I’ve always turned to the pie and tart crust recipes from Jim Dodge’s baking books. He gave them to our family before I learned how to drive, and I’ve been loyal to them ever since. First experiments were shaky, but consequent efforts paid off. I’ve made so many fruit pies that I’ve committed Jim’s piecrust to memory. The tart crust, though, I’ve only used a couple of times.
The strawberry tart recipe from Craig Claiborne’s New York Times Cookbook needed a tart shell, so I reached for the family copy of Baking with Jim Dodge. What’s great about the book is that it gives you three options for cutting (mixing) the butter into the dough: by hand, using a mixer, and using a food processor. The key is ensuring that all of the ingredients, even the flour, are cold.
I’ve always done this step by hand when making pies, but I was short on time and decided to make the dough in the mixer, which was already plugged in on the counter. It worked beautifully, and when it comes time to make another tart, I’m more likely to do it in the mixer or food processor. (Tart shells bake better when they are uniform while piecrusts benefit from irregular butter pieces—they’re flakier this way.) I only needed one crust for the strawberry tart, but I made two and froze the second half.
Whether I’m making piecrusts or tart shells, I favor salted butter. I like the flavor that extra salt delivers to the dough. But the recipe also can be made with unsalted butter—no harm done.
Adapted from Baking with Jim Dodge, by Jim Dodge with Elaine Ratner (Simon & Schuster, 1991)
Makes 2 tart shells
8 tablespoons butter, cubed and chilled
2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons heavy cream or whole milk
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the butter, sugar, salt, and flour on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter has been broken into small pieces. Drizzle in the cream and mix until the dough comes together.
2. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and gently knead a couple of times to bring the dough together. Roll into a cylinder and then slice in half crosswise. Pat the into 4-inch disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least 20 minutes.
3. Unwrap one of the disks and roll out on a floured surface into a 13-inch circle. Drape the dough into a 9- or 10-inch tart pan. Fold the edges in so the tart has double-thick sides, then press the sides into the tart pan. Trim off the excess dough with a paring knife, then refrigerate for 20 minutes.
4. To prebake the tart shell for fruit tarts, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover the entire tart with aluminum foil, pressing the foil lightly into the base of the crust. Pierce the entire bottom of the crust with a fork. Bake until the crust is light golden and partially done, about 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and bake until the crust is evenly golden brown, about 20 minutes.