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How to Line a Tart Pan with Pastry

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You’ve prepared your tart dough. You made sure not to overwork it so it wouldn’t shrink. You actually even let it rest in the fridge and didn’t impatiently skip to the next step. But now…how on earth do you get that dough onto the tart pan? How do you get that thin, uniform tart crust?

I still haven’t achieved the perfect crust. But with every tart I make, I get slightly closer to my ideal tart. It definitely needs practice, but I thought you might want to know a few things I learned along the way that could make your life easier (hopefully).

tart and tartlet pans

What Type Of Tart Pan To Use?

Tart pan with a removable bottom

Let’s start with my favorite pan: a 23cm (9 inch) tart pan with a removable bottom. If you are just starting out and can only buy one pan, that’s the one I would suggest. Recipes are usually given for a 9 inch pan so you won’t have to figure out how to adjust the amounts etc.

And the removable pan makes it so much easier to unmold your tart. You won’t have to pretend that serving your tart straight from the pan was intentional, when it was actually completely stuck! You did all the work, don’t you want to show off that beautiful crust.

tart pan with removable bottom

But a word of caution, don’t pick any pan with a removable bottom. My first pan had a chrome steel bottom which was slightly bent. It was impossible to flatten it completely. As a result, the bottom of the tart would rip or look strange. I’m sure you can still find some good ones (I have a bigger one which is good) but just keep this in mind if you are ordering online.

I later bought a pan with a glass removable bottom. My first attempt was a disaster as the tart completely stuck. But on my second attempt, I placed a round piece of parchment paper on the bottom and greased everything and now the tart slips out like a dream.

Tart pan with sharp edges

Another important thing to look out for in my opinion are the pan edges. Make sure they are thin and sharp. This way, when you pass a rolling pin over the dough to remove the excess, the dough gets cut instantly in a neat way. The edges shouldn’t be too sharp though! I haven’t had any issues with my large tart pan. But I cut myself washing a tartlet pan the other day.

If the pan has wide edges, you’ll end up with excess dough that didn’t get cut off. If you have that kind of mold, don’t bother trying to cut the dough off again. It will probably look quite sloppy. Instead, use that extra dough and crimp it to create a decorative border, like a pie.

Tart rings

And if you have ever wondered how bakeries get these perfect circular tarts, then tart rings are what you are looking for. I personally wouldn’t recommend starting with them as they are a bit less forgiving. I find that the traditional fluted edges hide beginners’ flaws better.

One thing I do love about tart rings (other than their professional looking shape), is the fact that you don’t have to cut a piece of parchment paper for the bottom! You simply place the ring on the parchment and you’re done. I don’t even bother greasing the ring. The dough is also less likely to puff up, especially if you have a perforated sheet pan to put the ring on. I will talk about this in more depth at a later date, when I have hopefully mastered lining a tart ring.

tart ring

For now, I’ll show you how to line a tart pan. You will need:

  • A tart pan
  • Parchment paper
  • A pencil/pen
  • Scissors
  • A bit of butter
  • A pastry brush (optional)
  • A rolling pin
  • And most importantly: tart dough! If you need ideas on what to make, you can find several recipes on the blog such as pâte sucrée, pâte sablée. For chocolate dough you can make pâte sucrée au chocolat. And for dough without eggs, I think you’ll enjoy the pâte brisée.

Shaping The Dough

You’ve followed a recipe and successfully prepared the tart dough. Once you finish making the dough, it’s best to do the following steps before refrigerating it:

  • Shape it with your hands and flatten it into a rectangle or disk.
  • Wrap it up in parchment paper (or cling film) and using a rolling pin, try to flatten it into an even, regular shape. The edges of the parchment paper will help you get there! Refrigerate the dough.

It doesn’t matter whether you start with a circular shape or a rectangle. The important thing is for the shape and thickness of your dough to be more or less uniform when you begin rolling it out.

Preparing The Tart Pan

Your dough has been in the fridge for at least an hour (or whatever the recipe states). If your kitchen is very cold, you might want to take it out 10-15 minutes before rolling it out. You can prepare the tart pan in the meantime.

The first thing you need to do is make sure your tart won’t stick to the pan!

Use parchment paper

  • Place the bottom of your tart pan onto a piece of parchment paper and draw a circle around it.
  • Cut the circle and make sure it fits nicely on the bottom of your tart pan.

Grease the tart pan

  • Use some butter to stick the paper to the pan and then butter the whole pan. If using a pan with fluted edges, make sure you don’t miss a spot. I have found that the easiest and fastest way to do this is to melt some butter in the microwave. Then, using a pastry brush, grease the tart pan and parchment paper. Alternatively, you could use a non-stick baking spray.
  • If you prefer to use cold butter and spread it with your hands, make sure not to leave a lump of butter as it will create gaps in your tart. You can quickly pass your finger through all the fluted grooves to remove any excess butter.

