crème pâtissière (it is simple to make a stovetop custard with cream, eggs and vanilla)
  • Fudge sauce (we like the Chocolate Espresso from The King’s Cupboard)
  • Ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet
  • Marshmallow creme
  • Mousse
  • Peanut butter (especially our favorite flavored PBs), combined with fudge or marshmallow creme (call these comfort food tarts)

For anyone who has ever fallen back on a canned pie filling to make a cherry pie, Clearbrook Farms Fruit•Tart fillings take the category to a new height. There’s an easy cobbler recipe on the company website. But, rather than make pies or cobblers with anything other than fresh fruit, we repurposed the Fruit•Tart fillings into an entirely new type of “pie”:

Pie À La Mode Sundae: A Quickie Recipe & Party Idea

  • Instead of pie à la mode featuring a warm slice of pie topped with ice cream, we serve “upside-down pie à la mode”: a scoop of ice cream topped with warm pie filling (i.e., microwave the Fruit•Tart filling and use it as an ice cream topping).
  • Offer people not only their choice of ice cream flavor, but their choice of “pie” as well. It’s a fun concept, letting guests mix-and-match their ice cream to apple, cherry or raspberry pie.
  • If you’d like to add some “crust,” you can sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top; or serve it in a sundae dish and add a shortbread cookie or graham cracker as a topper to the “pie à la mode sundae.”

Quickie Cake Recipes

If you’d rather have a fancy cake than a tart, the same Fruit•Tart fillings work their magic on a plain pound cake, angel food cake or sponge cake.

  • Cake Topping: Spread slices of angel food or pound cake with Lemon or Red Raspberry Fruit•Tart; top with fresh berries and whipped cream.
  • Fancy Cake: Use Red Raspberry or Lemon Fruit•Tart or Vanilla•Tart between and on top of yellow or white cake layers. Decorate the top with a spiral or spider-web design, made by drizzling caramel, chocolate or fruit sauce (Clearbrook Farms also makes drizzle sauces in blueberry, raspberry and strawberry).
  • Chocolate Gâteau: Split a chocolate cake into two or three layers and spread Vanilla•Tart between the layers and on top of the cake. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls.
  • Tortes: To give any plain cake a torte-style makeover, fill the layers with your choice of flavor. Then spread the sides with a thin layer of Vanilla•Tart, and press toasted and sliced or chopped almonds or other nuts all around the sides.
  • Cheesecake Topping: Turn a plain cheesecake into a deluxe cheesecake. You can use a different topping on each half of the top—e.g., key lime and raspberry—for a dramatic effect. Or, serve the cake plain and let guests choose their own toppings, as in the “upside-down pie à la mode” example above.

Savory Tarts: Hors D’Oeuvres, First Courses, Sides

You can use the large tart shells for savory preparations that make an attractive first course, served with a side of dressed microgreens or a slaw, or use the mini-tarts for hors d’oeuvres or garnishes:  

  • Condiments:  Mini-tarts filled with chutneys or fruit salsas are a nifty presentation on a main plate. With a base of fresh cheese (goat, mascarpone, ricotta) underneath the salsa, they become an exciting hors d’oeuvre.
  • Savory Mousses: Serve a creamy mousse appetizer (we love scallop mousse) or cocktail bite.
  • Seafood or Chicken “à la King”: The classic preparation is in a cream sauce with mushrooms and red and green pepper, but Cooking Light followers know to substitute high-fat sauces with vegetable purée (cauliflower purée thinned with fat-free milk and flavored with herbs or spices like nutmeg works great).
  • Seafood Salad: Crab, lobster and shrimp salad are delicious in the tart pastry.
  • No-Bake Seafood or Vegetable “Custards”: Scallops, shrimp, lobster, crab, fish or vegetables can be arranged attractively in the shell and covered with a hot, savory custard sauce that takes 2 minutes to make with this easy recipe:
    - Heat 1 cup heavy cream in a small saucepan until bubbles form at edges.
    - Whisk together 4 egg yolks until smooth; then very slowly whisk in half of the hot cream.
    - Slowly add the yolk and cream mixture back into the remaining cream, whisking constantly.
    - Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
    - Pour over seafood (or vegetables) in the pastry shells.
    - Garnish with snipped chives, tarragon or other herbs.
  • Sides: The large tarts are very attractive edible dishes for sides like sautéed or creamed mushrooms, ratatouille, succotash or rice mixes. They effectively create no-bake vegetable tarts. The mini versions can be used as hors d’oeuvres or plate accents.

