Sure, fresh fruit tarts win the bakery world’s “Best Looking” superlative, with their gemlike berries and brightly colored fruit set in a princely design. The problem is that this tart’s appearance is usually the best part about it. It draws you in with its dazzling looks, then gives way to rubbery or artificial fillings, soggy crusts, and underripe, flavorless fruit.
Avoiding the underripe fruit and artificial fillings is easy (simply buy ripe fruit and follow our pastry cream recipe), but perfecting the dough takes a bit more finesse. Unlike flaky pie dough, a sweet tart crust should be fine-textured and crumbly. The best way to achieve this is to handle it carefully at every step, from combining the ingredients to rolling out the dough. Follow our lead and you’ll be handsomely—and delectably—rewarded.
1. Handle the rolled-out dough gently: After rolling the dough out into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured counter, wrap it loosely around the rolling pin and unroll the dough over a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
2. Fit the dough into the corners of the pan: Lifting the edge of the dough, gently ease the dough into the pan. Press the dough into the fluted sides of the pan and into the corners.
3. Trim the excess dough using a rolling pin: Run the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to remove any excess dough and make a clean edge.
4. Patch any weak parts: If parts of the edge are too thin, reinforce them by pressing in some of the excess dough. If it is too thick, press some of the dough up over the edge of the pan and trim it away.
5. Freeze the tart shell before baking: Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes. This will prevent the dough from shrinking as it parbakes.
6. Use pie weights when parbaking: Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large baking sheet. Press a double layer of foil inside the frozen tart shell and up over the edges of the pan. Fill the tart shell with pie weights. (Pennies will work in a pinch.) Pie weights prevent the dough from melting out of shape as the tart shell bakes and prevent any dough bubbles from forming on the bottom.