In general, tarts are baked goods that consist of a pastry base and are filled with something sweet or savory.
Most tarts these days are on the sweet side, such as lemon meringue tarts and Portuguese egg tarts. However, some types of savory tarts like the quiche are also commonly found in bakeries and cafes.
Enjoying some store-bought tarts is one of life's simple pleasures, but the thought of trying to bake a tart yourself might seem like a daunting task, especially if you’ve only tried making cookies and brownies.
If you are looking to try making tarts but don't know where to start, this introduction to making tarts will bring you through the types of tarts, blind baking, and tools you'll need to get started.
So how is a tart made?
A tart is generally made by making each component separately, and then assembled after.
The first step is usually to create the crust. This crust is then filled with your choice of filling, with some fillings being baked together with the crust, or simply left to chill.
Types of tarts
Hundreds of tart varieties exist around the world. They can be sweet or savoury, and they also vary in size and filling.
Here are some of the most common types of tarts, classified based on their fillings.
Although their fillings vary, these tarts have something in common. Most tart crusts are made using shortcrust pastry, where the amount of fat is half the flour used in the recipe.
Custard tarts are the type of tarts baked together with an uncooked or partially cooked custard mixture.
The custard filling is typically light and delicate, and this texture is maintained by baking using a relatively low temperature or stirring while it's being cooked.
Our favourite type of custard tart is probably the Portuguese egg tarts, but there are other types of delicious custard tarts, including the pumpkin pie.
Fruit tarts are filled with either fresh or preserved fruits.
There are countless fruit combinations used to make them, and they're usually named based on the fruit contained.
Some of the most popular fruit tarts are cherry tart, tarte tatin (French-style apple pie), and lemon meringue pie.
Sweet tarts are considered desserts, but we typically enjoy savoury tarts for brunch or whenever we want something light for a meal.
Most savoury tarts are made with eggs, meat, vegetables, and other ingredients that constitute a complete meal. One good example is the quiche, which is commonly sold at bakeries and cafes in Singapore.
How to Blind Bake, and Why It Is Important
Blind baking, or also known as the pre-baking step, is the process when we bake a tart crust without the filling.
The blind baking step is important in making any kind of tart, since most tart fillings do not require as much baking time as the crust.
This step is essential in preventing the filling from soaking into the crust and making it soggy.
The most common way to blind bake is by using something called “baking beans”, which are small spheres typically made from ceramic.
They ensure that enough pressure is exerted on the pie base, which helps to avoid an unsightly puffy crust. However, you can also use rice or dried beans if you don’t have any baking beans on hand.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
There are two common ways to blind bake:
1. Weighing down with baking beans, rice, or dried beans
This is the most foolproof way of blind baking.
When the tart crust dough is being chilled, start preheating your oven. After the desired oven temperature is reached, cover the tart’s surface entirely using parchment paper.
Scatter the weights until it entirely covers the tart crust’s base (the circle part), then bake according to the recipe’s direction or until it turns slightly brown. Let cool before proceeding with the following steps.
2. Pricking the tart base’s surface using a fork (Docking)
The holes you create all over the surface will allow steam to escape from the base of the pan, which prevents the tart base from puffing up.
This is quicker than using pie weights and it doesn’t require additional tools, but there’s a chance of the tart filling seeping into the crust through the holes, resulting in a soggy crust.
Pro-Tip: Depending on the kind of tarts you're making, you can coat the base of your baked crust with a thin layer of melted chocolate to prevent the crust from getting soggy!
Tart Baking Tips
1. Use cold butter
There are many different types of tart crusts recipes—some require you to rub the butter into the dry mixture, while some require you to cream softened butter with sugar.
If you’re doing the rubbing method, always remember to use cold butter.
Cold butter will yield a crisp and flaky crust, while using butter at higher temperatures will make your crust turn out soft and soggy.
A good hack is to cut slightly softened butter into small cubes, refrigerate it, then combine it with the flour mixture once it’s chilled.
