Cook French: Make Tarts

FRENCH CUISINE, tarts, pastry, cooking classes

The most important part of a tart is not the filling. It’s the pastry. There are three major pastry categories in the French repertoire: pâte brisée, for sweet or savory tarts; pâte sucrée, which is cookie-like and best for tarts containing creams and fresh fruit; pâte feuilleté which, when made properly, rises to the sky in a thousand layers.

Susan Herrmann Loomis, tart pastry, pate sucree

Most Important

To make good pastry, use good butter. If you cannot or don’t want to eat animal fat, oil-based pastry can be tasty (refer to the recipe in CLAMBAKES AND FISH FRIES) though the options are more limited.  Proportions are important, and so is handling. A standard rule of thumb when making pastry is not to touch it more than absolutely necessary, so it stays tender.

Once you’ve made pastry, it is VITAL to bake it all the way through. Soggy pastry is an abomination and will ruin any tart. For a single crust tart, that means pre-baking. Get yourself pastry weights (the ceramic kind are better and heavier than beans or rice). Heat your oven to 425F; 220C because pastry likes heat. Bake the pastry until it is golden – not dark brown – on the bottom, then let it cool, and fill it about two hours before you plan to serve it.

For a double crust tart, or one where you fold the edges of the pastry up and over the filling (called a tourte in France), fill it, then bake it for at least an hour on the bottom third of the oven so the underside gets crisp

patisserie, French pastry, France, baking

For Juicy Ingredients

If you are using juicy ingredients for your filling, like rhubarb or berries, add a shy tablespoon of tapioca and it will absorb some of the juice without becoming rubbery, allowing the pastry to bake. If you are making a tomato tart, use slightly underripe tomatoes; they’ll give off less juice. For onions, garlic, eggplant, zucchini, I recommend you cook them first So they give up some of their liquid, then add them to your tart. 

Cook your tarts longer than you think you should if they are fruit or vegetable without an egg and cream mixture.  The fillings need to cook; they need to give off some liquid.  Longer baking allows this.

To sum it up: cook like the French; make tarts! Use the recipes below. I predict that you and your guests will feel so French that you will begin to speak fluently.  Bon Appétit!


This is one of the quickest tarts to make, because the pastry is neither chilled nor pre-baked, which makes it perfect for an impromptu picnic or al fresco supper. Its vibrant colors are those of summer, enveloped in a golden pastry.
The oven must be pre-heated and the pastry rolled out and fitted into the tart tin before the fruit is cut up and combined with the sugar and cornstarch, so you can turn the fruit mixture immediately into the pastry, finish the assembly, and bake it. If the fruit sits it gives up a great deal of juice, which can prevent the pastry from baking properly.  Note tourte in background of photo!

1 small egg
2 teaspoons water
One recipe for Tender Tart Pastry
1/3 cup (65g) sugar
3 pounds (1.5kg) apples and pears, cored, peeled, cut in eighths

1. Preheat the oven to 425_F (220_C). In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and the water.

2. Roll out the pie pastry to a 13-inch circle. Fit it gently into a 10-1/2 inch, removable bottom tart tin, leaving the pastry to hang over the edge of the tin. Brush the bottom of the pastry with the egg glaze.

3. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on the bottom of the tart pastry, add one-third of the fruit with one-third of the remaining sugar, and repeat until you’ve used all the fruit and sugar. Gently fold the edges of the pastry over the fruit – they will be somewhat uneven but don=t be concerned. Quickly brush the pastry with the egg glaze, place the tart tin on a baking sheet and bake it in the bottom third of the pre-heated oven until the fruit and the pastry are golden and cooked through, about one hour.

4. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the tart from the edge of the tart mold. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, and serve.

6 to 8 servings

FRENCH CUISINE, tarts, pastry, cooking classes


Tender, buttery, almost like puff pastry, this simple pastry will change your life. It’s very quick to make, and the trick to its success is handling it as little as possible.

Astuce: this is made in a food processor, so the ingredients stay cold while they’re being put together. Once the pastry is made, it needs to sit at room temperature before rolling out.

Special Equipment: food processor

1 ½ cups (205 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons (180 g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 12 pieces
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water

1. Place the flour and the salt in a food processor and process once to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the 5 tablespoons ice water and pulse just until the pastry begins to hold together. If the pastry seem dry and dusty, add the remaining 1 tablespoon water.
2. Transfer the pastry from the food processor to your work surface and form it into a flat round. Let it rest on a work surface, covered with a bowl, for at least 30 minutes. The pastry can sit several hours at room temperature, as long as the room isn’t warmer than 68 degrees. The pastry is ready to use as desired.

Pastry for one 10 ½-inch (26 ½ cm) to 12-1/2 inch (31.5cm) tourte

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