Posts Tagged ‘tarts’

Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Blind Baking

May 30, 2017

Sometimes, we want to bake our pie or tart crusts before filling them. This can be done when you want to use a no-bake filling, one that is cooked on the stovetop, or to partially bake the crust if the filling is one which bakes faster than the crust. This process is referred to as “blind baking.”

To blind bake a crust, line it with aluminum foil or parchment paper, being sure to get the paper into the edges. Fill the lined crust with pie weights*, and bake covered for about 12-20 minutes, depending on the recipe and the oven temperature.

Once the crust has started to harden a bit and become less pliable, it is safe to carefully remove the lining and weights, and place the tart back into the oven to brown.

The concept of baking the crust this way is to emulate the weight and density of the absent filling, thus helping it hold it’s shape and prevent extreme shrinkage.

I generally trim the tart crust before blind baking, but last night, I was watching the contestants on the Great British Baking Show make cream filled tarts. Most of them left the dough untrimmed and hanging over the edges of the pan, and then trimmed it after it was baked. This accounted for shrinkage, and ensured that the crust came up to the top of the pan evenly each time. While some of theirs had a bit of a raggedy edge after baking, I found that trimming it after the first bake is a nice compromise, as the dough is softer and easier to trim without cracking and crumbling. This could work for a tart that is baked with the filling as well, just pulling it out part way in for the trim, and then placing it back in the oven to finish baking.

Be extra gentle when taking a blind baked tart from the ring…it tends to be more delicate than it’s filling baked counterparts.

*I use dried beans as weights, but rice or other grains that won’t burn or pop are also fine. You can purchase commercially made pie weights for this purpose at kitchen stores as well. I keep my beans and reuse them for this purpose only.

photos: Spencer Jones |Glasshouse Images

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Just Tarting Around

July 20, 2016

Last Saturday, I hosted a tart making class, through a wonderful new site called Keenobby. Keenobby offers an array of classes and experiences with their elite group of “expertainers.”

My class, held in my own kitchen, focused on the tips, tricks and techniques for making delicous, and visually stunning tarts. The five students, none of whom had ever made tarts before, embarked on an afternoon of rolling, cutting, filling and baking their creations. The outcome was impressive, with my students giving me a run for my money! Check out some of the photos from the day, and see their masterpieces for yourself…

To view available classes, visit Keenobby. To request a class in tart making, or any other type of cooking and baking, leave a comment below.


Preparing the apples for apple filling

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 4.10.16 PM

The dough making demo


This is how we roll


Tart artists braiding and cutting shapes for upper crusts


dough scraps


Apple tart, headed to the oven. Impressive braid work for a first timer!



Rectangles and minis with leaves and lattice

Pie art ready for the oven

Tart- art… ready for the oven


Fully baked ideas!

A proud baker presenting his tart

A proud baker presenting his tart


My bluberry demo tart



My apple mini tart ready to bake

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Kitchen Tips Tuesday: Removable Pans

February 9, 2016


I use a lot of removable bottom pans; mostly tart pans, where the sides consist of a ring that detaches from the disk on the bottom. Everytime I try to remove them, I end up burning my forearm, and wearing the ring like an oversized, cheap bracelet. There has to be a better way. And there is!

The contestants on the Great British Baking Show employ a genius trick that falls into the “why didn’t I think of that?” category to get the sides separated from the bottom of the pan.

They set the whole tart on top of a can, and let the ring fall to the bottom, where it easily removed. An inverted heavy glass or mug might also do the trick.

great-british-baking-showIf you haven’t already developed a fondness for the show, add it to your Netflix cue today. It is charmingly addictive, and highly educational for the home baker.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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The Great Gluten Free Tart Off

January 28, 2016

I often get asked for gluten free baked goods. I have a few in my repertoire that simply don’t require any flour at all, and one that uses so little, it can easily be replaced with a gluten free option. This weekend, since we were pretty much snowed in here on the east coast, it seemed as good a time as any to experiment with one of the gluten free flour blends that have cropped up in the marketplace. Touted as being a cup for cup replacement, I picked up Trader Joe’s blend of rice flours, enhanced with potato starch and tapioca flour.


I made a basic tart crust, using one stick of butter, a pinch each of salt and sugar, a cup of flour and some filtered water. The good news: The dough came together beautifully, and had a silky texture to it. The not so good news: I found it almost impossible to work with.
I rolled it on a sheet of wax paper, which had been floured, and rolled it with a floured rolling pin. When I went to transfer it to the tart pan, it was completely stuck to the paper. Subsequent chilling, flouring and re-rolling didn’t seem to help. The only time I could get any significant portion off the paper was when I chilled it so much that it wasn’t pliable enough to put into the pan. I used a section of this, and “pinch potted” the rest. Not the most beautiful crust but there is still hope that when it is filled and baked it will recover.

I also made a classic crust using conventional flour, and  put them in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly before baking.


Once filled, they looked almost identical going into the oven.

The conventional flour tart browned more quickly and more evenly than the gluten free crust, even though I rotated the pan mid-baking. The noticably more profound difference was suprisingly in the filling. The gluten free filling seemed dry, with bits of the flour sticking to some of the apples, while the conventional tart had an evenly dispersed thick, juicy filling with large chunks of apples. It seems that the gluten free flour used as a thickener in the filling absorbed, rather than thickened the natural apple juices. If that is the only issue, it can be rectified with corn starch instead of gluten free flour next time.


