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Mama_Cakes's avatar

Tips on making a good tart crust?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (9822points) August 26th, 2012

I’m going to get this wonderful recipe for Butter Tarts from my sister-in-law. It was her Mom’s. I’ve had them before and they’re one best tarts that I’ve ever had. I don’t bake all that often, so this’ll be a test.

I’d be willing to share the recipe, if anyone is interested.

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13 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Butter has to be cold; use a food processor and only process until the mixture of flour and butter produces pea-sized morsels rather than homogenous stuff. That means working fast. and not lingering to admire your handiwork.

Illustrations here, mid-page and tips for quick kneeding.

creative1's avatar

Please share this recipe I would love to try them… unfortunately I have never made them myself but if its anything like pie crust you don’t want to over kneed your dough… I do my pie crusts with butter and start them out in the food processor however you don’t want to over run it because then it will over process the dough. The best way I found is to just pulse it a few times until most of the butter is broken up and partially mixed with the flour then do the rest by kneeding the dough with your hands.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Once I get the recipe, I’ll post it.

The crust was so good when I had them. And they were awfully runny, which made even more enjoyable.

thorninmud's avatar

Ideally, a tart crust should be made with a “pastry flour”, but that’s damned hard to find these days. All-purpose will make a tougher crust; cake flour won’t be cohesive enough. I use White Lilly (says “all-purpose”, but it’s actually milled from soft winter wheat), but you may not find that in Canada. Alternatively, you can use ⅔ all-purpose, ⅓ cake.

Working the butter into the flour is a crucial step. You want the flour granules to get coated with fat so the crust will bake up “short” (meaning that it crumbles easily), but you want the occasional little lump of butter in there too, as this will contribute to a layered, flaky structure. These goals are at odds. If you process it only to the point where there are still lumps, then it’s unlikely that the flour has been well coated; if the flour is well-coated, chances are there will be no more lumps. You can get around this by processing in ⅔ of the butter thoroughly (no lumps), then adding the remaining ⅓ and processing it just until the lumps are pea-sized.

The caution against overworking tart dough only applies to mixing after the liquid (water, milk or egg) has been added. This is when you risk over-activating the gluten and making the crust tough. So I mix in the liquid by hand, not in the processor. Transfer the flour/butter mix to a bowl, make a crater in the center of the flour, pour all of the liquid in the crater, then very quickly stir it all together with spatula. The faster that mix gets made, the better. When the whole mess comes together in a lump, stop mixing.

Pat the lump out into a flattened disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and bung it into the fridge. Let it chill there for an hour or so. It will be pretty stiff when you take it out to roll it, so you may need to whack it repeatedly and firmly with the rolling pin to get it supple enough to roll. Roll it on a wood surface.

When it’s the desired thickness, transfer the sheet of dough to a sheet and chill it again before cutting and putting it in the tart molds. Then chill the lined molds before baking, too. All this chilling will keep the dough from shrinking so much during baking, and will keep the crust tender.

gailcalled's avatar

It’s the “whacking” part that I find appealing…one way of releasing aggression.

thorninmud's avatar

It can be marvelously therapeutic

gailcalled's avatar

I use my large wooden French rolling pin now only to change walnut halves to crumbled bits.

thorninmud's avatar

It’s hard to whack properly with an American pin. You risk busting the handles, and the girth of the pin is to big to grasp confidently. I have a rare old French pin made of boxwood that has a very satisfying heft to it; perfect for disciplining the most recalcitrant doughs.

Tachys's avatar

Use vodka instead of water. It makes great crusts.

susanc's avatar

When you come right down to it, even more important than the French boxwood rolling pin, the vodka, the whacking, and the chilled butter is the part where you bung it into the fridge. Bung it!

creative1's avatar

Still awaiting this recipe… PLEASE Share!

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Right! I’ll get on that tomorrow. :)

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Sorry, way late.

Butter tarts


1½ c. flour
2 tsp. vinegar in ½ c. milk
1 c. Crisco shortening
1 tsp. salt

Mix flour, salt and shortening until well mixed. Add milk mixture and mis well. This will be very sticky but don’t add any more flour just use lots of flour to roll out and on your hands and rolling pin. This should make about 22 or so tart shells depending on how thin you like the crust.


2 c. brown sugar
½ lb melted butter
2 eggs
vanilla (about 1½ tsp.)

Beat eggs. Add sugar, butter and vanilla and mix well. Drop a few raisins into bottom of each uncooked tart shell then fill about ¾ with filling. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.

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