Traditional pie and tart crusts are great, no doubt about it. They’re tasty and work with just about every kind of tart filling you might imagine. But as much as I like them (and like making them), I also like variety and always have an eye out for alternative crusts that will work well with particular tarts.
This crust is a sugar cookie crust. It is made in much the same way as cookie dough – butter, creamed with sugar, then combined with dry ingredients – but is more crumbly and contains neither eggs nor leavening agents. The lack of leavening (and eggs, which can contribute rise to a dough) is pretty important for this crust to work because the cookie dough is pressed into the pan, not rolled out, and since there is nothing to give it “lift,” it holds its shape very well during baking.
I like this tart crust for no-bake fillings. A cream cheese and fruit filling, for instance, would work well here, as would a rich chocolate ganache filling. Since it is really little more than a simple cookie, it could also be paired with ice cream or custards to make a really quick and easy summer tart. For all no-bake fillings, the crust should be baked fully, until it is firm and golden, before being used. If you want to use it for a baked tart, where the filling is put into a partially baked crust and the whole thing is put back in the oven, you can simply par-bake the crust and put it back into the oven for a second go-round when you are ready.
Sugar Cookie Tart Crust
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk (low fat is fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light. Beat in flour, salt, milk and vanilla, until mixture is moist and crumbly (it should clump together if you press it between your fingers).
Pour dough into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan and press it up the sides, making sure the layer on the bottom is even.
For a no-bake filling: Bake for 25-30 minutes, until crust is golden. Cool.
For a baked filling: Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is set and firm at the edges. Cool, then fill with desired fillling and bake as that recipe directs.
Variations: Add a bit of almond extract to the tart crust during mixing to compliment a chocolate filling. Add a tablespoon of lemon (pictured) or orange zest for a citrusy touch.