ABOUT 11 OUNCES DOUGH, ENOUGH FOR A 9- TO 10INCH CRUST
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 ¼ cups bleached all-purpose flour
Perfectly suited to the subtle fillings of most tarts, this dough may be used both for crusts baked empty (baked blind) to be filled after baking, or those in which a raw filling and the raw dough bake together. Flavored variations of the pastry (which follow the basic recipe) are best used for tarts with fillings that have an assertive flavor.
Tart dough is easy to prepare. For a smoothly mixed dough, have the butter and egg yolk at room temperature. After mixing the .dough, chill it. Before you roll the dough, everything should be cold: the dough, the rolling pin, the work surface, and even the tart pan.
1. Combine the butter and sugar in a medium mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, until the mixture is soft, fluffy, and almost white in color.
2. Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolk and continue beating for another 2 minutes, until the mixture is soft and smooth and resembles buttercream. (If the mixture appears curdled, the butter, egg yolk, or both were too cold and not soft enough when combined. Continue to beat and the mixture will become smooth in a few minutes.) Scrape the bowl and beater(s) and remove the bowl from the mixer.
3. Place the flour in a strainer or sifter and sift it, all at once, over the butter mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the butter mixture until no traces of flour remain visible.
4. Scrape the dough onto the center of a 12-inch square of plastic wrap and shape it into a rough disk. Cover with another 12-inch square of plastic and press the dough between the two pieces of plastic until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate the dough.
STORAGE: Keep the dough refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the tart. You can refrigerate, it for up to 5 days or freeze it. To freeze, double-wrap the package of dough in plastic wrap (to keep the edges from drying). The dough is thin so it will defrost quickly at room temperature. If it has softened too much in defrosting, chill it again before rolling.
HINT FOR SUCCESS: If the butter has not softened sufficiently to prepare the dough, cut it into small pieces before proceeding with the recipe. Beat the butter and sugar for about 2 to 3 minutes longer until they are soft and light before adding the egg yolk.