Saturday, August 6, 2011

Blind Baking a Tart Crust

What exactly is blind baking a crust for pies, tarts & tartlets?  Why do we do it for some recipes and not for others?  Blind baking is nothing more than prebaking a pie or tart crust, either partially or fully, before filling it.  Partially baking a pie shell is done whenever you're going to bake a pie with a very wet filling (think pumpkin pies and quiches).  Fully baking a tart or tartlet crust is what you want to do when it is going to be used as a stand alone tart that has a custard or curd filling.  Blind baking is essential for these types of tarts and pies, because not only does it give the crust a head start in the oven, it also helps seal it, thus preventing a soggy bottom.  Whether you partially or fully bake a crust, the method is very simple.   


Pâte Brisée
This is a disk of pâte brisée.  I always flour my surface to prevent sticking and keep a bench scraper to help me along whenever I roll out this type of dough.


The dough gets rolled out to the desired width and thickness.  Any excess  flour gets brushed off with a large pastry brush.


This is a typical quiche pan with a removable bottom.  I always blind bake my crusts for quiches.


Carefully wrap the dough around your rolling pin and unfurl it over your pan.  With your fingers, push the dough into every indentation of the pan, being careful not to tear the crust. 


The easiest way for me to remove excess crust is by moving the rolling pin over the edges of the tart pan.  This will leave the pâte brisée flush with the edge of the pan.


Your tart shell is ready to go.  It's very important, however, to chill this for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.  The freezer sets it quickly.  Prechilling will prevent the dough from shrinking in the oven.

After the dough has chilled properly, cut a piece of parchment or heavy duty foil and line the tart shell with it.  You want the parchment to have a good amount of overhang.


Fill the parchment-lined pan with pie weights (these are meant to be used indefinitely) or dried beans up to the very top of the pan, making sure you push the beans into every edge.  The beans mimic a pie filling & prevent the dough from shrinking down the sides of the pan.  I keep a jar of dried beans for this sole purpose.  They get reused over & over.  If for some reason you do keep a jar of beans for pie baking, make sure you replace them whenever you start to notice any musty smell.   

Your shell should now get placed into a very hot oven (usually between 375° F - 425° F) and bake for about 20 minutes.  This sets the crust and partially bakes it.


After the allotted time, remove the parchment or foil with the beans & dock your crust.  Docking or pricking the bottom of the crust will prevent it from bubbling up in the oven.  I do this with the tines of a fork.  Don't get carried away by creating large holes or you run the risk of having your tart or pie filling seep into the bottom & creating a soggy bottom.

The crust should now be returned to the oven.  The amount of time for this next baking will depend on the recipe.  You will either partially bake it until the dough takes on some color, or you will fully bake it until it is golden in color.  Follow whatever tart or pie recipe to the letter!


Pâte Sucrée
pâte sucrée crust.  I find it so much easier to roll out this type of dough between two sheets of plastic  wrap.  Pâte Sucrée differs from pâte brisée in the amount of sugar used; it has more sugar and depending on the recipe, egg yolks are sometimes added making a bit more like a cookie crust.  It's a crumbly dough & a bit difficult to roll out without any tearing. 


For this dough, I do not wrap it around my rolling pin because it will crack.  The entire rolled out disk gets placed over the pan.  I then tuck it into the bottom & up the sides. 


Do you see that tear just to the right of my hand where the pan is exposed?  To remedy this, I take a sharp paring knife & cut some excess dough from the overhang.


I then push the small patch into the exposed area & pat it in.  No fuss no muss.


The rolling pin gets passed over the entire top to cut off the excess.  A very simple and easy way to get this done.


This dough also gets chilled before proceeding.

Here I am weighing down the crust in the same manner.  I then bake my crust in the hot oven.


Pâte Sucrée crusts are almost always used for stand alone tarts and not for double crust pies.  The tart shell above is fully baked.  I can now fill it with a number of different custards or curds. 




Blind baking isn't intimidating or difficult.  As a matter of fact, I find it a reassuring process because it always results in a well baked crust.  Your tarts & pies don't have to end up with soggy, wet bottoms now that you know how to blind bake.  Puff pastry does get treated this way sometimes for desserts such as Napoleans or vol-au-vent.  The next time you come across a recipe that tells you to blind bake a crust, just remember the simple steps I showed you.  With summer's end just around the corner, why not try baking a fresh fruit tart or a quiche with the freshest of vegetables?  I hope you enjoy doing so.  Cheers! 



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