A Guide to Tarts

A tart is a baked dish that includes a filling over a pastry base. Unlike a pie, a tart has an open-top that is not covered with pastry. Most tarts that you can find today are sweet, but there are also some types that are savory. Many people enjoy eating store-bought tarts. They are commonly purchased in bakeries and as well as cafes. In addition to buying tarts from stores, they are also fun to make at home. If you are looking into learning more about tarts, you’re in the right place. Today, we are giving you a guide to tarts, including tart history, tart types, and some tips in baking them. 

History of Tarts

The word “tart” came from the French word “tarte,” which means either pie or tart. Its history can be traced back to 500 BC. Tarts are thought to have either come from a tradition of layering food or a product of pie-making in the Medieval era. 

Back in 1550, enriched dough or shortcrust is thought to have been used commonly, which was around 200 years after pies. During these times, tarts were viewed as high-cuisine and were popular with the nobility. This was in contrast to the view of a commoners pie. 

Tarts, back then, were originally savory with meat fillings. Culinary tastes led to the creation of sweet tarts, filling them with fruit and custard. One of the earliest tarts to be made was the Italian crostata, which was in the mid-15th century. It was described as a rustic free-form version of an open fruit tart. 

Different Types of Tarts

Tarts are usually free-standing and feature a firm pastry base that is made of dough, flour, and thick filling. They also have perpendicular sides, unlike pies that have softer pastry, looser filling, and sloped sides. 

There are hundreds of tart varieties that exist in different parts of the world. They can be savory or sweet, and they also differ in filling and size. Even though their fillings differ, tarts have something in common. Most of them are made using shortcrust pastry, wherein the amount of fat is half the amount of flour used. Here are some of the different tart types:

Custard Tarts

egg tarts on a tray

These are the type of tarts that are baked along with an uncooked or partially cooked custard mixture. The filling is usually light and delicate. The texture of custard tarts is maintained by baking using a fairly low temperature or stirring while it cooks. Some examples of custard tarts are Portuguese egg tarts and pumpkin pie or tart. 

Fruit Tarts

tarts topped with kiwi and strawberry

These tarts are filled with either fresh or preserved fruits. There are endless fruit combinations to make fruit tarts. They are also usually named based on the fruits that they contain. Some examples are blueberry tart, strawberry tart, cherry tart, and more. 

Savory Tarts

savory tarts

Most sweet tarts are served as desserts, but savory tarts are enjoyed for brunch or if you want to eat something light for a meal. The majority of savory tarts are made with meat, vegetables, eggs, and other ingredients that create a complete meal. One of the best examples of savory tarts is the quiche. It is usually sold at cafes and bakeries in many places around the world. 

Different Types of Tart Shells

There are also various types of tart shells, such as standard size, frozen, pre-baked, miniature, flaky, fresh, and puff pastry. Most of the time, tart shells are round but sometimes rectangular and are made with shallow, fluted edge pans that have removable bottoms.

The standard size of a tart shell is 9 to 10 inches in diameter. But there are also smaller shells that are about 2 to 4 inches in diameter. Both of these can be filled with either sweet or savory foods. Most of the time, cheese and fruit fillings are baked in an uncooked shell. Custard and creamy fillings, on the other hand, are added to cooled, pre-baked tart shells.

There are two kinds of pastry that are commonly used to make a shell for tarts, which are puff and flaky. Flaky pastry is commonly sweet, while puff pastry usually has no sugar added to it. Puff pastry tart shells are mostly used for savory ingredients like meat, cheese, and herbs. Flaky pastry, on the other hand, is used for sweet or dessert fillings. 

There are crumb crust tart shells that can be made with crushed cookies mixed with melted butter. The mixture is pressed into the bottom and sides of a tart pan and then baked. You can also use a blend of flour, beaten eggs, melted butter, and sugar as an alternative, then add some oats, groundnuts, cocoa, and cinnamon. 

Best Tips for Baking Tarts

Mexican tarts

If you are planning to make some tarts soon, here are some of the best tips that we can share:

Use cold butter.

For the tart crust, some types will require you to rub the butter into the dry mixture, while some will ask you to cream softened butter with sugar. If you are going to do the rubbing method, it is better to use cold butter. It’s because it will yield a crisp and flaky crust. If you use butter at higher temperatures, it will make your crust soft and soggy. 

To do this easily, you can cut slightly softened butter into small cubes, then refrigerate it. After that, you can combine it with the flour mixture once it is chilled. If you find it challenging to incorporate hard and cold butter into the mixture, you can use a pastry cutter. You can also do it by hand but ensure that you finish it as quick as possible.

Perforated tart rings are handy.

When looking for tart rings, you can find both perforated and non-perforated rings. Perforated tart rings are better, especially if you are not using a tart pan. The perforations will enable the steam to escape while the tart crusts are baking. This will prevent them from building up between your tart rings and tart dough, forming uneven tart crusts. Using non-perforated tart rings may trap the steam and make the base of your tart soggy. 

Avoid putting too much liquid into the dough.

Coldwater or milk is only used to bring the dough together when making the tart crust. This helps ensure that the dough is moist enough to be flattened and shaped later. When you add too much liquid, the dough will become too soft and won’t give you a crispy and flaky crust. 

Make sure that you roll the dough properly.

When rolling the dough, you need to start by lightly flouring the work surface. Do not add too much flour, as it will get incorporated into the dough and make it tough. Use a straight rolling pin to provide the same amount of pressure on the dough’s surface. Observe the dough as it gets thinner. If it begins to crack too much, this means that it is too cold. You need to leave it for about a minute, then begin rolling again. 

Chill the dough before baking.

Just like baking cookies, chilling the dough before baking will help in maintaining its shape. In addition to that, doing this also ensures that the butter will stay cold. Therefore, when you bake it, the butter will melt and release steam, creating air pockets that will make the crust flaky and crisp. 

Do not forget to preheat the oven.

When making tarts, you need to make sure that the temperature of the oven is hot enough to bake the tart crusts. Ensure that it has reached the temperature suggested in the recipe before you place the dough in it. If you place it in an oven that is not hot enough, it won’t be baked properly. Also, while the tart is baking, do not open the oven door too much. Doing this will cool down the inside of your oven quickly, which will affect the baking. 

Conclusion

Tarts are indeed among the best desserts or snacks out there. You can find them in cafes and bakeries, and they are also easy to make at home. Trying to bake them for the first time may feel difficult, but with some research and a good recipe, you will be able to come up with beautiful and delicious tarts. We hope this guide helped you learn more about tarts.