Sunday, March 12, 2006

Technique of the Week: Rolling out and baking tart dough

In the last installment of Technique of the Week, we left off with tart dough waiting patiently for the tart baking day in the fridge or the freezer. The baking day has arrived. Your mission should you choose to except it is to roll out the dough without letting it crack and bake it without letting it get soggy from the filling. What you want is a perfectly crispy, buttery, and flaky dough that is so good not even your scrumptious filling can overshadow it. Here is a step by step guide on how to do it.

Special equipment
Pastry scraper
A tart pan
4 cups dry beans or rice
Pizza stone (optional, but handy)

If the dough was frozen, move it to the fridge 1 day before rolling it out, then proceed as follows.

Rolling out the dough

Step 1: Remove the dough from the fridge 30 minutes before rolling it out. This will let the butter soften and make it easier to roll out.

Step 2: Roll the dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin to 1/8 inch thick. Start rolling in the center of the dough and roll away from you. Turn the dough 1/4 turn after each roll. Clean off your pin of dough scraps periodically.

If the dough cracks around the edges when you start to roll it, pick it up with floured hands, and squeeze the edges together to merge the cracks, then continue rolling.

If the dough starts to stick to the counter, slide the pastry scraper under it to unstick, move the dough to the side, and add more flour to the counter. It’s normal for the dough to crack around the edges. If you get a crack that is so large it will show once the dough is fitted into the pan and trimmed, you will need to patch it. Cut a piece of dough from an edge where you have extras, wet your finger and brush the edges of a crack, then glue your patch on top of the crack and press it down with your palm. Sprinkle with flour and roll over the patch with your rolling pin. Slide a pastry scraper under the patched part of the dough to release it from the counter.

Step 3: Flip the dough over the rolling pin and transfer to the tart pan.

Fit the dough into the sides of the pan without stretching it and press it into the grooves.

Roll the rolling pin over the top of the dough to trim the excess.

Step 4: Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes while preheating the oven.

Pre-baking the tart shell

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400F with a rack in the bottom third of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the rack.

Step 2: Line the tart shell with parchment paper or foil and dry beans (or some other weight) and bake in the bottom third of the oven for 18 minutes.

Step 3: Remove parchment paper with beans, lightly poke dough with a fork at 1/2 inch intervals to prevent it from puffing up, and return to the bottom third of the oven for 5 more minutes. Cool the beans and save them for your next tart. I think my beans are 6 years old by now :)

Ta-da -- you have a pre-baked tart shell that will withstand even the wettest filling. Now you can fill the tart shell and finish baking it according to your recipe.


Alanna said...


Erin Eats said...

Oh this is fantastic! Now all I need is a tart pan/dish... just another reason to go to the kitchen supply store :)

Anonymous said...

I am having a problem making a pate brisee...the recipe calls for a top and bottom crust cooked in a tart ring on a baking sheet...the problem is the filling always runs out of the tart ring ten minutes after it is in the oven...should I use a different pan to cook it in or am I doing something wrong with the dough and not sealing it properly?

Helen said...

Hi Anonymous,

Can you send me a recipe? I am a little confused about the top crust. Tarts usually have only the bottom crust. If it has a top crust, it's a pie and could probably use a deeper dish. For tarts, you prebake the dough, for pies with the top crust, you don't. Pies usually do leek a little. One trick that usually helps is baking them on a pizza stone at a pretty high heat (425F) for 20 minutes or so to help the crust brown before it has a chance to get soggy.

If you are making an open faced tart, prebake your dough and don't overfill the crust.


Virginia said...

I found your recipe while looking for a flakey crust recipe to use for apple turnovers. Is this a suitable crust for turnovers? I'm looking forward to trying your recipe when the spirit moves me to make a tart.

Helen said...

Hi Virginia,

I am guessing you can use this for turnovers, but puff pastry would probably be more suitable.


Virginia said...

Thanks for your response! After looking at the turnovers in the frozen at the grocery store, I was thinking the same thing. I have never used puff pastry before but it will be a new adventure for me. Thanks again.

Todd Christensen said...

Hi Helen,

I have done a lot of cooking in my life, but am a greenhorn when it comes to all things baking. Thus I was happy to find your blog and hopefully you can answer a couple of questions for me especially regarding tarts. I plan to make your tomato and onion tart for father's day this year.

I have some frozen, store bought puff pastry in my freezer. Is that suitable to use for a tart crust if one does not have the time to make the dough (or is too lazy on a given day)? If not, is there a better store bought crust alternative?

Secondly, I live in Denver, Colorado - the Mile High city. When I do take the time to make the tart dough, are there any altitude related problems I may encounter if I use your recipe verbatim?

Anyway, I love your blog! Great information and great recipes. Keep up the great work!


Helen said...

Hi Todd,

So glad you are making the tomato onion tart on father's day. That's on our menu too since it's my husband's favorite tart.

Can't help you with altitude question since I don't have any experience with baking at high altitudes. As far as buying dough. Sure, you can try it with puff pastry, but that will be very different. If using store bought dough, pie dough is the closest to tart dough. If you want to try making it yourself, try Cook's Illustrated Vodka pie dough. It's even easier than mine and absolutely full proof (just make sure to weigh your flour). You can google for it, but if it requires a subscription to see it, e-mail me and I'll send you the recipe in e-mail.


Anonymous said...

I just baked the first tart crust, and it turned out amaaaazing. I didn't even have the mixer, i just used my hands and it worked great. Thank you for this perfect recipe!

Holley said...

This is cool!

Beth said...

Hi there, I just wanted to say that I've been using your pie and dough making instructions for several years now. Your recipe and instructions helped me perfect pie dough. Thank you!

Helen Rennie said...

Hi Beth,

So glad you found my pie blog post helpful. I've been making little adjustments to this technique over the years, and made videos that are easier to follow than the written recipes: