How to Make a Tart Crust Like a French Pastry Chef

As any fan of the Great British Baking Show knows, pastry is all about technique. The difference between a delicate French tart and a juicy American pie has less to do with the ingredients than with how you put them together. 

The pâte sucrée for French tarts requires an even distribution of butter, which is blended in for a flat and precise shell. The crust for an American pie, on the other hand, is supposed to be a little messy. Its flaky crust results from the clumps of butter, which release steam and lift the dough as it bakes 

But today, we’re putting on our French chef’s hats — or toques. We’ll walk you through the process of baking pâte sucrée so that you can get results like those you would find in a Parisian patisserie.

Once you’ve baked the tart shells in perforated rings, it’s time to fill them with any number of delicious things: custards, ganaches, jams, slices of fruit, whipped cream, and more. Play with your own combinations, or opt for guaranteed success with a classic like lemon tarts. You can even go bold with flavors like coffee chocolate ganache and chai pastry cream. The only limit is your imagination.

Tart Crust Recipe

(Chocolate and cinnamon variations at the bottom of this post)

12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cubed 
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg yolks (you can reserve whites for a meringue)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Equipment: (included in this kit)
6 Perforated Tart Rings
Ceramic Weights

Step 1: Make the Pâte Sucrée

Place cold butter cubes, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla into a large deep bowl.  With a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, begin mixing on low to prevent a dust cloud of powder. Once it starts to combine, increase to high speed for 2 minutes or until the mixture is completely combined into a consistent creamy paste.

Mix in egg yolks on a low speed to gently combine. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl to thoroughly mix the egg and butter paste. Once homogeneous, turn off the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl again before the next step.

creaming butter for tart shells
Add all the flour to the bowl and other dry ingredients if applicable. Mix on the lowest speed. Watch closely and turn off mixer as soon as all the flour has been incorporated to create a homogeneous shaggy dough. Roughly shape the dough into a ball and cut in half.  

Step 2: Roll Out Dough to ⅛”

On a piece of parchment paper, take one half of the dough and form into a smooth disc.  Place a large piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap on top to prevent sticking.

With a rolling pin, start in the center of the dough disc and use even pressure to roll the dough away from you. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat, turning the dough until it reaches an even 1/8” thickness. A thin, even crust is a crucial part of an even bake and a delicate tart shell. 

Clear space in your refrigerator so that the rolled dough can lay flat. Using a cookie sheet, slide the parchment paper and dough off the counter and into the fridge. 

Repeat for the second half of the dough. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

rolling out dough to 1/8" thickness for tart shellsStep 3: Cut Out the Base and Walls

Remove one half of the chilled dough from the fridge. Flip the dough over and carefully peel off the bottom layer of parchment paper. This will ensure that you have no issues with sticking or tearing. If the dough is brittle and easily breaks, it’s too cold. Allow to thaw for a few minutes.

Before cutting the dough, arrange three tart rings so that there is enough room for three 11 x 1 ¼” strips.  Once laid out, cut out the circles and place the dough and tart ring on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a knife to cut the three strips and square off the ends.

Lift the strip and line the inside of the tart ring. Lightly press the strip down and against the sides of the ring. Curl the excess strip on the inside and with a paring knife, trim at a 1/8” overlap. Use the warmth of your fingers to press and blend together the seam. Repeat process for other half of dough.step by step photos on how to make tart shells like a french chef

Step 4: Chill, Trim, and Bake 

Preheat the oven to 320˚ F.

Place the baking sheet with all six rings in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Chilling the dough will ensure a cleaner trim. Do not put in the freezer, even if you're in a rush. Meanwhile, cut six 5 x 5” parchment squares as big as the dotted lines on this page.

Once chilled, use a paring knife to pick up each ring and trim off the excess dough. Turn your knife to be horizontally flush with the edge of the ring. 

Line the tarts with parchment paper squares and evenly distribute the pie weights to fill each tart. The ceramic baking weights will prevent the pastry dough from bubbling on the bottom.

Ceramic pie weights for tart shells
Bake for 25-30 minutes at 320˚ F.  Finished tart crusts will have the pale color and consistency of a shortbread cookie. Remove the tart rings and ceramic balls once cooled.

Variations of this Recipe:chocolate tart crust and cinnamon tart crust

Chocolate Tart Shell

12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cubed 
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg yolks 
¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder

Cinnamon Tart Shell

12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cubed 
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg yolks 
¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon





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