How To Roll Out The Dough?

Make sure your dough is at the right temperature when you roll it out. How will you know? Well, if it starts to break, it’s too cold. Let it sit at room temperature a little longer and try again. If it’s sticky and impossible to handle, it’s too warm. Refrigerate it again.

Now that your dough is at the right temperature, you can start rolling that pin!

What type of rolling pin to use?

I’ve always used the traditional “grandma” rolling pin. The one with two handles. There’s a nostalgic value attached to it although it’s probably not the most suitable for the job. I have read that it is better to use rolling pins with no handles, as you have a tendency to press slightly more on one side, resulting in an uneven thickness.

I did notice that this happens to me sometimes, but unless professionals are going to critique your tart, I think the traditional rolling pin is just fine if that’s what you have! If you are planning on buying one, then probably aim for one without handles.

two rolling pins

I recently bought a flat rolling pin with circles that you attach on the edges. This helps you control the thickness of the dough. I will explain this in more detail in a bit.

How to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin?

Most recipes say you should flour your work surface and your rolling pin as necessary so the dough doesn’t stick. But the more flour you use, the more elastic your dough could get, and the more it would shrink in the oven. I prefer rolling out my dough between two sheets of parchment paper and then refrigerating it slightly (if needed) to peel off the parchment paper easily. Less mess to clean in the end, which is always welcome isn’t it?

Rolling the dough

  • Take out only as much dough as you will need. If making a large batch for example that is enough for two tarts, you shouldn’t roll out everything all at once. It will make the task harder for you and you will overwork the dough which will lead to a tougher tart (too much gluten developed). You can use the amounts given when discussing How to Make a French Tart (section 4.1) as a guideline if you don’t really know how much you will need.
  • Place the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. Try to use two very flat pieces of parchment paper.

If creased, the parchment paper might leave lines on your tart dough where it folds. But don’t worry too much about this. It won’t really affect the final outcome and you can always flatten the dough a little with your hand when it’s in the pan.

  • Starting from the center of the dough, apply gentle pressure and roll upwards in a straight motion. And then beginning from the center again, roll downwards.
  • Turn the dough 1/4 of a turn and repeat the process until the dough has reached the thickness specified in the recipe (usually about 3mm for French tarts).

If the rolled out dough is much larger than your tart pan, using a knife, cut a circle that has a larger diameter than your pan. About 4cm larger, although this will depend on the height of your pan. You can just check by placing your tart pan over the dough.

How to roll the tart dough to an even thickness?

One method which I personally have not tried out yet is to use pastry rulers that you place on each side of the tart dough, at a distance equal to the width of the rolling pin. They are available in varying thicknesses so if making tarts for example, you would need it to be about 3mm thick. When you roll out the dough, the rolling pin will only flatten the dough to the thickness level selected.

You could also use a special rolling pin with removable rings of different diameters. The same concept applies. The rolling pin won’t roll out the dough beyond the thickness you have selected.

How to check the thickness of dough?

To check the thickness of the rolled out tart dough, you could use a toothpick. This method doesn’t take into account whether or not the dough has an even thickness. But it will give you an idea of how thick your dough is.

Place it in the center of the dough and use your finger to mark the thickness. Then with a ruler, measure the length of the toothpick below your finger. This isn’t a very accurate method but when you are starting out, it will give you a good idea of how far off you are!

How To Transfer The Tart Dough Onto The Pan?

Is it just me or is this least enjoyable part of tart making?! I always find myself stomping my feet when the dough I’ve been carefully rolling out just tears! And it’s all made worse by the fact I’m always in a rush! What, more time in the refrigerator?! I don’t think so! And…tear!!!

So please, do yourself a favor and don’t be like me! If at any point in this process the dough becomes too hard to handle, too sticky, fragile…pop it in the refrigerator for a few minutes and continue. I tried freezing it once for 5 minutes so I’d save some time but then it was too cold to handle, started cracking and I had to wait…again! Sometimes the shortcuts you take just make things worse, don’t they?!

I’ve discovered so far 4 ways of transferring the tart dough:

1. The lazy way

Not judging, I’ve done this! Roll out the dough onto the parchment paper and then simply place it on the pan, as it is, with the paper. The problem with this method is that your crust won’t look pretty at all. But if taste is all you are after, then go for it.

2. Rolling

Roll your tart dough around the rolling pin and then unroll over the pan. I’ll confess that this method always gets me in a state as my dough tears. While going through my pictures, I actually realized that I tend to hold my dough and rolling pin in the air! If you attempt this method, don’t hold everything high up over the pan but bring the pan to the dough, lift slightly the dough and push the pan under.

