* Have all of the ingredients well chilled. If the kitchen is warm, it helps to work on a marble surface and chill the tools as well. Work quickly so that the ingredients don't get too warm. If they do, put everything in the refrigerator until the dough firms up. Do not overwork the dough. Handle the dough as little as possible. If using an electric mixer or food processor, just barely combine the ingredients. Handling the dough causes the formation of gluten, a protein that makes the dough tough and hard to work with. A food processor also throws off a lot of heat, which can soften the dough excessively.
* Do not add more water or flour than is absolutely necessary. Excess flour or water can make the dough tough.
* After chilling it, you may find the dough is too firm to roll out. Let it sit at room temperature a few minutes to warm slightly. If the edge cracks as you roll the dough out, it is probably still too cold.
* Pastry dough can be refrigerated up to overnight or frozen up to one month before using.
* Roll the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap. Place the rolling pin in the center of the disk and gently push it away from you. Rotate the plastic-covered disk of dough a quarter-turn, center the pin on the dough, and again roll it away from you. Continue rolling and turning the dough until you make one full circle. Gently lift the plastic off the dough and replace it. Turn the dough over and repeat the rolling, lifting, and turning until the dough is circular and about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. If the dough becomes too soft and difficult to handle at any time, place it in the refrigerator to cool.
* Use dough scraps from the edge to patch the dough if needed.
* Handle tart pans with a removable rim carefully--and by the rim only. If you lift the bottom while the crust is unbaked and soft, it may pinch the crust and make a hole in it.
* Most tarts are best when eaten within 2 or 3 hours of baking. Tarts with moist fillings like pastry cream or ricotta are the most fragile, because they will become soggy as they stand. Those with jam, and most cooked or dried fruits, will stay crisp longer, up to 24 hours.
* I like to cover fruit tarts with a large inverted bowl rather than plastic wrap, to protect the surface of the tart. If you do not have a large enough bowl, cover the tart with foil, leaving a space between the surface of the tart and the wrapping.
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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