How To Make Freeze-and-Bake Tart Shells

How To Make Freeze-and-Bake Tart Shells

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Tami Weiser
Apr 6, 2016
(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)

Mini tart shells are great to have on hand; they're ready to bake into a quick dessert or savory bite at the drop of a hat. This tart dough is stable, rich with butter, and designed specifically to be frozen and then baked straight from the freezer — but that's not to say you can't bake them right away. We've got you covered on all fronts.

Not Your Average Tart Dough

In order for this dough to work best for freezing and still serve many purposes, it has to be a little different than an average pie or tart dough.

Freezing creates a certain amount of humidity or moisture, which is absorbed by frozen foods over time (hello, tasteless food!), but freezing also draws moisture from the outside in (hello, freezer burn!). No matter how you look at it, freezing has a distinct effect on baked goods. To prevent compromising the texture of this freezer-based recipe, this dough has a minimal water content and is frozen before it's baked, when the freezer's harsh climate, at least for a month, is actually helpful, and not problematic.

(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)

The Double Layer

The double layer of dough around the edges of the crust ensures that the sides won’t sink in or slide down too much as the tart shell bakes (a pro baker trick!). This recipe will accommodate the double lining on the walls. Just make sure you don’t make the wall’s first layer super thick.

Bake It Now or Freeze for Later

This recipe is designed to be successful, even when frozen and baked right from the freezer, but of course you can simply take it out of the refrigerator after it's rested and chilled, and bake it off right then. See the directions for baking the unfrozen shells below.

Fill It Up

This is a versatile dough, so you can use it with sweet or savory fillings. We tend to lean toward the sweeter side and load the baked tarts shells with macerated fruit, custard, or a cream filling. Now, who isn't going to smile when they get one of these all to themselves?

How To Make Freeze-and-Bake Tart Shells

Makes 8 (4- to 4 3/4-inch) tart shells

What You Need

Ingredients
2 1/3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar, chilled
1 to 2 teaspoons ice cold vodka

Equipment
Parchment paper
8 (4- to 4 3/4-inch) tart pans with removable bottoms
Food processor fitted with a chilled metal cutting blade
Silicone spatula
Plastic wrap
Rolling pin
Pastry scraper
Small, sharp knife or kitchen shears
Pie weights or dried baking beans

Instructions

  1. Prepare the parchment paper: Cut the parchment paper into 8 (9- or 10-inch) rounds.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients: Chill your food processor’s cutting blade in the fridge for 15 minutes and fit it into the processor. Add the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder and process in 4 (1-second) pulses to fully combine.
  3. Add the butter: Add half the butter and process in 2 (1-second) pulses. Add the remaining butter, process in 3 (1-second) pulses just to combine, until it looks like wet sand with some pebbles and few small pieces of butter.
  4. Add the eggs: Add the egg yolks and process in 2 (1-second) pulses. There will be visible pieces of butter. Add the cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the vodka, and process in 1 to 2 (1-second) pulses, until the dough comes together into a raggedy, messy ball with small pieces unattached. If the ball doesn’t form at all and it’s still very crumbly, add another teaspoon of the vodka and process in 1 to 2 (1-second) pulses, being very careful at this point to avoid overmixing. It barely comes together.
  5. Form the dough into a ball: Quickly scoop the dough onto a work surface (a cold surface is best, but if yours is not cold, just avoid warm or hot!) and turn the processor bowl over to get all of the dough out, being careful of the blade. Using your cold fingertips, form into a raggedy ball.
  6. Divide and shape the dough for chilling: Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to generously wrap around 1 portion of dough. Wrap it loosely and gently pat with your fingertips into a 5-inch circle. (Be careful not to overwork or mush the dough too much because the heat of your hands and even the patting and pressing motion can melt the butter.) Cut more plastic wrap and repeat with the remaining portions of dough. Wrap the pieces tightly and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Roll out the dough: Dust the work surface lightly with a few pinches of flour. Remove 1 dough portion from the refrigerator, unwrap, place on the work surface, and dust the top with a pinch of flour. Let stand for 1 minute. With a rolling pin, roll the dough away from yourself, in one direction, to form an oval. Rotate the dough a quarter turn (a 90° angle) so that the long part of the oval faces you. If it sticks, lift that section carefully with a pastry scraper and throw a pinch of flour under it. Continue turning and rolling the dough 90° until you have a 1/8-inch-thick circle. If your tart pans are 4 3/4 inches wide, the dough should be about 7 3/4 inches wide; if your tart pans are 4 inches wide, the dough should be about be about 7 inches wide.
  8. Place the dough into a tart pan: Using the pastry scraper, gently fold the dough in half and place it in the pan, so that the fold is right in the center. Unfold the dough. Gently tuck the dough around the edge of the pan, pressing it into the ridges of the side. (Avoid stretching or pulling it and be careful not to make the walls extra thick.) Using a small, sharp knife or sharp kitchen shears, cut the overhang, leaving an edge of about 1/2 inch (the depth of the tart pan) hanging over the side. Use the extra dough to strengthen the side of the crust; fold it back into the the tart pan, pressing it gently into the side of the pan.
  9. Weigh down and refrigerate the dough: Line the tart shell with 1 piece of the prepared parchment. Fill with pie weights or dried baking beans, making sure that the weights are tucked evenly into the dough to hold it down.
  10. Repeat with the remaining dough: Roll the remaining dough portions and fit into the pans as described above. Line them with the prepared parchment and fill with weights.
  11. Chill the tart shells: Cover the weighted tart shells with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  12. Prepare the tart shells for freezing: When the last crust has been chilled for at least 30 minutes, remove all the tart pans from the refrigerator. Unwrap and, with two hands, gently lift out the parchment paper and pie weights. Save the weights for another time. Use the parchment to line each crust, tucking the paper into the inside ridges and the curves of the crust as much as possible. Rewrap in 3 layers of plastic wrap.
  13. Label and freeze the tart shells: Cut 8 pieces of masking tape, and with a permanent marker, note the date and “uncooked tart shell” and affix to each wrapped crust. Place in the freezer. They will keep for about 4 weeks for the best texture and flavor, or 6 weeks in a pinch.
  14. To cook the unfrozen shells: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the parchment paper-lined, weight-filled shells on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 4 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment paper, using the paper overhang as a handle. Bake for 3 to 5 more minutes or until lightly golden in color. Set aside to cool.
  15. To cook the frozen shells: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the frozen shells on two rimmed baking sheet. Place another 9- or 10-inch round of parchment paper or aluminum foil in each frozen tart shell, making sure there is an overhang on each side. Fill with pie weights, blind-baking beans, or rice. Bake for 4 minutes. Remove the trays from the oven, and carefully lift the weights and parchment paper, using the paper overhang as a handle. Save the weight for the next time you bake and discard the paper or foil. If the dough is puffing up, gently prick two or three times with a fork. (Don’t get crazy making holes, please.). Bake for 3 to 4 more minutes or until lightly golden in color. Set aside to cool.
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