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.
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).
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 c. flour
- 1/4 c. sour cream
- Williams-Sonoma Tartlet Baking Set or
- Tartlette Shell Pan + Tart Tamper + round cookie cutter (slightly larger than diameter of of the tart shell depression)
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.