I think of tarts the same way I think of sandwiches: you can fill them with almost anything and they taste great. And just as a good sandwich requires good bread, a tart needs a good crust.
This recipe makes a simple sweet* tart crust. How simple? Just cream together the butter (or shortening if you are dairy-free) and sugar and then add the dry ingredients. As soon as the dough comes together, press it into a tart pan. No rolling required! Since gluten-free dough lacks the structure gluten provides, it's delicate. If you press the dough into the pan, you don't have to deal with transferring the tender dough from the counter to the pan. After pressing the dough into the pan, chill it. Not chilling the dough can cause it to shrink during baking. So don't skip this easy step.
Full or Partial Bake? The tart filling determines the best way to bake the crust. If the filling does not require baking (like the chocolate ganache recipe I've included below) fully bake the crust, allow it to cool and then pour the filling into the fully baked crust. If your filing requires baking, such as a cheesecake-style filling, partially bake the crust until it is just barely begins to brown, fill it, and finish baking.
Whether you are fully or partially baking your crust, I don't recommend using pie weights to keep the dough from rising. Pie weights, by design, are heavy and do almost too good of a job keeping gluten-free crust from puffing. They tend to leave you with a dense crust instead of a delicate one. Before baking, simply pierce the crust all over with a fork. This prevents the crust from puffing up while not affecting its texture. If your crust does puff up slightly, gently press it down, using the back of a spoon, as soon as you remove the pan from the oven.
Filling Suggestions. I shared my recipe for a quick chocolate ganache filling below. In addition, here are some other filling suggestions:
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate Pudding
- Lemon Curd
- Assorted Fruits: Apples, Pears, Plums
Ingredient Note. In addition to being gluten-free, this recipe is also egg-free, soy-free, corn-free, and nut-free. If you're dairy-free, replace the butter in the recipe with an equal amount of solid non-dairy substitute, like shortening or coconut oil.
*If you love savory tarts, don't fret! I'll share a savory tart dough in an upcoming column.
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:three hours
- For the Tart Dough
- 4 ounces (1 cup) white rice flour
- 1 1/4 ounces (1/4 cup) sweet rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, softened
- 2 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the Chocolate Ganache Filling
- 16 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 16 ounces heavy cream
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts
For the Tart Dough In a small bowl, whisk together white rice flour, sweet rice flour, and salt.
Fit stand mixer with flat paddle attachment. In bowl of stand mixer, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until a thick paste forms and mixture lightens slightly, about 90 seconds.
Add dry ingredients and mix for 30 seconds. Mixture will be dry and crumbly.
Stop mixer and scrape down bowl. Turn mixer back on to medium speed. Mix until a dough forms, about two minutes.
Lightly spray 10-inch tart pan with non-stick cooking spray. Turn dough into prepared pan. Using your hands, press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. The dough is stiff and will take a few minutes to press into the pan.
Cover pan with plastic wrap and chill for two hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F. When oven is preheated, remove tart pan from refrigerator. Pierce bottom and sides with a fork. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
When cool, if desired, prepare ganache filling and pour into tart shell.
For the Filling: If using nuts, place in medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until nuts are aromatic and just begin to brown. Cool toasted nuts on a baking sheet. When cool, spread nuts evenly over bottom of baked tart shell.
In small (2 quart) saucepan, bring cream to a boil over medium heat. When cream boils, remove from heat. Stir in chocolate. Using a wooden spoon, stir mixture until chocolate is melted and ganache is shiny. Pour ganache into baked tart shell.
Chill tart for four hours or overnight. Remove tart from refrigerator about one hour before serving.