I have a feeling this method would work best if you have floured your dough and rolling pin and if you bothered refrigerating the dough beforehand. Since I’m not too eager to do either, my personal favorite is the following.

3. Flipping

Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. Remove one sheet and then invert the dough onto the pan, making sure to center it over the pan. You don’t want to end up with an overhang on one side and not enough dough on the other side.

Then simply peel off the remaining paper and adjust the dough along the tart edges. But if your dough is too hot you won’t be able to peel off the paper. So before trying to invert, try peeling off a part of it or else refrigerate for a few minutes.

Another thing to look out for is that if your tart edges are sharp, it might cut off the dough before you have a chance to ease it into the pan. So you should place the dough gently in the middle of the pan, avoiding the edges. You will later press the dough into the sides of the pan with your fingers.

4. The back-up

Which I seem to resort to quite often! When your dough tears, simply use the excess dough and patch it up with your fingers. You can even put all the dough straight into the pan without having to roll out the dough. This can be especially useful for crumbly dough, which falls apart too easily. I try not to start with this method as I find it harder to get a thin and even crust.

Shaping The Dough In The Tart Pan

Hooray! You managed to transfer the dough into the tart pan! You’re almost there! Now you need to make sure there are no gaps between the tart pan and the dough. You don’t want any trapped air that will rise during baking and ruin the shape of your tart.

proper and improper tart pan lining

And you don’t want your tart to slide down, into those gaps. So what should you do?

  • Once you’ve transferred the dough into the tart pan, gently lift it around the sides and release it, making sure the dough is touching the bottom edges of the pan all around. Do not stretch and pull the dough at any time or it will shrink in the oven. Use your finger, or a small ball of cold dough, to press the dough into the corners of the pan and onto the sides. Don’t press too hard though so you don’t thin out the dough.
  • Use the rolling pin to cut off the excess dough. Just roll it over the tart pan and the excess dough should fall off if you are using a pan with sharp edges. You could use a knife instead, although I find the knife more suitable when lining tart rings, not pans with fluted edges. You can stop at this point, but I like to make sure all the dough is at the same height. And if it’s not, I’ll tidy it up a little with my fingers.
  • Gather the scraps and refrigerate or freeze them for later use.

Once you have lined your tart pan, I would recommend refrigerating it for at least an hour, or freezing it for about 15 minutes, before baking it.

Making Tartlets

If you wish to make tartlets:

  • Roll out the dough as previously explained.
  • Using a cookie cutter, cut circles that are slightly larger than your tart mold. It should be enough to cover the bottom and sides of the mold, so take this into account. You can always try cutting one circle and if you see that it doesn’t fit, make it bigger.
  • Transfer the dough circle to your pan and press the dough along the tart pan, making sure there are no gaps. If your dough is too soft to pick up, refrigerate it for a few minutes. I also sometimes use a large offset spatula.
  • Cut off any excess dough and refrigerate your tartlet pans before baking.

Docking The Tart Dough

If you are planning on baking the tart without any filling, it’s best to prick the bottom and the sides of the tart with a fork just before baking it. The holes created will allow the steam to escape. Otherwise, the steam would start pushing onto the dough, creating bubbles.

And if you think you can just hide these bubbles with some filling later, think again! The bubbles will be visible even from the outside! You’ll notice holes in the crust because the dough went towards the inside.

I’m embarrassed to show you these pictures from one of my first attempts at making tarts. But I think it will make my point clearer. You can’t hide the air bubbles! I had actually pricked the bottom but forgot to do the sides which is where all the bubbles appeared.

Is docking the tart necessary?

There is no need to prick the tart however if:

  • You plan on using weights during baking: parchment paper covered in beans.
  • You bake the tart with a filling.
  • You froze the tart before baking. Generally, freezing the tart should be enough but I would recommend keeping an eye on the tart when it’s baking. If you notice it puffing up, remove it from the oven, push down the bubbles with the back of a metal spoon before the tart sets and return to the oven.
  • You are using a perforated tart ring. The air can easily escape from the sides. And if you placed the tart ring on a perforated sheet pan, the air can escape from the bottom.

Mission accomplished! You have lined your tart (or tartlet) pan! Well done! I’ll admit, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do and it does need practice. But the good thing about making tarts is that even if they aren’t completely flawless, they still taste amazing! So don’t worry too much about the appearance and enjoy the tart!

So if you’re ready to start practicing making tarts, head on over to the Tarts section and pick your favorite one! I personally can’t get enough of the chocolate ganache tart!

Just one more thing before I go, I strongly recommend you take pictures of your tarts. You don’t have to share them if you don’t want to. But you will feel so proud of yourself when you look back at your older pictures and see how much progress you have made! And you will make a lot of progress, I am sure of it!

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2 Comments

  1. Very informative, one question, can I make the dough and put in tart pan in fridge for a day before baking it?

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