I have to admit, there's nothing more satisfying than making your own basic tart dough. While it's easy to run over to the grocery store and buy it in the refrigerator or freezer section, it's never the same if you make it yourself. With only four ingredients: all-purpose flour, unsalted butter, salt and water, preparing a tart crust is simple. Call yourself the Julia Child of your own kitchen because you'll want to bake tarts all the time after learning how simple the process is.
Baking of tarts goes back way. According to Joe Pastry, the baking of tarts began back in the 1550's in Europe. They differed from pies in the essence that pies were geared towards the common folk with fillings such as offal and table scraps. Tarts on the other hand were regarded as high cuisine, which were custard based and decorated artistically with various fruits and vegetables.
Today tarts and pies can be differentiated in a few different ways. First, tarts are always open-faced, which means there is only a bottom crust. Tarts are also baked in a special pan which hold the side crust at a 90º angle whereas pie crust tins slope outwards at a gradual angle. Tarts are also usually made with a creamy filling then decorated with fresh ingredients.
How to Make Tart Dough
To begin, prepare your tart pans. In this recipe we used individual tart pans which you can purchase here. You can also use standard tart pans as well as long rectangular tart pans. Most tart pans have removable bottoms which makes it easy to take the tart shell out so look for this if you are buying a new pan.
In a bowl combine the all-purpose flour and salt. You can also do this in a food processor by adding the flour and salt and pulsing a few times to incorporate.
Then slice the cold butter into slices or cubes to make it easier to blend. You want the butter pieces to be cold when adding into the flour to produce crumbs.
Add the butter to the food processor and pulse a few times until the dough resembles coarse crumbs and the butter is in small pieces. You can also do this with a pastry blender or two knives.
Once the coarse meal is formed, fill a glass with ice water and sprinkle the water into the crumbs. Either pulse to combine or knead with your hands until a dough forms. The dough should not be sticky but rather sticks together easily when pressed. If the dough seems too crumbly, add a teaspoon of water into the mix.
Once the dough is made, press the dough into a round and cover with plastic wrap. Let chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight. This lets the butter harden making that crumbly texture you want in tart doughs.
Once the dough has fully chilled, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll out to 1/8inch thick with a rolling pin. Place the dough on the tart pan or cut the dough into circles to fit on the individual pans.
One Hour Later
Move your oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400ºF. Meanwhile cover your tart with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked beans. This is called blind-baking and it's to prevent the dough from puffing up.
Once the crust has set, remove the pie weights and bake until the crust is light golden brown. The baking times will vary depending on the size of the tart pan.
How to Fill a Tart
Baked and ready to go, let the tart cool entirely in the pan. Meanwhile you can prepare your filling. A popular tart recipe is a fruit tart, which usually contains a pastry cream flavored with vanilla extract and topped with fresh fruit. Another option is to make a savory tart topped with tomatoes.