Every now and then you notice something new in the stores, thinking right now of the baking section, and one of them was a package of Halloween-oriented chocolate chips that I bought over the weekend. I made a recipe of brownies to take to the Coffee Hour at the Episcopal Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Tucson yesterday, where the chocolate-brown chips were accompanied by orange-colored chips that contrasted nicely with the brownies. This kind of thing can inspire us to do new things, including repackaging some old favorites.
Individual tart containers already lined with either a crumb filling or pastry, can provide us with our own way to serve some comfort food--or things that are very elegant indeed. I find shortbread tart cups packed in boxes at my neighborhood Fry's Supermarket, and I can tell you that they are quite crisp, and so your guests may have something like cookies with a topping, although they work just fine. Individual tarts can be made with the filling that is used in refrigerator pies for a cool dessert after a hot meal, or they can be filled with ice cream and stored on a jelly-roll pan in the freezer to make it easy to rush them to the table. There are many ideas that will work for this treatment, including:
Banana Cream Pie Tarts: go ahead and make up your favorite banana-cream filling, or search for a recipe online, and fill the tart shells with it. Top with whipped cream or non-dairy products like Dream Whip or Cool Whip, and garnish each one with banana slices.
Mousse Tarts: make an elegant mousse and fill the tart shells, then top with seasonal decorations or edible treats like mint leaves. Chocolate and vanilla mousse work equally well here. You can also place a mousse into a crumb crust, either prepared or one you make yourself, to make a personal version of mousse desserts.
Pumpkin Pie Tarts: if you see tart shells that can withstand baking, fill them with your go-to pumpkin pie filling, bake them and proceed normally with topping and serving. You have to keep your eye on them in the oven, so they will not burn, but wait until you hear the raves when they appear at the table. I would not recommend the shortbread tart cups for this because a second baking may take them from crisp to tough. Try unbaked tart shells, or if necessary, you can buy unbaked pie crust in circles and cut them with cookie cutters to get an appropriate size to press into muffin tins.
Chocolate Silk Pie Tarts: the normal chocolate silk recipe will make very rich individual desserts, and you can layer or top them with something white, like whipped cream or topping, and sprinkle them with chocolate shot or mini-chips. There is a very similar product available right now in Tucson's supermarkets, and yours will be a whole lot better, benefiting as it does from being home-made.
I have also invested in individual ramekins, which can be used for desserts whether they are baked or not. You can prepare a crumb filling and press about half in inch into the bottom of the ramekins, followed by whatever filling you would like. In short, the possibilities for individual versions of some of the popular pies and desserts are endless, and fortunately you can probably work out your own personal favorites so that they can be elegant endings for Holiday events.