Homemade Mini Tart Shells (How to make tartlet shells)

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Homemade Mini Tart Shells

This past weekend, I was browsing at the UTC Williams-Sonoma store, and saw a bunch of really cool baking pans and gadgets that I wanted to get.  What really caught my eye was a Tartlet Baking Set… it’s a non-stick tartlet pan (it looks like the tart version of a muffin pan) that comes with a scalloped tamper, and a scalloped round cutter for the dough circles.  I had a 20% off coupon, so I got the set for about $24 – which was a great deal!  You can buy similar pieces a la carte… but the nice thing about this set is that all the components are designed to work together… so no trial and error needed with items purchased separately!  If you have a regular wooden tamper – it works ok with tartlet shells or a separate tartlet pan – but since it doesn’t have scallops, it’s not quite as easy to use.

When making tarts – whether creating something savory or sweet – I like to start with a pre-baked tart shell.  You could fill the raw dough in the pan and then bake… but it can get messy… and because the tart shells are so shallow, your filling is likely to overcook by the time your pastry shell is completely baked.  I’ve developed a few recipes for various mini-quiches and dessert tarts that I will post very soon.

Mini Tart Baking set from Williams-Sonoma

In the mean time, I’ll explain how to make the pre-baked tart shells – these are a great starting point for so many different appetizers and desserts!  There are two methods to making tart shells that I use.  There is the proper method for rolling and cutting out the dough – and I think this method really works the best.  You will have prettier tarts, and will be able to get a large amount of tart shells from one recipe of dough.  If you are in a time pinch, and only need a few tarts – and if you don’t mind that the tart shells are a bit thicker – then you can use my lazy method for making tart shells (which is also listed below).

Tart Pastry:

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. sour cream

Hardware needed:

1.  First make the pastry.  Pulse the butter, salt, sugar, and flour in the work-bowl of a food processor until the texture of crumbs.

2.  Add the sour cream, then process until the dough comes together.  Pat the dough together into a ball and let rest for 5 minutes.

3.  There are two different ways you can make the tarts.  The lazy way (which I’ve done… and has it’s benefits…) and the proper way (which makes a larger amount of nicer looking tarts).  Instructions for both methods are here.

I’ll start with the proper method… because honestly, you’ll be able to have a nicer presentation, and will be able to make many more tarts with the dough (usually I get about 33 or 34 with one batch of dough).  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  On a floured surface, roll out your dough… somewhere between 1/8 inch thick to 1/4 inch thick.  (If it’s very hot in your kitchen, you may want to refrigerate your dough to chill it a bit before rolling.)

4.  Using the provided scalloped (round) cookie cutter, cut as many circles of dough as you can.  (You can re-roll the scraps and cut more afterwards).

5.  Place the dough rounds into the UNGREASED tartlet pan, and push down gently with your fingers so the dough is centered in the well.

6.  Dip the tamper into flour and tap the excess off.  Firmly press your tamper into the dough well, putting enough pressure in so that the dough rises up the sides to be level with the top of the pan.  (If you don’t press firmly enough, you will have REALLY small/shallow tartlet shells!)  You can move the tamper back and forth (and side to side) a little bit to make sure the dough rises evenly around the rim.

7.  Move the tamper a tiny bit side to side as you pull it out of the dough well.  Once in awhile, the dough will come out with the tamper – if so – I just gently pry it off and place the newly formed tartlet back into the well.  (Use more flour on the tamper as needed to prevent sticking.)

8.  This step is important – use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust!  (If you don’t prick the crust, it will bubble up during baking, and your tart well will be even more shallow.)  Put the tartlet shells into the oven and bake for about 12-14 minutes until light golden brown.

9.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate or rack to cool.  Rinse out the pan with cold water and dry thoroughly before reusing to make more shells with the leftover dough.  I usually end up with 33-34 total shells using this method.  You can now fill the shells with sweet or savory filling!

10.  Now for the lazy method.  I would only do this in a pinch, and if you don’t really care what the tarts look like.  Why?  Because the tart shells come out a bit uglier, and thicker – so you have less of them (I can only get about 14 tart shells using this method).  But sometimes you might want a thicker tart shell… and sometimes you might want the “rustic” look… so go for it then.  Using the same dough, take a cookie scoop, and scoop level portions of room-temperature (do not chill it!) dough.

11.  Place each dough ball into one of the tartlet depressions.  Dip the tamper in flour, then just smash it down into the center of the dough ball.

12.  Remove the tamper, and now you have a very thick tartlet shell.  Prick the bottom with a fork, then bake 15-17 minutes at 350 degrees until light golden brown.  You’ll end up with about 14 tartlet shells that you can now fill and serve.

 Now that you have tartlet shells… what do you do with them?  Try my recipes for mini tartlet desserts, or mini quiche appetizer bites!

Comments

  1. Ingrid M says:

    So cute. Looks delicious all by themselves already.

  2. Amy says:

    Hi Mika,
    How far ahead can you bake these tartlet shells? BTW, Williams-Sonoma should pay you commission. Because of your blog , I got hook into buying one of their Tartlet baking set today although I already have quite a few of tart pans (big and small) already

    • Mika Mika says:

      Hi Amy! You can probably bake the tartlet shells several days in advance… I probably wouldn’t do more than 2-3 days though. And don’t get me started on Williams-Sonoma! They hooked me and now I find myself browsing their website for all the things I want to buy… it is a really good tartlet baking set though. I’m happy I bought it!

