Sweet-Crust Tart Shell

Yield: one 9-inch tart shell
Recipe: 3/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 104

   The next recipe on my to-do list was the classic fruit flan. Inevitably, to do so I first had to make the sweet-crust tart shell required. Probably due to the fact that the first pie dough I made (the Double-Crust Pie Dough) was very easy to do and turned out beautifully, I assumed that this time would be just as easy. I don’t know if it is because I was pressed for time and did not wait as long as I could have between the various steps, but I had quite some difficulties with this dough. The dough did however come together well and I had no problems shaping it into a disk to chill.

    Problems arose when I decided to just wait the suggested 2 hours to let the dough firm up. It was late at night and I was trying to finish this tart shell as fast as possible so that I could bake the tart. I knew that the dough was not quite firm enough when I took it out of the fridge, but as I mentioned I was pressed for time so I kneaded it and rolled it anyways. What a terrible decision. When I was kneading it the dough was cracking and not holding its form. I moved along anyway and managed to roll it as thin as necessary. The main problem occurred when I lifted the dough to line the tart pan. The pastry dough was tearing at many places and was falling to pieces. I somehow managed to mould the dough into the tart pan and fit pieces that were cracking or tearing here and there. At this point I had to chill the tart shell in the fridge or in the freezer.

    Being on the express lane I opted for the freezer method with a shorter waiting period. I docked the shell and baked it for 18 minutes. When I took it out of the oven, the pastry dough had formed a big dome in the middle of the pan and was uneven in many places! I guess I am not used to docking pie and tart shells, because that should have prevented the doming effect I observed. I think  my mistake was that I put the tart shell in the freezer to chill, so the dough was a bit harder than it was initially. Hence, I probably did not press hard enough with my fork, thus not actually forming holes in the dough and consequently leading to the undesired dome. Fortunately, I managed to fix the situation by pressing down gently on the elevated dough and then waiting before filling it.

    Albeit I came across many problems while attempting to do this recipe, I realize that it was my own fault. I have learned a valuable lesson with this recipe: do not rush baking! Disaster will ensue. Notwithstanding the various problems that occurred, in the end the tart shell came out great and tasted very good. It has a characteristic sweet taste required for some desserts but is not too overly sweet. I will undoubtedly try this recipe again, making sure to take my time. Up next: the classic fruit flan!


  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Stir in the egg yolks and vanilla.
  3. Add the flour and salt and combine with a stand or hand mixer until the dough comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, until firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a lightly floured surface, knead the pastry dough lightly to soften it enough so that it can be rolled. Dust the dough with some flour and roll it out to about 11 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch in thickness. Line a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with the rolled dough. Chill the pastry for 20 minutes in the fridge or 10 minutes in the freezer.
  5. Place the chilled tart pan on a baking tray. Dock the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork and bake the pastry for 16-20 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Cool completely before filling.

Notes from Anna:

  • Fill the pie shell soon after baking because it is fragile when not filled.
  • The shell can be chilled for 3 days or frozen for 3 months prior to baking.
  • It is essential to dock the shell with a fork (i.e. make holes in the pastry at regular intervals using a fork) to allow for any air to escape through the holes so that there is no formation of a dome in the middle of the crust.
  • Trimming the edges of the crust is most easily accomplished by rolling the rolling pin along the top of the tart pan.