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Easy Shortbread Tart Crust, crisp and buttery

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This easy shortbread tart crust is one of my most-used recipes. I turn to it all the time.

And, to be honest, it took so much anxiety out of my tart baking.

So many tart crusts involve pulling out the food processor, chilling the dough, rolling the dough, carefully draping it into the pan, chilling it all again, blind baking with pie weights…

It can be intimidating to even get started. (Though if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can try the crust in my passion fruit tart.)

Flour, salt, confectioners' sugar, stick of unsalted butter

And even after all that careful work, so many of them shrink!

You know that moment of dread when you pull a blind baked tart crust out of the oven to find the crust slumped halfway down the sides of the tin, completely incapable of holding the filling you were planning to put in it?

And, uh, you still have to wash the food processor…

I’ve been there. And, oof, it isn’t fun.

Adding salt to flour

But this shortbread crust changes all that.

It takes about five minutes of active time to make. There’s no rolling and no chilling. It goes from puttering around in the pantry to out of the oven in less than a half hour.

It’s pretty much foolproof.

Flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt whisked together

The method is a simple one that I learned from Alice Medrich, the chocolate queen and baker extraordinaire. Though I’ve tweaked the ingredient list, and swapped in confectioners’ sugar for granulated for added tenderness, the general technique is the same.

You whisk together flour and confectioners’ sugar and a pinch of salt. Then you melt some butter, add some vanilla, and pour the mixture over the dry ingredients.

Then you stir everything together until it’s all moistened.

And then you press it into your tart pan in an even layer, bake it immediately, with no rolling pin or fussy pie weights to mess with.

It’s an extraordinarily forgiving shortbread tart crust. I’ve never had it shrink on me (a millimeter or two doesn’t count).

Shortbread tart crust in the pan before baking

And it’s also incredibly versatile. I’ve added orange zest to the shortbread crust in my cranberry curd tart. I’ve made a chocolate version in my chocolate peanut butter tart. (And I use it just as written in my plum custard tart.)

Variations on this shortbread crust also show up in my brown butter apple bars and my almond shortbread brownies.

(And there’s a similar method in my gingersnap tart crust, which, sorry, involves a food processor…)

Easy Shortbread Tart Crust after baking

It’s a good recipe to have in your back pocket, whenever you want a crust that just works. You can use it in any standard tart recipe in place of whatever crust is called for.

You’ll be glad to have this one bookmarked, printed-out-and-laminated if you’re old school like that, or saved in whatever form you’ll be able to find it again.

You’ll thank yourself later.

Easy Shortbread Tart Crust

Looking for an unfussy, all-butter pie crust instead of a tart crust? I’ve got you covered with this easy flaky pie crust. (And I’ve even got instructions on how to make a lattice-top, if that’s your thing.)

Yield: 8 servings

Easy Shortbread Tart Crust

Easy Shortbread Tart Crust

This shortbread tart crust is pretty much foolproof. It's a press-in crust that's a simple mixture of flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, melted butter, and a little bit of vanilla. It's easy to make and doesn't require any rolling or chilling or any special equipment (beyond a tart pan itself).

It's a versatile crust that will work with any standard tart recipe.

The tart crust can be made and baked up to two days ahead. You'll need a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Make the crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Add the flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt to a small bowl and whisk together.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan (or in the microwave), add the vanilla extract to the butter and stir, then pour into the dry ingredients and stir together until thoroughly moistened. 
  3. Press the dough evenly along the bottom and sides into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  4. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Notes

Keeps, at room temperature, for about 2 days.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 65Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 72mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 2g
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Ann

Sunday 3rd of January 2021

Did this with gluten free one to one flour and orange oil, absolutely delightful, looked and tasted perfect.

Abigail Villar

Thursday 31st of December 2020

Hi sally. Do you know if this recipe with work with mini tart muffin pan?

Mary Kasprzak

Thursday 31st of December 2020

This definitely works with mini tart pans. It's easier to get out of the pan if they have removable bottoms, but it will work with other styles, just be aware you may have to be careful getting them out of the pan.

Mark

Thursday 31st of December 2020

Thank you! Could you use this to make a classic Italian crostata - which is a shell spread with a fruit jam of choice? Crostata recipes don't require baking the crust first. Also, could this be used as a crust for any American-style fruit or pudding pie?

Mary Kasprzak

Thursday 31st of December 2020

Yes, this is very similar to a classic crostata shell!

Elizabeth

Friday 4th of December 2020

Love this recipe...use it all the time. Lately however I noticed that it was a bit hard while cutting into it while eating. I bake it for the 20 minutes than another 15 with the filling. Should I bake it less time first bake? Or anything I can do to make it a bit softer and tender? Thanks, Liz Maui

Elizabeth

Friday 4th of December 2020

Could I use a bit of almond flour instead of rice flour with the all purpose flour?

Elizabeth

Friday 4th of December 2020

Thanks so much! I will try that...

Mary Kasprzak

Friday 4th of December 2020

It does have a crisp shortbread cookie-like texture, so some of it is the nature of this crust. Some fillings will soften it more than others depending on their moisture content. It could also be that you've overworked the dough a little and developed the gluten too much (this happens faster with higher protein all-purpose flours like King Arthur).

But, if you'd like a more tender crust, you can swap out some of the all-purpose flour for rice flour. I'd swap in a few tablespoons of rice flour in place of some of the all-purpose. That should help tenderize the crust.

Rachel

Monday 23rd of November 2020

Would this crust be suitable for a citrus custard tart whose filling is NOT pre-cooked on the stove, but rather poured uncooked into a "partially baked and cooled" tart shell, then baked for 25 to 30 minutes to set? Thank you.

Rachel

Monday 23rd of November 2020

@Mary Kasprzak, You are so kind for responding so promptly! Thank you very much!

Mary Kasprzak

Monday 23rd of November 2020

Yep!