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The Perfect Savory Tart Shell

Evaluating the components of the simple flour, egg, and butter crust produced by Escoffier and the latest recommendations for a tart shell (or tart crust), a dough for a perfect savory tart shell was developed producing a flexible, sizable, flaky, tasty, and easy to work with dough. You can follow my process here.

Sounds perfect huh? By replacing some butter with crème Fraiche (or plain creme, if you don’t have crème Fraiche handy), but still keeping an egg this perfect texture is created. The flexibility, well it comes from solving this simple problem. An egg is a nice addition to a tart shell. However, one in a 9″ (23cm) shell seems too much. But maybe not enough fat for an 11″ (29cm) shell. Adjusting the amount of crème Fraiche solves this.

Two sizes of the perfect savory tart shell are presented below and it is featured in four recipes:

But first some key tips to making a shell.

Four Rules to making a successful tart shell

Rule 1: Use your freezer — Making a dough that stays together requires with cold butter. Working the dough should only take 3 to 5 minutes. Chilling your mixing bowls and paddles before processing makes this easier. This is especially useful when making your pastry by hand.

Rule 2: Be careful adding water — pastry recipes are all over the place concerning the amount of water to be added. (Cold water, BTW — see rule 1.) This is because the amount of water in flour can vary due to storage conditions and humidity. The amount of water in butter can vary also. Therefore, add water a bit at a time, just enough to get the dough to stick together.

Rule 3: Avoid stretching the dough — Roll the dough out, instead of pulling. To the degree you stretch, it will shrink back when cooking. Nonetheless, rolling out in itself involves some stretching. That is where rule 4 comes into play…

Rule 4: Chill your dough in a disc — I do not remember where I first saw this hint, but it was a “that’s brilliant” moment. When forming the dough for chilling, shaping it into a disc instead of a ball gives you a significant head start to producing a shell without stretching. If the dough is not sticking together well, you can even place it on the wrap and use the wrap to help bring the dough together. An example of the disc is shown in the instructions below.

The recipes

The 9″ (23cm) version
chard-turnip-tart

The Perfect Savory 9" (23cm) Tart

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

This dough will make two 9" (23cm) tart shells

Ingredients

  • 360 g (3 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons) flour
  • 25 g (scant 2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 7 g (1 tablespoon) salt
  • 170g (6 ounces or 12 Tablespoons) butter chilled and cut into about ½ inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 65 g (ample ¼ cup) crème fraiche
  • 30 ml (1 ounce) water

Instructions

To make the dough

  1. If using a mixer, chill the bowl, paddle in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together.
  3. Assemble the mixer and bowl, add dry ingredients. With the mixer on low again, slowly add the cubes of butter. Mix for two or three minutes. The butter should be well cut into the dough. After all the pieces of butter or added, increase speed slightly. Slivers of butter should remain visible. If some bigger chunks remain, work the bigger pieces of butter into the flour between your fingers.
  4. Beat the egg in with the creme fraiche and mix into the dough with the mixer still on low. The dough should start binding together. Add water if needed to improve texture.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a cutting board (or work surface). Using your hands, quickly work the dough together into one ball.
  6. Roll the dough into one or two discs, depending on your plans for use. Cover with wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. If not using both immediately wrap it well and it will freeze well for at least two months.

To partially bake shell

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface or between two pieces of wax paper. The disc shape should start you on the way. Work quickly to keep dough cold while rolling not stretching. If working on a floured surface turn the dough with a quarter turn frequently to keep from sticking. With the paper lift and adjust to keep from sticking.
  3. Place the dough inside the tart pan. Carefully push into corners without stretching. Trim excess dough from edges and save it for another use. Prick the surface of the dough slightly with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Only 4 or 5 pricks should be needed. Coat the dough with foil or parchment paper. Fill with dried beans or pie weights.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes until crust edges are lightly browned. (This assumes there will be approximately 30 minutes more baking after the tart is filled. Adjust as needed.)
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 370Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 499mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 6g

Calculated Nutrition is estimated.

The 11″ (28cm) Version
mustard-tart

The Perfect Savory Tart Shell 11" (28cm) version

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Makes 2 11 (28cm) Shells

Ingredients

  • 255 g Flour
  • 20 g Sugar
  • 5 g Salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 120g (4.25 ounces or 8.5 Tablespoons) butter  chilled and cut into about ½ inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 30 g crème fraiche
  • 30 ml water, cold

Instructions

To make the dough

  1. If using a mixer, chill the bowl, paddle in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together.
  3. Assemble the mixer and bowl, add dry ingredients. With the mixer on low again, slowly add the cubes of butter. Mix for two or three minutes. The butter should be well cut into the dough. After all the pieces of butter or added, increase speed slightly. Slivers of butter should remain visible. If some bigger chunks remain, work the bigger pieces of butter into the flour between your fingers.
  4. Beat the egg in with the creme fraiche and mix into the dough with the mixer still on low. The dough should start binding together. Add water if needed to improve texture.
  5. Turn out the dough onto a cutting board (or work surface). Using your hands quickly work the dough together into one ball.
  6. Roll the dough into a disc. (Or 2 discs, if using for galettes ) Cover with wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. If not using immediately wrap it well and it will freeze well for at least two months.

To partially bake shell

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  2. Roll out the dough on a floured surface or between two pieces of wax paper. The disc shape should start you on the way. Work quickly to keep dough cold while rolling not stretching. If working on a floured surface turn the dough with a quarter turn frequently to keep from sticking. With the paper lift and adjust to keep from sticking.
  3. Place the dough inside the tart pan. Carefully push into corners without stretching. Trim excess dough from edges and save it for another use. Prick the surface of the dough slightly with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Only 4 or 5 pricks should be needed. Coat the dough with foil or parchment paper. Fill with dried beans or pie weights.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes until crust edges are lightly browned. (This assumes there will be approximately 30 minutes more baking after the tart is filled. Adjust as needed.)
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 366mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 4g
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