I must admit there is a term that someone once used to describe me that I have come to accept more and more the older I have gotten. NO, not that one, the one where they called me a … Playground Leader. You know someone in your life too, who is the playground leader. They are the ones who organize the parties, run the bake sales, have themed invitations, and generally make sure everyone is involved and having a good time. Playground leaders will have a crowd over at the drop of a hat. A simple trip up to the Whippi Dip, our local ice cream hangout, will generate 4 or 5 phone calls encouraging friends to hurry up with dinner or skip it if need be to meet up and have an hour or so to chat ‘n’ chew on a hot summer night. A true leader at work, keeping the home fires burning and the friendship ties close. Playground leaders are sometimes known as cruise directors too, if you like the sea and surf visual a bit better. Yes, I really do have fond memories of watching Love Boat and had a Dorothy Hamill haircut just like Julie when I was younger. While I used to despise the moniker, in the last few years I have really embraced it. My husband David is a dear man, and doesn’t really bat an eye any longer when I suddenly declare that I want to throw a party. He just checks the bank account and tries to temper my wilder ambitions, but he does get pretty excited about all the goodies and in all honesty he does most of the cooking for our shindigs. His pulled pork is famous and in high demand and he can make Buffalo wings like nobody’s business. One of my favorite parties from the past was a Bingo party we held about 5 or 6 years ago. Each game had a theme and guests needed to bring certain items to “buy” their way in. For the kids we had candy bar bingo – one candy bar bought one bingo board and winner takes all. We had a tie and two kids ended up with about 12 candy bars apiece. For the adults we had beer bottle bingo. Darla was our big winner and had a whole cooler full of brew to take home with her. Scratch ticket bingo was our biggest hit of the night with friends pouring in from all over town for their chance to win big. No one walked away a millionaire, but we were all the richer for spending such a fun time together. Someday soon, I want to throw a dessert party. I can just picture a whole table covered in sweet treats and my best girlfriends in their jammies savoring every bite. I had thought about making it a dressy occasion, but none of us owns as many fancy dresses as we do comfy jammies, so pj’s win out this time. We’ll share laughs, relive our glory days, tell embarrassing stories, gossip a bit and eat a lot. Calories will be declared null and void for the day and “go ahead, have another” will be our motto. I can’t wait! When I do get to my dessert party, these Raspberry Cream Tarts are going to have a prominent place on the table. With their tiny size and pretty pink fluffy mousse topping, they are just right for making a hard working gal (or guy) feel special. And did I mention they use 2 fantastic King Arthur mixes so no muss, no fuss, no pain, all gain? Can I lead or can I lead, eh? Let’s get started on making Raspberry Cream Tarts. Prepare a mini pop up pan with a quick spritz of cooking spray. The handy removable bottoms make popping the tarts up and out a breeze. Plus, you can bake a bunch of tart shells, pop ’em right out and pop ’em in the freezer for all kinds of uses. In my pantry I have close to 100 individual mini tart pans and there they stay, in the pantry. This pan is much more convenient than chasing down all those little bitty pans. I wonder, maybe those bitty pans would be good to put my bead collection in? For the dough, place the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium low speed for about 2-3 minutes, until the dough comes together. It may seems sandy at first, but have patience, it will come together. See, just like I promised. A lovely, soft, smooth dough, a bit like shortbread dough. Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces. This will make a pan and a half worth of tart shells, just enough for 6-8 people to share for dessert. Press one ball of dough into each well of the tart pan. Be sure to press the dough evenly into the bottom only of the tart pan. You don’t want to press the dough up the sides for this recipe, as it will rise on its own. If you press the dough up the sides, you may end up with sides that are too high, too thin and too breakable. If you don’t happen to have a pop up tart pan, and aren’t quite ready to invest in one yet (someday Grasshopper, you will) you can use a standard or mini muffin tin. Again, be sure to press into the bottom only, not up the sides. Bake the tart shells at 325°F for 10-12 minutes, until the sides have risen, the center is set and crackled, and the top edges are just barely beginning to brown. Cool the pan for about 5 minutes, then pop up the tart shells and cool for another 10 minutes out of the pan. Gently remove the tart pan bottoms from the shells, and bake the rest of the shells using the leftover dough. While the tarts are cooling, let’s prepare the fillings. This raspberry mousse mix is one of my very favorite things in the kitchen. It’s fragrant, flavorful and oh so pretty in pink! It whips up in a flash and makes a cool and elegant dessert guaranteed to impress. (BTW, you can certainly use homemade mousse for this if mixes aren’t your thing). You’ll need some heavy cream, sugar, water and mousse mix. Stir the mousse mix into the water and set aside to re-hydrate and thicken. The brilliant pink color and fresh raspberry scent were so refreshing in the middle of a Vermont winter. Whip the cream to soft peaks. You can do this by machine, but I figured if I was going to indulge, I should get some exercise by whipping by hand. Take about 1/3 of the whipped cream and mix it well into the raspberry “purée.” The colors just can’t be beat here. Now that the purée is lightened up by the cream, it will incorporate into the rest of the cream easily. Add the pink raspberry cream to the regular cream. Blend well, being careful not to over whip the cream. Set aside while you prepare the pastry cream filling. Now, I’ve made pastry cream from scratch before, and it is delightfully rich and silky, but I find our pastry cream filling mix to be just as rich and silky, and a whole lot easier to prepare. Just add the dry mix to the cream, and whisk until thickened. Can’t beat that for simplicity. For filling these tarts you’ll want the pastry cream a little soft; it will firm as it sits. Ain’t they cute? You can see that the sides did rise up leaving a nice little hollow for filling with cream. I can’t get enough of these nylon spreaders. They are perfect for spreading butter on toast, peanut butter, jam, icing and now pastry cream. Fill each tart so that the pastry cream is level with the top of the tart, making a nice little platform for the raspberry mousse. To form the little mounds of mousse, try a teaspoon scoop. You can also pipe the mousse through a pastry bag, use an ice cream scoop or just use a small spoon. I experimented with different sizes of scoops and liked the small size of the teaspoon scoop best. Place one scoop in the center of the pastry cream. The cream will have had time to finish thickening so it will support the mousse just fine. If the mousse seems to stick to the scoop just dip it into a glass of cold water. This helps give a nice smooth finish to the mousse too. To make the ganache topping, heat equal parts cream and chocolate chips together in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir well until the chocolate is melted and very smooth. Cool for about 2-3 minutes so that the chocolate doesn’t melt the mousse. A small ziptop bag makes for an easy piping bag. Just be sure the corners are plain and not gusseted, as all those folds make for difficult piping. Gently squeeze the bag and let the chocolate flow over the tarts. If the chocolate is too thick and won’t flow easily briefly reheat it or hold it in your hot little hands until it warms. Well, doesn’t that just sing out spring to you? The little daisy decos add a perky touch too. Chill for 30 minutes before serving, or refrigerate until ready to use. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. Please bake, rate and review our recipe for Raspberry Cream Tarts.