Once you find a good crust recipe, I think you should stick with it. There are hundreds of tart crust recipes out there—some with nuts, cornmeal, or coconut. While occasionally you may want to use a different crust, just to mix things up a bit, it is comforting to have a tried and true, absolutely reliable crust recipe that works for any sweet filling you can imagine. This crust is easy to make, easy to handle, and it holds its shape beautifully. Tart crust should be rich, buttery, sturdy, and crisp—like a cookie. Unlike pies, which are served from the pans they are baked in, a tart is unmolded and so must be able to stand on its own without the sides collapsing. This tart crust recipe meets all of the requirements. I recommend making the dough several times—even once a week for a while. It will seem slightly daunting at first, but after the third or fourth time it will start to feel easy, familiar, like an old friend. And there is nothing wrong with having a freezer full of tart dough, at the ready, whenever the call for a freshly baked tart arises! For me, the call comes frequently.
Leftover dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for a couple of days. The dough can also be frozen as a disk, or frozen once rolled and fitted into a tart pan. The dough freezes well for a month or more, depending on how often you open and close your freezer door.
To roll out dough that has been refrigerated for more than 30 minutes, leave the dough on the counter to bring it to cool room temperature. If the dough has been refrigerated for a long time this may take up to an hour. If, when you begin to roll out the dough, it starts to crack terribly, you can cut the dough into pieces, gently knead it into a cohesive disk and roll out again. Do not re-roll pie dough in this way—it will become tough and will lose its flakiness.
To thaw frozen dough that is in a disk, place it into the refrigerator and let thaw overnight.
To bake a frozen tart shell that is rolled out and fitted into its pan–do not thaw. Remove the plastic and proceed with the instructions for pre-baking (also called blind baking).
Most importantly, always fully pre-bake you crust—even if the tart goes back in the oven after it is filled. An under baked crust is doughy and flavorless. A fully baked, golden brown crust is heavenly.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and push small pieces of the dough forward with the heal of your hand.. This is the best way to fully mix the ingredients into a smooth, uniform dough without developing too much gluten–good for bread, not for pastry.
Divide into two equal balls, and form each one into a flat disk. This will make rolling the dough into a round shape easier when the time comes. Wrap each disk in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. This step is very important. Chilling the dough makes it possible to roll the dough out without sticking. It also allows the gluten in the dough to relax, and for the starch in the flour to absorb the liquid.
If the dough has gotten too cold to roll out, let it sit on the counter until it is malleable. Place the dough out on a work surface lightly dusted with flour. Start in the middle of the disk and push forward, gently and stopping before you go over the edge of the dough. Lift the dough just a little to move the dough counter clockwise about 1/4 turn. Continue rolling in this manner until the disk is the size that you desire. This will allow you to make sure the dough is not sticking to the board, and as you continue rolling and turning, will make sure that you keep a round shape.
Lift the overhanging dough up with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other, and tuck the dough tightly against the side on the tart pan. Make sure there is no air between the dough and the tart pan as that will cause the dough to shrink down the sides when baking.
Place a piece of parchment paper, or foil. into the tart pan and fill the tart shell with rice, lentils, beans or a combination–all the way to the top of pan. This will assure that the dough does not shrink down the sides of the pan. Bake the tart shell until the exposed edges begin to turn golden brown. Gently lift a portion of the parchment to see if the dough on the bottom of the pan has set. It should not look wet or buttery. If it is dry, then you can gently gather the parchment up by the corners, rocking the paper back and forth to make sure it is not sticking, Pour the pie weights (rice, lentils etc.) back into the container in which you store them and discard the parchment. This procedure is called blind baking as you are unable to see what is happening under the pie weights–until you take a peak
I always fully bake my tart shells–even if a recipe calls for a partially baked shell. Under baked tart shells will remain doughy once the filling goes in, even if they go back into the oven. Doughy equals bland and boring. Golden brown and fully baked equals full flavor and good crisp crust that will hold up to a good juicy filling.