Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Lining tart shells can be an arduous task if you cannot find the way to do it right. I have come to realise that knowing how to line tart shells does not come as second nature. Without the right guidance and instructions, the procedures can seem like a dreadful job.
I LOVE lining tart shells!, or "Le fonçage de pâte" if you feel like making the job sound a little fancier. The love stem from my apprenticeship days when my chef puts me in a corner and told me to stay there and keep lining individual tart shells. I didn't quite get it at first but with great and quality tutelage, he made the job almost seem like a prestigious and a prideful ambition if you can have the perfect corners and sharp edges at the base with little effort. And so I immerse myself with the challenge, even after I left my apprenticeship and went on to take on another role, tart linings never left me. I guess whatever you do , it all really comes down to how passionate you are in getting the job done well.
When I am making tarts at home, I relax the protocols for always wanting to challenge myself to be better each time. Some fold on the tart edges or thicker crust do not bother me as much anymore. I think if you are baking for yourself and friends, it shouldn't be like a competition but to purely enjoy the moment to reminisce what I have learnt through the years. However, on a professional level, I never stop wanting to do better, which is why I love to share what I do just purely to hopefully inspire someone like many great pastry chefs have inspired me.
So, here are some pointers to lining a perfect tart shells. In this post, I will be going through the steps to lining 7 cm in diameter individual tart rings, a small step to greater and larger tarts later. :)
1. Rest tart dough in fridge as often as necessary
One of the rule #101 in tart dough is resting. Resting is not only important to prevent shrinkage, it also helps make handling a lot easier without it melting away on your hands. Due to its high percentage of butter (fat), it can be quite difficult to handle whenever the dough is too soft.
So, the best tip is, once the tart dough is ready, slightly flatten it, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour. I usually made my tart dough a day ahead from when I needed them. Once the dough have rested, remove from the fridge to slightly come to cool room temperature for easy rolling. If you roll it while it is still solid cold, there is a high tendency of the dough cracking.
When the dough have been rolled out to the desired thickness (I usually have mine between 3 mm to 5 mm), place it between papers or in to a tray wrapped in cling film, and leave in fridge for at least 20 minutes for its second rest.
When the rolled out pastry have rested, remove it from the fridge, cut desired size individual disc with a cookie cutter. For a 7 cm in diameter ring, I used an 8.5 cm ring cutter. Once all individual discs have been cut out, remove the scraps, place the pastry discs back on to a tray with baking paper underneath making sure the disc are not over lapping on each other to avoid sticking. Wrap the tray and place back in to the fridge to rest for another 20 minutes. You can do this step a day ahead and come back to lining the tart rings the next day, just make sure that you wrap the tray real tight to avoid the pastry from drying out.
When you are ready to line the rings, simply press the disc between two of your palms to slightly soften. If you are working in a warm environment, it is best to take out a few tart disc at a time so that the rest of the disc do not turn too soft by the time you come around to it. Just remember to always cover the pastry when placing them in the fridge otherwise they will dry out too much!.
Once the tarts has been lined with the excess hanging up the edges, place them back in the fridge to rest for another 20 minutes before trimming. This step is important because if you do not rest them, they will shrink quite significantly when baked.
This is the reason why it is better to cut out discs that are slightly bigger than the tart ring to allow excess and avoid over shrinkage. Do not over do with the size though, a too large pastry disc cut out will cause a lot of folds as you try to place them in to the tart ring.
2. Do not over mix the tart dough
Overmixing the tart dough can yield a really soft and greasy dough and the result is a pastry dough that melts away too quickly when baked and can be quite greasy. Not to mention overmixing can make rolling and lining the tart shells significantly harder.
3. Do not shove and push the pastry disc in to the rings
Do not push in the tart dough disc straight in to the rings and let the pastry fold on to itself, but instead, holding each end from the left and right edge of the pastry with both hands, very gently and gradually push the pastry inwards to the inner side of the tart rings while rotating the tart ring so you are pushing inwards in a circular motion.
