Tarts are a type of pastry that has been enjoyed for centuries. The history of tarts can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where they were often made with fruits and honey. Over time, tarts have evolved to include a wide range of flavors and ingredients. In this blog post, we will explore the history of tarts in baking.
A little history
The origin of tarts can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who made a pastry shell filled with honey and fruit. These early tarts were often made as an offering to the gods. The ancient Greeks also made tarts, known as plakous, which were made with cheese and honey.
During the Middle Ages, tarts became popular in Europe, particularly in England and France. In England, tarts were often filled with meat or fish, while in France, they were filled with fruit or custard. The popularity of tarts grew in the 16th and 17th centuries, and they became a staple of European cuisine.
One of the most famous types of tart is the apple tart. Apple tarts have been made in Europe for centuries, and they were particularly popular in England and France. In fact, the French town of Rouen was known for its apple tarts, and they were even mentioned in a 17th-century play by Moliere.
Another famous type of tart is the custard tart. Custard tarts have been made since medieval times, and they were often served at banquets and feasts. The earliest custard tarts were made with a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, and spices.
In the 18th century, tarts became more elaborate, with the addition of pastry cream, fruit preserves, and whipped cream. Tart pans also became more specialized, with decorative designs and fluted edges.
Today, tarts are still a popular dessert around the world. They can be made with a variety of fillings, including fruit, custard, chocolate, and nuts. Tarts are also popular for their versatility, as they can be served hot or cold, and they can be made in a variety of sizes.
Tarts have a rich history in baking, dating back to ancient civilizations. They have evolved over time, becoming more elaborate and diverse in flavor and ingredients. Today, tarts remain a beloved dessert, enjoyed by people around the world.
Types of tarts
Tart shells are an essential part of any tart, as they provide a delicious and crispy base for the filling. There are several different types of tart shells, each with its own unique texture and flavor. In this section, we will explore the different types of tart shells and how they are made.
Shortcrust pastry tart shell - This is the most common type of tart shell and is made by mixing flour, butter, and sugar until it forms a crumbly dough. The dough is then rolled out and fitted into a tart pan. The tart shell is then baked until golden brown and crispy.
Pâte Sablée tart shell - Pâte Sablée is a French tart shell that is made by mixing flour, butter, sugar, and egg yolks until it forms a smooth dough. The dough is then chilled and rolled out before being fitted into a tart pan. The tart shell is then baked until golden brown and crispy.
Puff pastry tart shell - Puff pastry is a flaky and buttery pastry that is made by layering butter between layers of dough. To make a puff pastry tart shell, the dough is rolled out, cut to size, and then placed into a tart pan. The tart shell is then baked until it is puffed up and golden brown.
Almond tart shell - An almond tart shell is made by combining almond flour, sugar, butter, and egg whites until it forms a paste. The paste is then pressed into a tart pan and baked until it is golden brown and crispy.
Chocolate tart shell - A chocolate tart shell is made by combining flour, cocoa powder, sugar, butter, and egg yolks until it forms a dough. The dough is then rolled out and fitted into a tart pan. The tart shell is then baked until it is crispy and has a deep chocolate flavor.
Tart shells come in a variety of textures and flavors, each with its own unique characteristics. Whether you prefer a classic shortcrust pastry or a rich chocolate tart shell, there is a type of tart shell to suit every taste. The key to making a great tart is to choose the right shell for your filling and to ensure that it is baked to perfection.
Tarts vs tartlets
Size: The most obvious difference between tarts and tartlets is their size. Tarts are larger, typically around 9-11 inches in diameter, while tartlets are smaller, usually around 2-3 inches in diameter.
Crust-to-filling ratio: Because of their size, tarts usually have a higher crust-to-filling ratio than tartlets. This means that the crust plays a more significant role in the overall taste and texture of the tart, while the filling is the star of the show in tartlets.