Both got a drizzle of caramel, and were left to  cool a bit before the big taste testing.

The outcome: The gluten free tart was a bit crumbly. The texture of the crust was sandy, as opposed to the regular crust, which was flakey. It came out of the oven with a few cracks in it.

One tester stated: “the first crust looks flakey, but the second one tastes flakey.

Another felt the gluten free crust was more like a cookie crust, and remarked that it “turned to powder ” when eaten.

I felt as though I could taste “flour”in the gluten free crust, vs. the taste of butter in the conventional crust.

Despite the textural differences, the testers liked both tarts, yet at the end, both preferred the conventional version. They felt that if they only had the gluten free tart, they would have been ok with it, but when compared to the regular tart, it fell short.
The final verdict: Okay, but not great. I might try it again with a shortbread crust, rather than a rolled traditional pate brisee and see how it goes.
I will give the flour another chance, trying it in muffins or a cake, where it might be more successful. Even with a flour mixture that is developed to be a cup for cup replacement to conventional wheat flour, the results prove that they are not apples to apples comparable.

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Unrecipe of the Week: Countdown to Thanksgiving

November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner always ends with pies and tarts at our house, and every great pie starts with the crust.
Many people find making piecrusts intimidating, but with a few tips and a little skill, they can be executed flawlessly every time.

Start with a simple recipe, and use good quality ingredients. Look for pure unsalted sweet cream butter, and consider splurging on French or Irish butters, like Kerrygold or President.

While many recipes call for mixing the dough by hand, it is quicker, easier and more consistent to use the food processor. It will literally mix the ingredients and roll it into a ball for you. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Most recipes also call for the dough to be chilled for at least an hour or two before rolling. While the dough should be cold, I find if it gets too cold it is more difficult to roll it out.  Use cold butter and ice water, to keep it as cold as possible while mixing it.

Roll the dough on a large clean dishcloth, or a piece of parchment or wax paper, instead of directly on the countertop. That way, once it is rolled to the desired size and thickness, the towel or paper can be lightly folded with the dough on it, gently laid into the pan (cloth side up) and the cloth can be easily removed. If you are using paper, wipe the surface down with a damp cloth first, so the paper doesn’t shift. Be sure to flour the cloth and the surface.

Handle the dough as little as possible. The more it is worked, the tougher it will become. For delicate dough, try to roll it out only once, if possible. If you need to roll it a second time, it will still be delicious…don’t worry!

If the dough tears, or there are areas that didn’t quite get filled, use the scraps to repair it. Just brush a little water onto the part of the dough being mended so it forms a bit of “glue” to help the added piece stick.

Here is a recipe for Pate Brisee (basic pie crust) that can be used with any filling:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) of cold butter cut into pieces

About 4 tablespoons of ice water

Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process with an on/off motion until the texture resembles a coarse meal. Do not overwork the dough!

If you do not have a food processor, use 2 knives or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the other ingredients.

With the machine running, add the ice water a little at a time until the dough comes together. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it seems dry or crumbly, add a little more water. The trick is to have the dough reach the desired consistency, using the recipe as a guideline.

Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, but not hard. As little as 15 minutes might do it.

If you need to do this in advance and roll it later, let it sit outside of the refrigerator for a few minutes until it is still cold, but pliable.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface (with a cloth or paper on it that is also lightly floured) until it is about 1/8” thick. Place it into the pie pan or tart pan.

If you are making a tart, roll your rolling pin across the top of the pan to trim off the excess. If you are making a pie, use a paring knife to trim the excess and crimp the sides or score with the tines of a fork.

Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough, to allow the steam to escape during baking.

Chill the crust until ready to use, fill it with your favorite filling, bake and enjoy!

photos: Glasshouse Images

Upper Crust

July 15, 2009


Summer tarts are a perfect ending to a great meal. While they are simple to make, adding a creative touch makes them special and personal. I love to cut freeform leaves and berries to top my blueberry tart, instead of the standard latticework. Try your own variation, using flowers, stars or other shapes to create an interesting and delicious tart topper that is truly “upper crust”.

Shari’s blueberry tart:
Pate brisee:
2 sticks of butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups of flour
a generous pinch of salt and sugar
Put ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until mixed.
With the motor running, add ice cold water, a tablespoon at a time until it forms a dough. ( usually about 4-5 tbs or so).
Gather the dough into a ball,wrap in plastic, and chill briefly before rolling.
Most people suggest chilling the dough for a longer period of time. I find it gets too hard, and prefer to roll it when it is cold, but hasn’t started to firm up yet.
I always roll on wax paper that is floured, so I can lift the crust up easily and just peel the paper away.

For the top crust, roll the dough out, and cut shapes as desired. While I like to create these by hand, you can also use small cookie cutters to get a similar and more uniform effect. Chill motifs as you go, as those small pieces will be easier to arrange when they are a bit firmer.

3 pints of blueberries
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of flour
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Mix ingredients. Fill the bottom crust with fruit mixture.
Arrange topping elements artfully. Brush with an egg/water mixture and bake @400 for about 50 minutes until the crust is brown and the fruit is bubbling.
Be sure to set the tart on a cookie sheet as it is likely to run over a bit.
Let it cool before removing from pan
Did you create a unique “upper crust”? Share it with us!

photo:SpencerJones/Glasshouse Images

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