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The next time the doorbell rings and unexpected guests arrive for coffee or tea, surprise them in turn with a tray of delicious tarts or an upside-down pie à la mode. If you especially like them, share the secret. Sending a Clearbrook Farms Tart Kit as a hostess gift will get you invited back, and would also make anyone away at school the most popular kid in the dorm.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who likes to entertain—or who doesn’t like to, but needs easy tricks for doing it painlessly.


Fruit•Tart Fillings & Tart Shells

One jar fills 24 large tarts or 48 mini-tarts. The jars vary in weight from 20 to 23 ounces, depending on flavor.

  • Tart Kit In Key Lime or Lemon
    1 Jar Filling With 48 Mini Tarts
  • Fruit•Tart Fillings
    Two Jars In Three Flavor Combinations:
    Lemon/Lime, Raspberry/Vanilla and
  • Large Tart Shells (3")
    2 Boxes, 12 Per Box, 24 Total
    (Not yet on website—call)
  • Mini Tart Shells (1-3/4")
    2 Boxes, 24 Per Box, 48 Total

Purchase online at

Or telephone 1.800.222.9966

Clearbrook Farms
All you need are a box, a jar, a spoon and a plate.

Other sizes available. Prices and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.

Also available at fine retailers nationwide.

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Read about some of our other
favorite desserts and sweets in these
sections of THE NIBBLE online


A Brief History Of The Tart

A tart is a pastry similar to a pie, but with only a bottom crust—the top is open.* Tarts, like pies, can be sweet or savory: for example, there are seafood custard tarts, bacon and cheese tarts (mini-quiches) and vegetable tarts.

*Tarte Tatin is a one-crust fruit pie invented by accident in France in the early 1880s. It is served upside-down; the apples are on the bottom with the crust on top. The Tatin sisters, Caroline and Stéphanie, ran the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, southwest of Paris in the Loire Valley, not far from the town of Chambord. Stéphanie, preparing an apple tart, erroneously put the apples in the pan without the crust underneath. The apples caramelized, the customers loved it and the Tarte Tatin was born.

Open-face tarts began to appear in Medieval times. The term appears in a 14th-century cookbook, the Forme of Cury, as does the term “tartlet.” Elaborate, decorative tarts and pies were served at banquets, both sweet and savory, but for tarts, there was a perceptible trend towards sweet flavors, particularly with egg custard and fruit. According to the Oxford Companion To Food†, tarts were showcased in a rainbow of colors: red, white and pale green from fruits, strong green from spinach (which was sweetened), yellow from egg and saffron and black from dark-colored dried fruits.

†An updated version of the 1999 classic will be released in October 2006—a great holiday gift for any food-lover. You can order it now.

Historians believe that the ancient Greeks originated pie pastry: the first “pies” were a flour-water paste wrapped around meat that served to seal in the juices as the meat cooked. The Romans learned about pie from the Greeks and the concept of pie spread throughout the Roman Empire. Animated pies were the most popular banquet entertainment. The nursery rhyme, “Sing a Song of Sixpence” tells of four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie: “When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing. Wasn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King.” In a scene typical of the times, which was created in the Fellini film, “Satyricon,” the birds not only sang, but flew out at the assembled guests. Rabbits, frogs, turtles, other small animals, and even dwarfs were set into pies, to create a spectacle when the crust was cut. Dwarfs would walk the length of the table, reciting poetry, sketching the guests, or doing tricks. Centuries later the concept was resurrected (some might say, improved) with a beautiful woman entertainer leaping out of a cake.

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