You are kind of shrinking the pastry disc in to the ring letting the centre of the pastry gently drop to the bottom. Once you have shrink the dough half way in to the ring, with one thumb, gently push the pastry a little at a time downwards and on to the sides of the ring while with the help of the other hand straightening out the dough that wants to fold and gently pressing the borders on the side, all the while slowly rotating the tart as you go. This will avoid the pastry from folding on to themselves causing it to wrinkle (Watch below video) Be mindful not to press the edges on to the ring too hard at this point as you don't want the edges to stick to the ring making it hard for the pastry to fall in to its base. This will make any adjustment that you may need harder.
4. Greasing Tart Rings
It is important that you lightly grease the tart ring with oil spray to avoid sticking after the tart have been baked. Greasing can also make lining easier without the pastry sticking on to the ring, especially if yor pastry is on a softer side.
5. Press the edges
Once the pastry are moulded in to the ring, leaving some excess hanging from the top, gently press the bottom edge to make sure the base is not rounded on the sides to give it a sharp edge. When you are happy with it, gently press the sides/borders of the pastry to make sure they are even in thickness. If you have a part that feel too thick because of uneven rolling or that you have push too much dough in to that particular part, now is the time to gently press the thicker part upwards to even out the thickness and as part of the excess that you will be trimming off later. If you are using a commercial dough-break to roll out your pastry dough, you do not have to worry about uneven thickness.
Everything eventually make much more sense after practice just like everything else !
7. Sharp Paring knife & Microplane
To have a clean and even edges around the tart shells, the trick is to trim the excess pastry from the tart ring when the pastry are chilled after they have rested in the fridge with a sharp paring knife. If the dough is too soft, the cut can be hard to control and that is the same if you have a blunt knife. Use a sharp paring knife for the job and make sure that your blade is level with the edge of the ring so that you are not trimming on an angled direction which can cause uneven heights in your tart shells.
When the tarts are baked, finish off cleaning any jagged and uneven edges with a Microplane. Simply run your microplane to even out the ridges for a clean finish.
8. Preserve with Cocoa Butter
To preserve or make your tart shells stay crispy for longer, brush the tarts all around lightly with melted cocoa butter. Be careful not to over brush them, otherwise as the cocoa butter sets, it will leave a visible white layer of fat that can be unappealing. Another thing you can do is to dust the tart with cocoa butter powder straight out from the oven.
9. Soft baking paper for par-baking
When par-baking the tart shells, place a soft baking paper that fits nicely in the tart shells with as little crease as possible, then placing the baking bean/ or rice all the way to the top. If your baking paper is too creased, as it bakes and soften in the oven the interior can leave the crease mark from the paper. This is not a major problem since you will be filling the tart shells and it will never be visible anyway. This is only for the curious and crazy mind.
Brown baking paper are normally softer but if you cannot find it simply use a heat proof cling film.
I hope all the above will give you some light on some of the few tips and tricks to making and lining a perfect tart shell.
Go to my "Baked Lemon Tart" post to learn the tips and tricks to making a perfect baked lemon tart and get the best short crust dough recipe.
Below are some videos for reference:
Lining tart shells
Alternative way of lining tart shell
Another way to line tart shells that had recently been quite popular is by cutting out the base and borders and lining them separately. Although time consuming, this method does give it a perfect sharp edges on the sides and even thickness around the borders.
You will start by cutting out an exact size disc of the short crust pastry to the diameter of the tart ring and a strip for the border that is at least 0.5 cm longer in depth for trimming after wards.
For a 7 cm diameter x 2 cm depth ring, I have a 7 cm disc x (2.5 cm width x 22 cm Length) strips of short crust pastry. Place the disc in the centre of the ring, then place the strips around it and trim off the excess. Gently press the two ends of the strips for them to stick on to each other and press the edges between the base and the strips to ensure that they adhere to each other. If you have dusted too much flour, brush a little bit of water at the edge of the base for the strips to stick to. Place Cupcake papers on top of the pastry filled with baking beans or rice and bake.
Note: Make sure that you line the base and the borders with the ring on the tray lines with parchment paper or silicone mat that you will be baking on as you will find it rather difficult to transfer the tarts later without the base falling off. It is also advisable to line the strips when it is slightly cold but flexible.