Since it might be difficult to incorporate hard, cold butter into the flour mixture, use a pastry cutter to do this step easily and quickly.
You can also do it by hand, but be sure to finish as quickly as you can. Watch this video to learn how to do it!
2. Use perforated tart rings
Both perforated and non-perforated tart rings are available, but we suggest using perforated tart rings for better results if you are not using a tart pan.
The perforations will allow steam to escape while you're baking the tart crusts, which prevents them from building up between your tart rings and tart dough, forming uneven tart crusts.
If you use non-perforated rings, steam might get trapped and make the base of your tart crusts soggy.
3. Don’t add too much liquid to the dough.
When you find cold water or milk listed as one of the ingredients in a tart crust recipe, its role is only to bring the dough together.
This step helps to ensure the dough is moist enough to be flattened and shaped later.
Adding too much liquid to your dough will only make it too soft, which won’t give you a flaky and crispy crust.
4. Roll the dough properly.
Start by lightly flouring your work surface. Avoid adding too much flour at once, since it’ll get incorporated into your dough and toughen it.
It’s best to use a straight rolling pin which will give the same amount of pressure throughout the dough’s surface, so the thickness of the tart crust won’t vary too much.
Watch your dough closely while it gets thinner—if it starts cracking too much, it’s still too cold. Leave it for about a minute, then start rolling again.
5. Chill the dough before baking.
Think of your tart crust as a giant cookie. Just like a cookie, chilling the dough before baking will help it maintain its shape until it’s done.
This also ensures that your butter stays cold, so that when you bake the tart crust, the butter is able to melt and release steam, creating air pockets that result in crisp and flaky layers.
6. Preheating the oven is a must.
Ensuring that the oven’s temperature is hot enough to bake your tart crust is also an important thing to remember.
Make sure it has reached the temperature suggested in the recipe before you put the dough in, or it won’t be properly baked.
Refrain from opening the oven door too much during the baking, as this will rapidly cool down the inside of your oven, affecting the baking.
Tart baking tools
1. Tart pan with removable bottom
A full-sized tart pan is a necessity to make big, round tarts that will be divided into slices before serving.
Although regular tart pans aren’t bad at all, removing a tart from a regular tart pan is tricky, and there’s always a risk of some parts sticking to the bottom of the pan if it doesn’t have a removable bottom.
Using a tart pan with a removable bottom will help greatly in transferring your tarts onto a serving dish without any worry of it breaking apart.
2. Tart rings
Another tool you can use to bake tarts are tart rings.
Simply put the tart rings on your sheet pan, line them with the tart crust dough, and bake them as usual.
They're usually smaller than specialized tart pans, so several tarts can be baked at once.
Our perforated tart rings have holes (perforations) in them to ensure that the steam gets released through the holes for an even crust all around, helping you achieve perfectly-baked tart crusts every time.
3. Rolling pin
It's difficult to create a tart crust with an even thickness without using a rolling pin, so invest in a good one.
A rod-type (or straight) rolling pin is best for making tart crusts. Even better, choose one with a weighted material like marble.
Refrigerating your rolling pin before working it on the tart dough also helps your dough stay cool, especially in Singapore’s heat and humidity.
4. Pastry blender
For tart doughs which require the rubbing of butter, incorporating cold butter into flour mixture should be done quickly to create the desired crumbly, sand-like texture.
Taking too long to do this step will increase the temperature of the butter, which will give you a dough that’s too soft.
A pastry blender helps to cut butter into the flour if you don’t want to get your hands dirty!
5. Baking beans
These small, weighted spheres aren’t really something you have to own, but if you feel that they’ll help you in making tarts, getting a set wouldn’t hurt. They’ll pretty much guarantee that your tarts will not puff up in the oven.
Tart Baking For Beginners
Trying to bake a new type of pastry for the very first time might be scary, but with the right tools, some research, and a good recipe, anybody can come up with beautiful tarts. As with all baking, practice makes perfect! If your tarts don’t turn out the way you want to, do some research on the possible causes of the problems, and try again.