Serving style: Tarts are typically served as slices, while tartlets are often served as individual portions. This makes tartlets a great option for parties and gatherings, as they are easy to serve and don't require slicing.
Filling: While tarts and tartlets can have similar fillings, tartlets are often used for more delicate or intricate fillings, as their small size allows for more precise and decorative presentations. Tarts, on the other hand, can accommodate a wider range of fillings, including fruit, custard, and chocolate.
Tips with tarts
Use cold ingredients - When making tart dough, it's important to use cold ingredients such as butter and water. This helps to ensure that the dough remains firm and doesn't become too sticky or soft. You can even chill your flour in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before making the dough.
Chill the dough - After making the tart dough, it's a good idea to chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This helps the dough to firm up and makes it easier to work with.
Use a floured surface - When rolling out the tart dough, make sure to use a floured surface. This prevents the dough from sticking and makes it easier to transfer to the tart pan.
Don't stretch the dough - When transferring the tart dough to the pan, make sure not to stretch it. This can cause the dough to shrink during baking, resulting in a smaller tart shell. Instead, gently press the dough into the pan and trim any excess.
Prick the dough - Before blind-baking the tart shell, prick the dough with a fork. This helps to prevent the pastry from puffing up during baking.
Avoid overfilling - As mentioned earlier, overfilling the tart can cause a soggy bottom. Make sure to follow the recipe and only fill the tart shell to the recommended level.
Use the right pan - Make sure to use the correct size and type of tart pan for the recipe. Different recipes may require different types of tart pans, such as a deep dish or a fluted tart pan.
Let it cool - Once the tart is baked, let it cool completely before slicing. This allows the filling to set and makes it easier to slice without the filling spilling out.
The dreaded soggy bottom
A soggy bottom on a tart is a common issue that can occur when the filling releases moisture during baking, causing the bottom of the crust to become damp and soft instead of crisp and flaky. A soggy bottom can be a disappointment, as it can make the tart less enjoyable to eat. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid this issue:
Blind-bake the tart shell - Blind-baking means baking the tart shell before adding the filling. This technique can help prevent a soggy bottom by allowing the pastry to set and cook before the filling is added. To blind-bake a tart shell, line it with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill it with baking weights or dried beans. Bake the tart shell in the oven for 10-15 minutes until it is partially cooked and starting to turn golden. Remove the weights and parchment paper, and then return the tart shell to the oven to finish baking until it is golden and crispy.
Use a barrier - Another way to prevent a soggy bottom is to add a barrier between the filling and the pastry. This can be done by brushing the tart shell with an egg wash or melted chocolate before adding the filling. The egg wash or chocolate creates a waterproof barrier that helps to keep the pastry crisp.
Thicken the filling - If the filling is too watery, it can cause the tart to become soggy. To prevent this, make sure the filling is thick enough before adding it to the tart shell. This can be done by adding a thickening agent like cornstarch or flour to the filling mixture. Be sure to follow the recipe carefully to ensure that the thickening agent is added in the correct amount.
Avoid overfilling - Overfilling the tart can also cause a soggy bottom, as the filling will have nowhere to go and will release moisture into the pastry. Make sure to follow the recipe and only fill the tart shell to the recommended level.
In conclusion, tarts have a rich and diverse history that spans centuries and cultures. From medieval England to modern-day bakeries, tarts have been enjoyed as both sweet and savory dishes, with a wide range of fillings and crusts to suit any taste.
Whether you're a seasoned baker or just starting out, tarts can be a fun and rewarding dessert to make. With a little practice and attention to detail, you can create beautiful and delicious tarts that will impress your friends and family.
Remember to use cold ingredients, chill the dough, and avoid overfilling the tart to prevent a soggy bottom. Use the right type of pan, let it cool before slicing, and experiment with different fillings to find your favorites.
Whether you prefer a classic fruit tart or a savory quiche, tarts are a versatile and delicious dessert that will always have a special place in the world of baking. Happy baking!