Standard Tart Dough

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Preparation info

  • Makes Eight 4 Inch Tart Shells or Seven


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Book of Tarts

Book of Tarts

By Maury Rubin

Published 1995

  • About

This makes a cookielike crust, a sort of pastry cousin to the French sablé with its fine crumb. There are several advantages to this pastry. First is its ability to be worked often—actually kneaded like a bread dough—with no loss in the quality of its texture. Take advantage of this. Since I suggest that tarts be made in flan rings, which may be new to you, rather than fluted tart pans, use the leeway that this recipe provides, and practice again and again with the same piece of dough. Second, if you’re baking a tart shell “blind”—that is, without a filling—this dough does not need to be filled with pie weights or beans to keep the sides from collapsing. After making the dough and filling the rings, just chill the dough, then put it right in the oven.


  • 13 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 13 pieces
  • cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream


  1. Let the butter sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. It should be malleable, but still cool.
  2. Place the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and toss to coat. Using the paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer, cream the sugar and butter at medium speed until the sugar is no longer visible. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg yolk and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add half of the flour and beat until the dough becomes crumbly. Stop the machine, add the remaining flour and then the cream, and beat until the dough forms a sticky mass.
  3. Shape the dough into a disk, and wrap well in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, approximately 2 hours.
  4. Dust a work surface with flour. Cut the chilled dough into 1-inch pieces. Using the heel of your hand, knead the pieces back together into a smooth disk. As you work, use a dough scraper to free the dough from the surface if necessary. Keeping the surface well dusted, roll the disk into a 12-inch log. If using flan rings, cut the log into 8 equal pieces; if using tart pans, cut into 7 pieces. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.
  5. If using flan rings, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set eight 4-inch flan rings on it.
  6. Dust the work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Using your fist, flatten one piece of dough into a 2- to 3-inch round. Lift it up off the work surface to dust underneath with flour. Using the rolling pin, roll the dough into a -inch round, or a 6-inch round if using tart pans, about inch thick. With a pastry docker or a fork, prick holes all over the dough. (If the dough is too soft to handle at this point, use a dough scraper to move it to a small baking sheet and refrigerate it for 2 to 3 minutes before proceeding.)
  7. Center the round of dough over a flan ring or a -inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. If using a tart pan, be careful that the sharp top edge does not tear the dough. With your thumbs on the inside and the tips of your fingers outside, run your hands around the ring or pan several times, easing the dough down into it. Speed does not matter, finesse does. Lower your thumbs to the inside bottom of the ring and press to form a right angle between the bottom and sides of the dough. Keeping your thumbs on the inside of the ring or pan, again circle around it, applying light pressure to the sides; if you move the ring or pan around through your hands, the process will be easier. There should be at least a ½-inch rim of excess dough extending above the top edge. With a small knife, tilted upwards, trim the excess dough flush with the top of the ring. Or, if using a tart pan, simply roll the rolling pin over the top to trim the excess. Repeat this process with the remaining pieces of dough. (Refrigerate the scraps from each piece as you work, then combine them and refrigerate or freeze for another use.) If using tart pans, place them on a baking sheet.
  8. Place the tart shells in the freezer for 30 minutes.

  9. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375°F.

  10. If you are partially baking the tart shells, bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the pastry is light golden brown and the interior is dry. If the bottoms of the shells puff up as they bake, tap down lightly with your fingers as often as necessary. Leave the tart shells on the baking sheet in their rings as they’re easy to break and as you’ll need them on the sheet in order to return them to the oven.

    If you are fully baking the tart shells, bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. If using flan rings, remove them, and, using a wide spatula, transfer the shells to a wire rack to cool. If using tart pans, let the tart shells cool completely in the pans on a rack before unmolding them.

working notes

  1. Dusting the work surface and the rolling pin frequently makes rolling out the dough easy. To dust, take a large pinch of flour and throw it into the air just above the work surface so that it comes down in a thin, even coating. This dough can be rolled out on marble, wood, Formica, Corian—even polyurethane cutting boards if well dusted. The colder the work surface, the better. Do not roll out dough on a surface that is even slightly warm.
  2. If the dough is slippery on the inside when you are fitting it into the ring or pan, coat your fingertips in flour for better traction. If the dough tears at any point, simply patch it with the scraps.
  3. Once the dough has been laid into the ring, carefully check the bottom to see that the dough meets the ring all around the bottom edge.
  4. The tart shells will bake more evenly if you rotate the baking sheet at least once. This is especially important if you are aware that your oven has a hot spot.
  5. Those who are experienced at working with dough may get as many as ten 4-inch tart shells from this recipe. The recipe, however, is designed to provide the novice with some extra dough to work with. Also, as most of the filling recipes are for 6 shells, by baking 8 tart shells, you’ll have 2 insurance shells if the sides of any of the shells should fall. (With practice, however, this should not happen.)
  6. This dough can be frozen, well wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 month. Let it thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before working with it. The dough can be set into the rings on a sheet pan and frozen, uncovered, for up to 5 days before baking. The tart dough can go right from the freezer to the oven. Once baked, the tart shells will keep at room temperature for 2 days. Do not store baked tart shells in the refrigerator, as the moisture will affect their texture.


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