Some tart crusts are made by creaming the butter, sugar, and egg, and then mixing in the flour. That method yields a crumbly pastry called shortcrust, which is similar in consistency to a shortbread cookie. Being so crumbly makes it hard to roll out a large piece, so the shortcrust pastry is usually used for making smaller tarts.
This tart crust recipe uses a different method. First, we combine the sugar and flour, then cut the butter into the flour, and finally, mix in the eggs and water. This dough is easier to work with, so it's better suited to making larger tarts.
Tip: It's a great idea to chill everything — the flour, your utensils, you can even chill your work surface with ice before you start. Also, be sure to weigh out the flour using a digital scale set to grams. Volume measurements like cups are too imprecise to ensure the dough comes out right.
- 400 grams pastry flour (about 3 cups)
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter cut into ½-inch cubes, chilled in the freezer until very cold
- 2 eggs
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons cold water
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract (for sweet tarts only)
- 1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest (for sweet tarts only)
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and sugar.
Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the blobs of butter are about the size of small crumbs.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the water, and add the vanilla and lemon zest if you're using them.
Now add the egg mixture to the flour and gently mix with a wooden spoon until the dough holds together when you pinch it. Don't overwork the dough, or the crust will be too hard.
Gather the dough together into two or three equal piles (see note below) and then press each one into a disc.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill for at least two hours before using, or you can refrigerate it overnight.