Over the years I’ve shared many recipes for tarts, galettes and pies. I often write about techniques for working with dough, but I’d like to try and visually demonstrate some of the methods I’ve been describing. Eventually maybe I’ll work my way up to video tutorials, but one step at a time!
My friend recently hosted a dinner party, and for dessert she prepared a wonderful chocolate tart with toasted coconut and sea salt. It was rich, dense and had just the right amount of saltiness. It was so good I had to make it at home. I swapped out the original tart dough with a modified version of my pâte sucrée, which is basically a big cookie. It’s a very forgiving dough, and it worked perfectly here.
Dough is all about butter temperature. If the butter is too warm, the dough will become sticky and difficult to manage. If it’s too cold, the dough might crack when you try to roll it out. You want the dough to be chilled, but I typically let it rest for 3-5 minutes after removing it from the refrigerator.
I try to use as little flour as possible while working with dough since adding too much can dry out the crust. To speed things up, you can take cold dough that has just been removed from the refrigerator and smack it several times with your rolling pin. This will help soften up the butter. It’s also rather cathartic.
If at any time the dough becomes too soft and sticky, simply place it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes (or longer, if necessary). A bench scraper can make lifting and moving the dough much easier. In the background of some of these photos you can see my cake lifter, which is essentially a massive bench scraper. Because I was taking photos, the dough got very soft and had to be refrigerated a few times once it was fully rolled out. The cake lifter was helpful, but under normal circumstances it would be overkill. You want to move more swiftly, if possible.
This won’t work with every dough, but because pâte sucrée includes egg yolk, you can easily roll or press it back together if any cracks form. There won’t be as much elasticity and shrinkage as you get with other doughs, such as my more standard pâte brisée, seen in this quiche.
All doughs have a tendency to shrink in the oven, so I recommend, creating what’s known as a “lip.” After placing the dough into the tart pan, you want to gently press up some of the excess dough and fold it inward, using your hands as a guide.
Then, press your rolling pin along the top of the pan to trim away the excess dough and push the overhang inward at the same time. Use your thumb to push the excess dough from the lip into the flutes of the pan and upward at the same time so that there is a small amount of extra dough peeking over the top of the pan. This is a safety net against the dough shrinking in the oven.
Poking holes in to bottom of the dough helps prevent air bubbles from forming, which will cause the dough to blow up like a balloon. Yes, I know my sheet pan is dirty. I prefer to think of it as “well loved.”
I hope these dough tips were helpful! Please leave a comment if you have any questions. I’m happy to go into further detail on anything. You can also reach me via the contact form, but if you have a baking question, someone else might be wondering the same thing!
- 6 ounces (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour
- 1½ tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- Place the flour and sugar in a food processor and pulse several times to combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and pulse several more times until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
- In a liquid measuring cup, briefly whisk together the egg yolk, water and vanilla extract until frothy. With the machine running, pour the liquid in until the dough has just come together. Wrap the dough in plastic, giving it a few quick kneads first if the ingredients don’t look completely incorporated, and flatten into a disc. Chill for at least 2 hours.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a thin circle that is approximately 12 inches in diameter. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and then gently unroll it into a 9-inch tart pan, leaving slack so the dough can settle into the flutes. Gently shape the dough to the side of the pan and trim away any excess dough (see photos and images for a more thorough tutorial). Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Use a fork to prick numerous holes in the dough to prevent air bubbles. Add a layer of aluminum foil and dried beans to weigh down the dough. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 18 - 20 minutes, removing the beans and foil halfway through, until the dough has just firmed up on the bottom. Allow to cool.
- Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Spread the coconut in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant, stirring once, 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
- Place the bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the cream to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Once it’s just simmering, pour over the chocolate and stir until very smooth. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sea salt and add to the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Pour into the pre-baked tart shell and bake for 25-28 minutes. The center of the tart should wobble just slightly while the sides should appear solid. It will continue to set as it cools. Remove from the oven.
- While the tart is still warm, sprinkle the toasted coconut and coarse seat salt on top, very gently pressing into the chocolate to help adhere. Let the tart cool for 1 hour before serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
I used a Wilton 9x1-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Filling adapted from The Washington Post and author Kathy Gunst.