Whether you’re making a milk tart or a lemon meringue pie or just want to do a bougie Peppermint Crisp tart, the secret to the perfect tart is all in the pastry. Today we’re deciphering all the blind baking, shrinkage and overhang so that you can avoid that dreaded soggy bottom.
Apart from the perfect recipe (which is obviously mine), there are some critical pressure points and rules that will help get you to pastry perfection:
1. Start with cold butter straight from the fridge
Yes, I’ve harped on about how important it is to use room temperature ingredients, but for pastry you want to keep everything as cold as possible! The secret to buttery short pastry is, well, butter. If yours is too soft, it won’t form the necessary layers and your pastry will be hard.
2. Don’t make pastry on a hot day
Melted butter = a mess! You can manage this by chilling your pastry as you work with it to keep it nice and cold.
ALSO READ: 4 Genius hacks for softening butter – fast!
3. Use the booze
I bake with vodka; sometimes I even add it to my pastry! True story – swap out the ice water in the recipe for vodka. Because vodka evaporates much faster than water does, it will stop your pastry from shrinking!
4. Use a food processor – but not too much
A food processor combines the ingredients in the quickest way possible without making too much heat. Making the pastry by hand is generally not a good idea, unless you have ice-cold hands! Either way, don’t overwork your pastry. Forming too much gluten is what causes the pastry to be tough and shrink during baking.
5. Roll with care
When rolling out your pastry, do it between two sheets of cling wrap (or, if you’ve admirably broken up with your plastic, use parchment paper!). This way, you aren’t adding more flour and drying out your pastry.
6. Transferring the pastry
To move the pastry from your workbench into the springform tart tin, roll it around your rolling pin before unrolling it gently over your tart tin. Or fold the edges into a square, transfer to the springform tart bottom and then place inside the ring and unfold it. No tearing or breakage!
7. Say no to the trim
If you want to make extra sure your tart shell doesn’t shrink, don’t trim the pastry after lining it. Instead, leave the excess pastry hanging over the edges and bake it as is. Then simply trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife when it comes out of the oven.
8. Bake it blind
Blind baking is a (weirdly named) technique where you bake the tart case with baking paper and baking beads. The beads help weigh the pastry down to prevent air bubbles and par-baking it this way makes sure the pastry stays crisp when you add a filling later. TIP: If you don’t have baking beads, use beans, rice, lentils or coins
Try this dark chocolate and strawberry truffle tart recipe from my latest book, ‘Chocolate’.