With Thanksgiving just days ahead and Christmas next month, if a pumpkin, pecan or apple pie is one of the desserts you will be serving during the holidays, then your pie making is probably in full swing by now.
On the other hand, does the thought of making a pie crust have you questioning the old saying, “easy as pie“. If you are one of those people who think a golden, flaky crust like the one pictured above is unobtainable, then you should try preparing a fruit tart with a shortbread crust that my husband enjoys making.
You don’t have to worry about the dough sticking to the rolling pin or to your counter. Actually, you can forget about having to roll the dough at all. There is also no worrying about if the dough will hold together or crack when you transfer it to the pan as this crust is simply pressed into a tart pan. The dough itself is sweeter, softer and less flaky than a dough you would roll. I would describe the dough as being a cross between a pie crust and a sugar cookie with its crumbly, light and tender texture. The dough is very similar to pâte sucrée which is the base for many of the sweet tarts made throughout the world. This quick and easy shortbread crust will definitely make your holiday pie and tart baking much easier if you have had problems with rolling dough in the past.
While my husband often makes double crust and lattice top pies with apples or pears from our orchard, a pear tart with a shortbread crust is one of my favorites. I can give you his exact recipe for the crust because baking requires some precision. Unfortunately, he doesn’t usually measure when it comes to the filling, instead letting his creative side rule. Each time he makes one, it looks and tastes a little different but it is always delicious.
Sweet Shortbread Crust
This recipe makes enough dough for a single crust that will fit an 11 inch tart pan, adjust the recipe accordingly.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
- 3/4 c. confectioner sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks cold butter (3/4 c.) cubed
- a pinch of salt
Combine the flour, confectioner sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and mix until combined. Add in the butter and using your hands, work the cubes into the flour and sugar until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Continue working the mixture between your fingers until it clumps together and forms a soft dough. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to rest and firm up.
Lightly spray an 11-inch tart pan (with a removable bottom) with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and take a little bit of the dough at a time and using your fingertips, pat it into the bottom of the tart pan and evenly up the sides about an 1/8 inch thick. Let the dough extend about a 1/4 inch over the rim, trimming if necessary, to make it even. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will help keep the crust from shrinking once it is in the oven. After 15 minutes, remove from the freezer and prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork. Bake the crust in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Add your favorite fruit filling and bake for about 30 minutes or until the juices start to bubble. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack before cutting.
When my husband was a young boy, he used to like to sit on a stool at the edge of the kitchen counter and watch his grandmother cook. He constantly reminisces about all the wonderful food she made without having to check a cookbook for exact amounts or temperatures…it was just part of her daily cooking routine. By watching his grandmother, he developed an appreciation of good food and enjoys cooking as much as I do. I would share more of his dishes but I just can’t get him to measure. Instead, when he prepares a dish he goes by instinct much as his grandmother did.