Docking. It's called docking.
The free form tart KY described is called a galette. Confusingly, not all galettes are tarts. A galette is not a bad idea to get started.
If you're using a fluted tart tin, save enough dough to make a little ball; and use the ball to press the dough into the fluting on the side. If you're buying a tart tin, buy one with a false bottom.
Break your fat (lard, butter, vegetable shortening, whatever) into small pieces and freeze them before cutting in.
When you cut the fat into the dough, don't cut it in too fine. People often use "cornmeal" as a metaphor, but that's too fine. Pea sized lumps is fine.
Keep everything as cold as possible as long as possible. Cold fat is one of the secrets to a flaky crust. Not cutting it in too fine, is the other.
Use only very cold liquid to make the crust. Refrigerate well after bringing the dough together.
Lard (if you can get your hands on good, clean, lard) makes for flakier crusts, butter tastes better, half and half is good too, Old Crisco, if you can find it, is neither here nor there, New Crisco With 0 Transfat! is better avoided.
Keep the fat very cold from cutting up until you roll out. Cold fat stays in lumps instead of working in, and lumps of fat rolled flat but not worked in make flakey pastry. In case you wondered.
Some things that will help you (and KY) roll level, geometrically acceptable crusts:
- Roll out from the center, not from the edges;
- Use a straight French pin. It won't work as fast as one of the ball-bearing jobs with handles, but will give you a better feel for lumps;
- Turn the dough frequently as you roll, it will help you control the shape;
- To change the shape, don't press harder, roll more frequently from the center all the way out to the short sides;
- Don't try to roll out too thin or the crust will become tough;
- Don't be afraid to use a knife to trim; and
- Don't worry about using every scrap, if you waste 11 cents worth of crust empires will not tumble.
Glaze with melted clear apricot or apple jelly (not jam, not preserves) depending on what color you want the top to have. You can egg wash the top of the crust if you like.
Pears bake fast, shed juice like crazy, and discolor easily. Are you sure you want an actual baked tart rather than an assemblage using poached pears? Just askin', boss.
Batter? What batter?
Edited by boar_d_laze - 9/9/10 at 11:57am