The Perfect Savory Tart Shell

Evaluating the components of the simple the flour, egg and butter shell produced by Escoffier and the latest recommendations, a general purpose shell was developed producing a flexible, sizable, flaky, tasty and easy to work with tart dough.

Sounds perfect huh? By replacing some butter with crème fraiche, 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 a 11″ (29cm) shell. Adjusting the amount of crème fraiche solves this.

Two sizes are presented below and it is featured in three recipes: A mustard tart by Dorie Greenspan and two others inspired by that tart. A Vidalia Onion tart and a turnip tart.

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 a 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 Perfect Savory 9″ (23cm) Tart

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

Ingredients
  

  • 360 g flour
  • 25 g sugar
  • 7 g salt
  • 170 g butter, cubed into ½ inch (15 mm) cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 65 g crème fraiche
  • 30 ml water

Instructions
 

To make the dough

  • If using a mixer, chill the bowl, paddle in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together.
  • Assemble the mixer and bowl, add dry ingredients. With mixer on low, slowly add the cubes of butter. Mix 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 butter into be flour between your fingers.
  • Beat the egg in with the 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.
  • Divide dough into half and roll into two discs. Cover with wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. (If not using the second shell, wrap it well and it will freeze well for at least two months.

To partially bake shell

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  • 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 floured surface turn the dough with a quarter turn frequently to keep from sticking. With the paper lift and adjust to keep from sticking.
  • Place the dough inside tart pan. Carefully push into corners without stretching. 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.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes until crust edges are lightly browned. (This assumes there will be approximately 30 minutes more baking after tart is filled. Adjust as needed.)

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

Makes 2 11 (28cm) Shells

Ingredients
  

  • 255 g Flour
  • 20 g Sugar
  • 5 g Salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 120 g butter Cut the butter into about ½ inch (1 cm) cubes
  • 30 g crème fraiche
  • 30 ml water cold

Instructions
 

To make the dough

  • If using a mixer, chill the bowl, paddle in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together.
  • Assemble the mixer and bowl, add dry ingredients. With mixer on low, slowly add the cubes of butter. Mix two or three minutes the butter should be well cut into the dough. After all the pieces of butter or added, increase speed slighty. Slivers of butter should remain visible. If some bigger chunks remain, work the bigger pieces butter into be flour between your fingers.
  • Beat the egg in with the 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.
  • Roll the dough into a disc. 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

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
  • 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 floured surface turn the dough with a quarter turn frequently to keep from sticking. With the paper lift and adjust to keep from sticking.
  • Place the dough inside tart pan. Carefully push into corners without stretching. 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.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes until crust edges are lightly browned. (This assumes there will be approximately 30 minutes more baking after tart is filled. Adjust as needed.)

jz

View posts by jz
Analytics professional for 30+ years and avid cook. Passionate about bringing the two interest together.

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