      • Amy says:

        speaking of Williams-Sonoma website, have you look into their Philips pasta maker machine?

        • Mika Mika says:

          I just looked it up – that’s a fancy pasta machine! I think if you make pasta a lot, it could be a good value… but it is rather pricey for once in awhile use. Since I don’t make pasta that much, my $20 hand crank machine is an oldie… but it works. But being the kitchen appliance junkie that I am… now I really want the Philips!

      • kathy says:

        would it be ok to freeze the tart shells for a couple weeks beforehand and just bring out to defrost the morning of?

  3. Tara says:

    Can these be frozen unfilled?

  4. Anisah says:

    Hi Mika,

    If i cant find sour crea, what would be a gud substitute? thanks

    Its hard to find those stuff in asia :( (…

    thanks

  5. Anisah says:

    Hi Mika,

    I need your help

    I made it and it taste really gud but, why my tart shrink when i put in the oven? (i use light sour cream manage to find one online)

    does the crust suppose to become like a balloon when bake? it went down on its own after. any tips on my second trial?

    thanks

    Anisah

    • Mika Mika says:

      It’s normal for the pastry to shrink somewhat after baking. If you find that your pastry tends to puff up while baking, you need to make sure you “dock” (prick it with a fork) the pastry before baking. (Don’t forget the sides!) This will allow steam to vent, so that it doesn’t blow up your pastry like a balloon.

  6. Jennifer Jorgensen says:

    Mika,
    Such a nice job on this tutorial! I am an experienced baker,mbut I like to see what other folks are trying. You have likewise Sold me that tartlet pan! I will be waitting for a nice online sale and then adding it to my kitchen. Great advice for you or anyone else who bakes: King Aurthur Flour has been a source of great support and great products for me for years now. One of their bloggers has started putting out more and more great baking advice blogs. She did one on pastry that addresses the shrinkage thing by explaining what causes it and how to try to prevent it. She’s taught me many things at mom and grandma never thought of! Here’s a link if you’re interested. Happy baking. Jen.

    https://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/pie-crust-primer.html

  7. Bella says:

    Will you still yield 33-34 when using a mini muffin tin? Or should I double it just in case?
    HELP

    • Mika Mika says:

      Mini muffin pan depressions are a bit deeper than the Williams Sonoma tart pan. I would double the recipe just in case. You can always freeze the extra tart shells if you make too many.

  8. El kay says:

    Wanted to know if we should add sugar in the tart dough recipe even for making savoury tartlets? Usually the dough has no sugar?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Yes, I always add the sugar – even for savory tarts. It’s such a small amount of sugar… you can leave it out if you want to, but I think it helps to add some depth of flavor to the dough.

  9. El Kay says:

    I experimented with the tart shells. Turned out pretty decent but i felt they were more salty than sweet. I used half recipe. They seemed to be meant more for savoury fillings. U think i might have gone wrong somewhere?

    • Mika Mika says:

      The tart dough is not meant to be overly sweet… it is a neutral base that can go with either sweet or savory fillings. If you want to sweeten it up a bit, you can add a few more T. of sugar.

  10. charla says:

    Hi. Nice to see this recipe as I have lost an old favorite. I will try this one, with one question. I want to fill with a homemade venison mincemeat, which I usually bake in a pie. Can I fill the tart with the mincemeat before baking? Thanks!

    • Mika Mika says:

      I don’t see why not… but I’ve never made a mincemeat pie, so I am unfamiliar with the process. You can always try it as an experiment and see how it comes out?

      • charla says:

        Have you ever successfully baked these with any kind of filling in them?
        Thanks :)

        • Mika Mika says:

          Yes, I have. Keep in mind, though that these are fairly shallow tarts… and the crust may not have the same bake time as your filling. You will have to experiment with the time it takes for the crust to be done vs. the filling. If your filling bakes very quickly, you may want to pre-bake the tart dough, then fill and finish baking. I find it easier to just bake the shells ahead of time, then fill afterwards. (Cooked cheesecake filling can be mixed up to loosen, then piped into the shell in a “fancy” presentation, for example.)

  11. Baila says:

    Is there anything else I can use instead of sour cream – some people in my house cannot have dairy.

    • Mika Mika says:

      If you can’t have dairy, try substituting the butter in the recipe for margarine or butter flavored crisco. Substitute the sour cream for half margarine/crisco, then add a little bit of cold water 1 T. at a time to moisten the dough. It won’t be exactly the same, but should work out ok.

  12. Anisa Stier says:

    Can you freeze these pastry cases? Before or after baking? And how do you defrost then? Thanks x

    • Mika Mika says:

      Yes you can freeze them. I’ve never frozen them before baking, but I don’t see why you couldn’t. I have frozen them after baking (tightly wrapped in plastic) – defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using the next day.

  13. Why do you need unsalted butter then salt, why don’t you just get normal butter?

    • Mika Mika says:

      Because then it would be too much salt! You want a little bit of salt to add flavor… but if you use salted butter then your tarts will be too salty!

  14. Laura Morrissey says:

    I just made these and I poked them like you said to. And they bubbled and became greasy.

    • Mika Mika says:

      Docking the crust should help release air bubbles and help prevent the crust from puffing up… but it can still happen. Your best bet is to gently press the crust down immediately after removing from the oven. Not sure why it would become greasy though…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] shells ahead of time… it’s much easier!  For technique/instructions, see my post on how to make tartlet shells.  If you don’t have a tartlet pan, you can make do with store-bought (or home made) [...]

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