When it comes to home-made desserts, tarts are always popular. They can be divided into two basic types: those cooked with their filling, such as an apricot and almond cream tart, and those where the filling is added after baking the pastry case, such as a strawberry tart or chocolate tart.
It won't do to simply to line the tart tin with the pastry and bake it empty – the pastry will puff up unevenly in big bubbles which will harden as they cook and the sides are likely to fall in. In short, a disaster. And this is even worse with puff pastry.
This is a long string of stainless-steel beads which can be coiled in the pastry case. It's not too bad for keeping the bottom flat, but does little to stop the sides falling in.
These are either metal or ceramic and can be poured in to give an even layer in the pastry case. They are quite effective (just don't use the aluminium ones), even for the sides. But they tend to be fairly large, so not good for small tarts.
This method is as old as the hills and cheap: simply fill the pastry case with dried beans, peas or lentils – they are very effective.
Use lentils if you can, as their small size makes them ideal for all sizes of tarts, even tiny ones and vol-au-vents.
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