When I started with tarts, tartlets, quiches, I always thought it was too much of a hassle to prepare my own pastry dough so I bought ready-made frozen dough. Over time and after the first attempt, I instantly realised how foolish I had been. Believe me, it's so much easier, even faster, to do home than seeking around for a pre-made (not easy to find a good one), and can be done with 4 simple ingredients: flour, butter, egg, water plus a couple more additions to fine-tune it, but not necessarily mandatory. No yeast, no rising, no special kneading technique, no reasons to fail.
I have to admit making your own dough and baking is chemistry so you have to accept a couple of failures as first-timer. My suggestion is to use twice the quantities of this recipe to keep a spare dough for the first time you attempt. You don't have to be a baker, just need to spare a couple of doughs and some time to basically see how your oven bakes your dough. Quite often there are variations on how different oven brands bake so you have to tweak the temperatures and levels until you get the perfect bake. Another point of failure can be the soggy base, I am also still perfecting my base baking.
Rest assured following my steps and techniques below you'll bake a great crust pain-free and with a minimum possibility of failure. Keep the extra dough though, just in case ;-)
One thing is for sure, tarts are DELICIOUS, VERSATILE as they can accommodate savoury or sweet content, KIDS AND GROWN-UPS LOVE them and they are IMPRESSIVE when served. It's worth giving it a try.
Here we go...
Step 1: Gear Up
Equipment you'll need:
A big mixing bowl,
A couple of small bowls to measure butter and olive oil,
A rolling pin,
An electric mixer with dough hooks, but this is optional as you can work the dough with hands too.
Foil or baking paper.
It's really important to get high-quality butter and whatever else is required (like in my version, olive oil). I also like flour blends to give some nutty tones, but a simple 200g (a little less than 2 cups) of plain flour works perfectly too.
Measure the following quantities:
100g Plain flour
100g Other tasty flour (Buckwheat or Spelt)
60g Unsalted butter, room temperature, diced
1 Small egg (if big, just use the yolk)
4 tbsp Cold Water (around 80ml)
20 ml Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
40g grated Parmesan (optional)
1 tsp Poppy seeds (optional)
Pinch of salt/pinch of pepper or nutmeg
Step 2: Timings
The quick way (without overnight dough chilling) estimates a 1h 30m in total for the crust preparation which splits as follows:
10-15 minutes to mix ingredients and prepare the dough
1 hour in the fridge to allow the dough firm up.
20 min to bring the dough down to room temperature before you work it.
Ideally, you better prepare the dough the night before baking and chill overnight (see step 4).
Step 3: Make the Dough
Whisk the flour with the parmesan (if using) and salt in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like crumble:
Using the electric mixer with the dough hooks (or your hands in absence of mixer) add the poppy seeds (if using) the egg and the olive oil and start beating and adding gradually the cold water until it becomes a rough dough. If it's too soggy or very sticky you've probably poured more water than needed. Add some more flour and re-work it.
Step 4: Refrigerate
Remove from bowl, and press the dough gently with your hands to form a ball. Don't over-knead it, just form a small ball. The less you work the dough the lighter the texture will be. In the end, the dough should feel light, airy and soft which means you have achieved the desired consistency. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour or preferably overnight. The basic rule of thumb is: the more you chill the dough, the better consistency you achieve. I usually prepare it the night before and refrigerate it overnight.
Step 5: Prepare for Rolling
Take the dough out of the fridge 20 minutes before you start baking. This will bring the dough down to near room temperature so it will be easier to work and roll it.
Preheat the oven to 180c (160c) fan.
Step 6: Roll and lay
On a lightly flour-dusted surface, use your rolling pin and spread the dough to around 2-3mm thick and a little wider than your tin's diameter. Roll the pastry up around the rolling pin, and then carefully unroll it to cover your tart tin.
Gently press the pastry into the tin moulding it to the tin as you go round. If you really like tarts, get a non-stick tart tin with holes and a removable loose bottom, see the recommended product at the end of this post. Don’t worry if it breaks, you may patch up any holes with spare pastry
Cut the remaining edges along the rim of the tin and use the spare pastry to patch up any hole in the tin or use it to reinforce the sides. With a fork, drill some holes across the base.
Step 7: Blind Bake
Blind baking is the process of baking the crust without any filling and covered with parchment paper or foil. It is an important procedure as the baking time with the filling is not enough to create a crunchy crust and you might end up with a soggy base. Also, you will need to press down the paper using some weights as the base might bubble up (fats are expanding when baked).
Lay the foil (or baking paper) on top of your tin and press down around the circumference. Add the weights (I used rice, but use whatever is available, beans or even little pebbles will do) and bake for around 20 mins at 160c fan.
Every oven is different so this time may vary. I suggest keeping an eye every now and then.
Step 8: Re-bake
Remove from oven and lift the weights off the tin. Covered baking will create steam and your base will look soggy when you lift the weights (photo)
The solution to this is to re-bake.
Put it back in the oven uncovered and bake for another 5 minutes or until properly baked. If bubbles are formed during re-baking, pierce them with a fork. Keep a close eye on this crucial re-bake for 5 minutes. Do not bake more than 25-30 min (in total) as the crust will be baked again later on with the filling.
In this section, you will find the products I have been using with this recipe with links straight to Amazon so that you can start filling your shopping cart straight away. Please deactivate your ad-blocker to view the product links
Anti-Stick Tart Tin with removable base: I totally suggest buying a non-stick tart tin with holes and a removable loose bottom which makes the crust so crispy and easier to detach and serve. I recommend this Kitchen Kraft product from Amazon which ticks all the boxes and I have been using it for ages which exactly proves its durability and quality. Alternatively, the quantities also yield for 6 small tartlet bases. I also recommend going for removable bases.
Cretan Olive Oil: Undoubtedly one of the 'virginiest' (so to speak) Olive Oils in the world. Be it the Cretan climate, the skills of Cretans delivering exceptional extra virgin oil over the centuries, be it both, this is one olive oil you should be buying when ordering online. During my visits to Greece, I used to bring a 3L pack of Cretan oil over to the UK but I stopped as soon as I realised how good Amazon's price is (not to mention the space I saved in my luggage)! I use this oil for all my recipes, savoury or desserts.
Patisserie kitchen tools: There are some tools that every self-respect baker should own. I strongly recommend a rolling pin with a revolving centre axis to take the strain away from your palms:
And for those who haven't yet invested into a digital kitchen scale, I would suggest doing so. You can certainly go for the cheap stuff, but I would recommend not wasting your money to cheap devices (like I did) and ending up buying the good stuff eventually, regretting not having done so earlier. Scales range from 5Lb up to more expensive 20lb but I reckon you'd be fine with a 5-6Lb for your kitchen weightings. Otherwise, it is essential to get dry ingredients measuring tin or the OXO measuring jug for everything. I have been using OXO products for years and I can guarantee these are the best quality household products out there, so you will see a lot in my recommendations.