Classic Tart Dough

Here is another variation of a tart dough. This one cooks extremely well and is very stable. While it requires several steps of refrigeration, the results are worth the wait. It also provides a great base for tarts that will have heavy syrups and hot fillings. 

The recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook, and the tart shell can be prepared separately to use in many desserts. 


  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick), cut into pieces and chilled


  • Handheld pastry blender
  • Rolling pin
  • One 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom
  • Weights for baking pastry (I use beans)
MEP Classic Dough Shell

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and with the pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until you get coarse flakes that resemble oatmeal.

Flaky dough

Make a well in the centre and add the yolk, cream and vanilla. Mix with your fingertips until you get a dough that separates from the sides of the bowl. 

Dough disc

Remove from bowl, pat into a disc and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 2 days). 

Remove disc from fridge and let sit on counter for 10 minutes. Flour your counter and roll out the dough so that it is larger than your tart pan. 

Rolled out dough

Use your rolling pin to roll the dough onto it, and then unroll it into a baking pan. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Rolling into sheet

After refrigerating, roll into your rolling pin and unroll over the tart pan. Use your fingertips to make sure that dough covers all the surface. There will be a bit of dough falling off the sides. Use your rolling pin to cut those edges off. The extra dough can be frozen and used later, or like I do, eat it. 

Cutting edges

Place the tart pan over your baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for another 30 minutes. Why so much refrigeration? Well, good you wondered. It happens that when you handle dough, you activate the gluten and it becomes sticky and springy. Refrigerating it after each time you handle it makes it more stable, it will help it shape nicely into the pan, and keep its shape as it bakes. Yup, it takes time, but the results won't disappoint. Now let's get back to baking. 

Chilling in the fridge

Heat your oven to 375˚F and place the rack in the middle position.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator. Remove and discard plastic wrap. Use two long sheets of aluminum foil to line the dough and place the beans or pie weights that you're using. 

Pie weights on tart shell

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes, rotating half way through baking. Remove from oven, carefully lift the aluminum foil to remove weights. It will be a faint golden colour in the bottom and be nicely browned around the edges. If you are baking a partially-baked shell, you are done. Use the shell as instructed by the recipe.

Partially baked shell

If you are making a fully baked shell, place back in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the shell if golden brown all over and the bottom part dries out slightly. 

Fully baked shell

Place the pan in a rack to cool completely.