Food writers and bloggers often talk about cooking phobias – that invisible line in the kitchen that you absolutely will not cross – perhaps it involves using yeast or fish or deep frying. I’m generally pretty fearless in the kitchen. I cook with yeast, I love fish and I don’t mind deep frying (sometimes I do all three – hello fish and chips! – people you can’t say I don’t live life on the edge). But one thing I hate making is pastry. A few years ago I made a pear and almond tart for my mum’s birthday. The frangipane was delicious but the pastry was so dry and tough I should have served dessert with steak knives. Or a saw.
But this long weekend I’m staying in Canberra with family. I’ve got lots of spare time and I really wanted to make dessert. On top of that, for some crazy reason I was totally taken with the idea that my pantry would not be complete until I bought a set of little tart pans. I really don’t need more stuff to cram into my kitchen but I bought them anyway. And besides, it could have been much worse. It could have been a bread maker. Or an Elegant Banana Hanger.
The stars were aligned and there was nothing left to do but conquer shortcrust pastry. So that’s exactly what I did.
Sweet Tart Pastry (recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
This recipe produces a fantastic sweet short crust pastry – it’s buttery, tender and, as Deb notes, it shrinks very little, if at all. Even better, it could not be easier to make and it holds up really well as you’re lining the pastry cases and removing the tarts from the oven. This recipe is ideal for just about any sweet tart. It’s going into my favourites list immediately.
Makes enough pastry for one 23 cm/9 in tart or 10 small tarts.
1 1/2 c plain flour
1/2 c icing sugar
135 g very cold unsalted butter, cubed
1. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse briefly to combine.
2. Add the cold, cubed butter to the food processor and pulse until the butter is roughly cut into the flour. It’s ok if there are still a few large lumps of butter scattered throughout.
3. Add the egg and pulse until it is incorporated into the flour. The mixture will come together in big soft clumps. Remove the mixture from the food processor and place on a lightly floured work surface (your kitchen bench, baking paper or even cling wrap). Gently bring the dough into a ball with your hands. The dough should be quite moist so that it will come together with only a little kneading. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and place in the fridge for at least two hours.
4. When you’re ready to use the dough, place the dough on a floured work surface. Roll out the dough until is about 4 mm thick. Cut the dough into rounds about 12-15 cm in diameter.
5. To line your mini tart pans, gently press a round of dough into the mini tart pan. Remove excess pastry, leaving about 5 mm of overhang. Fold the overhang in and press down gently to make double-thick sides. Pierce the crust with a fork a few times. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
6. To bake your tart crust, preheat the oven to 190′C/375′F. Butter enough aluminium foil to line your tart pans. Remove the tarts from the freezer and press the buttered side of the foil tightly against each tart shell. Place the tarts in the preheated oven and bake for 8 minutes, or until the tarts and just starting to turn golden. Remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with a teaspoon. Bake for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the pastry is an even gold in colour. It should be the colour of a crusty white loaf of bread rather than the colour of burnt caramel.
7. Remove the tarts from the oven and allow to cool before proceeding with your recipe.
- If your tart pans are non-stick, there’s no need to butter them before lining them with the pastry. However, if yours aren’t non-stick, line them generously with softened butter.
- For instructions on how to use this pastry to make a large tart case, Deb’s instructions are great.
- I filled my tarts with this lemon curd. Lebovitz instructs you to stir the mixture over low heat until it begins to thicken and just bubble. For me, this took about 7 minutes, stirring continuously.
- I filled my little tarts higher than Lebovitz filled his large one. I spooned a couple of tablespoons of curd in each tart and baked them in a 180′C/350′F oven for 5 minutes. When I took them out of the oven they were just beginning to set at the edges and were still wobbly in the middle.