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posted: 4/16/2013 11:22 AM

Flaky Pastry Dough

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2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon fine salt

1¼ sticks unsalted butter, chopped into pieces

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon milk

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Again using your fingertips, mix together to make a smooth dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead two or three times. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface or piece of plastic wrap to 2 inches larger than your pan. Grease six, 4-inch diameter tart pans, then lift the dough over a rolling pin and lightly drape it over an individual pan. For tarts, loose-bottom pans are best. Peel away the plastic wrap, if using.

Gently lift the edges of the dough upward and ease the dough into position. Press the dough firmly but gently into place with your fingertips, making sure that there are no gaps between the dough and the pan. Turn any excess dough outward over the run of the tart pan, then run the rolling pin over the top of the pan so that any excess dough is cut off. Smooth any rough edges with the side of a blunt knife.

Prick the bottom of the pastry shell with a fork. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes; this will help to stop it from shrinking during baking.

Place a large piece of nonstick parchment paper over the bottom and sides of the pastry shell. Fill the bottom with pie weights -- these are available from cookware department of large department stores and specialty cookware shops -- or dried uncooked beans.

To pre-bake: Bake in a 350-degree oven 8-10 minutes for individual tarts, or until the shell is just set, then remove the paper and weights and cook empty for 4-5 minutes for individual tarts, or until the bottom is dry and crisp and the top edges of the tart are golden.

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