I have a confession to make! I won’t be making pie for Thanksgiving… I’ll be making a Sweet Potato Tart! Tart dough filled with luxurious sweet potato filling topped with walnuts, a few cacao nibs, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. And I gotta say it’s SO so good.
Tart vs. Pie
What is the difference between a tart and a pie? Ultimately, they are very similar creatures. We have the outer pastry layer that primarily consists of flour and butter which contains a filling of some kind. One of the key differences is that tart dough has to support itself completely as tarts are not generally left in their pans for serving. Tart dough is often enriched with eggs and butter helping to create more flavor and support.
While Pie dough is known for its flaky characteristics, tart dough is more similar to the texture and taste of a shortbread cookie. Tarts can be sweet, savory, small, or large – they are incredibly versatile! There are so many different shapes that a tart can take – rectangular tarts, small circular tarts, and larger nine-inch tart shells. The sky is the limit!
Mixing Tart Dough
Add room temperature eggs one at a time, mixing between additions, then add bread flour, making sure to not overmix.
Wrap the mixed dough tightly in plastic wrap. Then, place in the fridge to chill before using for at least one hour.
I tend to make my tart dough ahead of time so I throw it in the fridge until the next day. If using this method, remove your dough from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to roll it out – you’ll find that it will be MUCH easier to work with!
Forming Tart Shell
Lightly dust the table you’ll be working on, and using a rolling pin, gently roll out your dough. As you roll, make sure it does not start sticking to the surface you are working on.
Once your dough is rolled to the desired thickness (I prefer 1/4 inch), press gently into the creases and bottom of your tart pan. Poke the bottom of the tart LIBERALLY with a fork, and place in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes.
This is essential – your tart shells are less likely to shrink while baking if you take the time to freeze your shells.
Partially Baked vs. Fully Baked
If your tart dough takes longer to bake than the filling you are adding to the tart, you may need to “parbake” or partially bake the tart dough prior to adding the filling and finishing the process.
My Pancetta, Gruyere and Onion Tart is a perfect example of this method. The tart shell is partially baked, the filling is then added. Then, the tart continues to bake until the filling and shell have together finished baking.
The process of making a fully baked tart shell entails placing the tart into the oven, along with the pie weights, and baking until the crust is set and golden brown. Once it is fully baked and cooled, you can then add your fillings.
An example of this is my Lemon Cream & Whipped Mascarpone Tart. The Lemon Cream and Mascarpone are layered into the tart once it is fully baked and cooled.
Pie Weight Alternatives
You can certainly purchase what’s known as pie weights online, yet at home, I use either uncooked rice or dried beans. Pie weights act as the “weight” that prevents tart dough from puffing up and losing its shape.
Once you’ve used your beans or rice as a weight in the oven, they are too dry to use/eat but make sure to save them! I keep my rice in a container marked “baking rice” and use it continually, pouring it back into the container after each use.
Tips for Tart Dough Success
Do Not Overmix
Over-mixing this dough will cause your tart shells to shrink. Halfway through baking, you may look into the oven and see the edges pulling away from the edges. All your hard work, spoiled by over mixing and developing too much gluten. Over-kneading the dough will develop too much gluten. Make sure to keep an eye on your dough when mixing to avoid this problem.
Rest the Dough
Perhaps you have overworked the dough just a touch. Never fear, just know that it’s incredibly important to rest tart dough. Resting the dough ensures that it has a moment to relax after so much gluten development has occurred during the mixing process. This gives it time to rest before the rolling/forming steps.
Freeze Before Baking
Once forming your tart shells, make sure to pop them in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. This is essential – tart shells are much less likely to shrink while baking if you take the time to freeze them.
Helpful Equipment to make Sweet Tart Shells
Sweet Potato Tart
- Stand Mixer with Paddle Attachment
- Rolling Pin
- Tart Pan
- Parchment Paper
- Baking Weights or Beans/Rice
- 3/4 Cup + 2 Tbsp (200 g) Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp Vanilla Paste , or vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 1/4 Cup (150 g) Powdered Sugar
- 1/2 Cup (50 g) Almond Flour
- 3/4 Cup (100 g) All-Purpose Flour
- 2 Eggs, room temperature
- 2 1/4 Cups (291 g) Bread Flour
Sweet Potato Filling
- 1 1/2 cup (300 g) Roasted Sweet Potato , Cooked
- 1 cup (306 g) Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 2 Eggs
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Ginger
- 1/4 tsp Allspice
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
- Cacao Nibs
- Powdered Sugar
- In a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, start by mixing sugar, butter, vanilla paste, salt, almond and all purpose flour mixing until combined. Take a moment to scrape the mixing bowl
- Add room temperature eggs one at a time, mixing between additions
- Add bread flour, making sure to not overmix
- Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap – then place in the fridge to chill before using for at least one hour.
- I tend to make my tart dough ahead of time so I throw it in the fridge until the next day. If using this method, remove your dough from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to roll it out – you’ll find that it will be MUCH easier to work with!
- Once your dough is rolled to the desired thickness, press gently into the bottom of your buttered tart pan, poking the bottom of the tart LIBERALLY with a fork, and place in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes. This is essential – your tart shells are less likely to shrink while baking if you take the time to freeze your shells.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Line the shell with parchment paper and baking rice/beans/pie weights to further prevent the dough from puffing up.
- Bake for 20 minutes before removing from the oven and cooling slightly.
Sweet Potato Filling
- Add all ingredients into a blender and pulse until evenly mixed
- Pour evenly into two tart shells and smooth filing with an offset spatula
- Add filling into par-baked tart crust and bake for 15 minutes. If you start to see browning occur on the tart shell, cover the tart shell edges with foil to prevent further color. If you see browning happen on top of the filling, it’s time to take it out of the oven!
- Allow tart to cool, then garnish with toasted chopped walnuts, cacao nibs and powdered sugar before serving.
- Pancetta Gruyere & Walnut Tart
- Rosemary Dark Chocolate Tart
- Sweet Tart Shell
- Lemon & Mascarpone Cream Tart