When I first saw David Lebovitz mention a new (to him, at least) tart dough technique, I was intrigued. There are all kinds of dough that you can use as the base for a tart, but most are similar to pie dough or pate brisee, where cold butter is cut into a flour mixture and either rolled or pressed into a pan. This tart dough recipe is more like the dough for choux pastry. It starts off with a hot, melted butter mixture into which flour is stirred to create a dough. Definitely non-traditional, but it is easy to make a produces a great result.
The original recipe David discussed, which he got from a pastry loving (and teaching) friend, Paule Caillat, in Paris, calls for heating the butter mixture in the oven in an ovenproof bowl until it is hot. I found this idea to be, well, a little unsafe. I hate handling water baths or any other liquid in the oven and I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t monitor the mixture as it cooked. Instead, I chose to cook my mixture in a saucepan on the stove until the butter began to brown and created a base with a rich, deep, toasty flavor. Another advantage to using the stovetop is that you are easily able to handle the pan when you go to stir the flour in; there is no need to fuss with potholders, a hot bowl, a spoon and flour all at once!
Once cooled, the dough can be pressed into a tart pan and used as an uncooked pastry base or prebaked to support a filling that doesn’t need to be baked itself. The crust is tender, crisp and melts in your mouth. The browned butter flavor comes through in the crust alone and will add a great accent to all kinds of fillings. A chocolate truffle filling might overwhelm its flavor, but a cream cheese and fresh fruit filling or a lemon curd filling would be a great match here.
Browned Butter Tart Dough
6 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp (5oz) all purpose flour
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except flour over low heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes, allowing the mixture to simmer and cook, until butter mixture begins to brown and take on a nutty scent. Dump in the flour all at once and use a wooden spoon to stir vigorously until the dough comes together into a ball. Remove from heat and turn out out into a 9-inch tart pan. Press down gently to flatten slightly and let cool for 5-10 minutes, until cool enough to handle easily.
Using your fingers, gently spread out the dough into a thin layer over the bottom of the pan and up the sides of the mold.
Once crust is evenly distributed, prick the bottom several times with a fork.
Crust can now be used for a baked tart, or baked at 400F for 13-15 minutes (or until browned) for an unbaked tart filling. If prebaking, the tart crust should be cooled completely before using.
Makes 1 9-inch tart.
Note: This recipe would really be a stretch for a pie crust; it would be very, very thin if you tried to pull it up the sides of even an 9-inch plate. You can, however, use a pie plate if you don’t have a tart mold and just take the dough halfway up the sides to create a nice crust.