A deliciously simple, just-press-it-in shortbread tart crust. This crust is sturdy enough to hold up to curd and cream tart fillings, and yet tender enough to melt in the mouth. Plus, it's buttery and full of fresh citrus flavor.
This shortbread tart crust is buttery and tender, perfect for tarts with a cream or curd filling. It's simple to make, with just a few ingredients you can easily mix together by hand. The best part? There's no need to roll it out! Simple break the dough up into pieces and press it straight into your tart pan with your fingers.
Making your own crust for tarts doesn't have to be super complicated! If you familiarize yourself with a few key tips, you'll be a tart pro in no time.
Here’s 7 essential tips I swear by in order to make a shortbread tart crust that’s simple, quick, and way more delicious than store-bought.
1. Use ingredients that pack a lot of flavor
Fresh, bold ingredients like freshly squeezed citrus juice and zest will add so much flavor to your crust. For other flavors, think about powerful ingredients like browned butter, good quality vanilla extract, toasted nuts, and instant espresso powder.
2. Let your butter get super soft and creamy
For all my shortbread recipes, I let my butter warm up until it's extremely soft. You want a consistency similar to mayonnaise. This will make your shortbread dough easy to mix gently by hand, and it will provide a light and creamy texture to your dough.
3. Add a bit of cornstarch to your flour
Cutting your flour mixture with a bit of cornstarch or other non-gluten, starchy flour helps to give the dough a wonderful melt-in-the-mouth texture. I always use cornstarch, rice flour, or potato starch in my shortbread recipes.
4. Don’t overwork your dough
This is essential. Overworking your dough will make it tough. Mix your ingredients together with a light hand, add the least amount of flour possible, and stop mixing as soon as the ingredients come together. Shortbread is meant to be tender!
5. Press your dough into the tart pan instead of rolling it out
No need for rolling out your dough in this recipe! Simply break the shortbread dough up into pieces with your fingers and distribute it evenly across the bottom and up the sides of your tart pan.
6. Chill before baking
This is possibly the most important tip of them all. Chilling your tart dough before baking helps it to keep its shape and not shrink when it hits the warmth of the oven. Remember, your dough is made with a high ratio of fat in it, and when fat gets warm, it melts. That's why your crust is likely to slump and shrink if you put it in the oven at room temperature.
To give the dough a good chill, I simply put my prepped tart dough, lined with parchment paper and weighted down with beans, in the freezer. Let it chill there for 20-30 minutes before baking and it should hold its shape beautifully!
7. Par bake it with beans or pie weights
As mentioned in the last step, I bake my tart dough weighted down with beans or pie weights. This keeps your dough in place while it bakes. Place a piece of parchment paper over your tart dough, pressing it into the bottom and corners to minimize any gaps. Then pour in your pie weights (I usually keep a jar of beans on hand that I use over and over for this).
Bake your dough with the weights in it until just about baked through. Then, remove it from the oven and take the weights out (careful - they're hot!). Place the tart dough back in the oven and finish baking for another 3-5 minutes, until browned and baked through.
Bonus tip: Brush your crust with egg whites for this final part of the bake if you want your dough to be extra resilient to hold up to very moist fillings.
The instructions here are assuming you're making a tart with a filling that's cooked or prepared separately (like this hawthorn tart). If you plan to make a tart that requires baking the filling in the tart shell, par bake your crust for a shorter amount of time, leaving some room for it to continue baking.