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Flaky Tart Crust

Updated February 23, 2016

The fat in our tart dough is mostly butter with a little shortening. Many people think that an all-butter crust is the goal. But even Julia Child, America’s foremost champion of butter, recommends making crusts with a combination of butter and shortening. Butter for its inimitable flavor, and shortening because that’s what makes a crust flaky. We call for butter to be cut into ¼-inch cubes to make tart dough. The truth is, you only need to cut it that small if you’re making crust by hand. If you’re using a food processor, the whirling metal blade works so well to cut up the butter that you can get away with roughly chopping it into slabs. Once you have the food processor out (if you’re using one) and the counters all floured up, we think it’s a great idea to make as much dough as you’ll use for the next 2 months. But don’t make the mistake of doubling the recipe. Make a batch of dough, and then make it again. And again. Making dough in small batches is key. When you make crust dough in bigger batches, you have to work it more, to cut the butter into the flour and then to work the dough into a ball. Working dough is bad. Overworking dough is a crust crime.

CostInexpensive

Moderate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

Recipe Coursedessert, main course

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturebuttery, rich

Type of Dishpie, savory/pot pie, tart

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 5 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • A small glass of ice water
  • 1 9-inch tart pan (with fluted edges and removable bottom)

Instructions

Dump the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse a couple of times to make sure the salt is distributed evenly throughout the flour.

Add the butter and the shortening all at once, and pulse five to ten times, until the mixture forms little balls, like moist crumbs, and no chunks of butter or shortening remain. You must pulse, not run, the food processor. The worst thing that could happen at this stage of the crust-making game would be for the flours and fats to come together completely into a paste.

Remove the blade from the food processor, and dump the crumbs into a big bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of ice water over the surface of the crumbs. Repeat with 3 more tablespoons of ice water.

Use your hands or a wooden spoon to bring the dough together. Add more water if you have to, 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough should be just past crumbly and just barely coming together. You don’t want it to be so wet that it sticks together or turns sticky-white in color.

Cut the dough in half, press each of the halves into a disk, and wrap the disks in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.

If you are par-baking or prebaking your crust, position your oven racks so that one is in the center, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out one disk of dough to 3/8 inch thick. Fit the dough into your tart pan.

For a prepared crust, refrigerate the dough that has been fitted into a tart pan until you’re ready to use it.

For a par-baked crust, prick holes in the tart dough with the tines of a fork. Line the bed of the tart with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans. Place the tart shell on the center rack in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove the tart shell from the oven, and remove the paper and weights from the pan. Return the tart shell to the oven, and bake it for another 5 minutes, until the bed of the tart shell appears dry. Remove the tart shell from the oven, and set it on a wire rack to cool.

. For a prebaked crust, follow the instructions for the par-baked crust, but increase the second baking time to 15–18 minutes, or until the tart shell is golden brown all over.

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