This homemade tart crust is so simple (and so good). The filling possibilities are endless for this easy-to-make, buttery, rich shell.

Basic Tart Crust

By | Baking + Desserts, Easy Dinners, Thanksgiving | No Comments

This homemade tart crust is so simple (and so good).


Easy recipes that let you make a million variations are tricks I keep up my sleeve. This tart crust recipe is one of those. It’s very simple and is the base for many a variation.

Typically tart crusts are a little richer, and a bit more sturdy than flaky pie crusts. Pie crusts are the delicate flower of the pastry world. Tart crusts can handle a bit more. To this crust I’ve added an egg yolk, both for structure and richness.
Like my pie crust I like to make this in the food processor; but you can certainly do it by hand with a pastry blender if you don’t have a food processor.

Most tart recipes call for “blind baking” the shell. This means you prebake the crust in the tart pan without the filling. The key is to line the crust with foil, then weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans so the tart crust doesn’t bubble.

Basic Tart Crust

As the recipe details, once the crust is rolled out, place the dough into the tart pan and gently lift it into place. You lift so you don’t just stretch it into the corners. Stretching makes pastry dough angry, then in the oven it rebels and shrinks terribly.

Then, I love this part, use the heel of your hand or a rolling pin to trim the edges flush with the pan, like in the picture above!

Making Basic Tart Crust

Now you get to blind bake! Make sure the crust is chilled as the recipe says, then line it with foil, pressing the foil into the corners. The dough is cold, so it can handle you pressing that foil gently on top of it.

Fill the foil with pie weights (those little ceramic balls), or with dried beans. By the way once you bake the beans you can’t use them for another purpose. I have a jar of beans I just use for baking. They last 4 or 5 bakes; then they go in the trash.

Oh! great tip: place tart pans on a flat baking sheet to go in the oven. Tart pans have removable bottoms and it can get tricky to move them in and out of the oven. This way you just have to take the baking sheet in and out!

Basic Tart Crust with Ceramic balls on top

Once the crust has set in the oven about 30 minutes you can carefully remove the pan and take the foil lining and pie weights out. Depending on your recipe you can continue to bake it until it’s golden brown, or fill it partially cooked.

Tart Rings
Tart rings are a fun way to make individual tarts. The rings come in all sizes, but I love these 4-inch rings. Take a look at the how-to below for the best way to fill these darling forms. Once the dough is in the ring, simply place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cook. There’s no need for a removable bottom! (plus you won’t be losing those bottoms and I tend to do).

Basic Tart Crust Process

Basic Tart Crust

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: Makes 2 single crusts

Basic Tart Crust


  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) very cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk


  1. In a food processor combine flour and salt. Add butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas. Whisk together the you and ½ cup cold water. Drizzle the liquid into the food processor while pulsing to combine. Pulse until dough holds together when you pinch it, adding liquid as needed.
  2. Turn dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Divide in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap, flattening into a disk. Chill until cold or ready to use, about 30 min.
  3. On floured surface roll dough until it's 3/16 inch thick and large enough to fit in the tart pan. (Pinch edges of dough as you roll to prevent cracks and tears.) Place dough into tart pan; gently lift into place without stretching and press into pan. Use the heel of your hand or a rolling pin to trim the edges flush with the pan. If blind baking, freeze crust about 20 min.
  4. For blind baking, heat oven to 375°F. Line the chilled crust with aluminum foil into the corners. Fill with pie weights or dried beans and place on a baking sheet. Bake until crust is set and just starting to brown, about 30 min. Remove foil lining and weights and return crust to oven to brown evenly, 5 to 10 min more. Cool completely, then remove from tart pan.
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Recipe Tara Bench
Photographer Jennifer Causey
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal May 2013


Golden Rosemary Garlic Mixed Nuts

By | Appetizers + Nibbles, Buffets, Christmas, DIY, Entertaining, Food Gifts, Holidays + Seasons, Homemade Gifts, Lifestyle, New Years, Party Foods, Snacks, Thanksgiving, Vegetarian | No Comments

Golden mixed nuts might be my new favorite party food. Gold makes everything a little more fantastic! I am loving all the edible gold food adornments, sprinkles, dusts and sprays that you can find now. Snacks for my Golden Globes viewing party just got…well…more gold!

Golden Rosemary Garlic Mixed Nuts
I wanted something easy, mostly store-bought to go with some of the other treats, snacks and drinks I am preparing. But I wanted it to be special. I’m very supportive of mixing store-bought prepared foods with things you may have made, or semi-made! Tricks like that let you enjoy the party instead of being completely exhausted from prep.

Mixed nuts are just the thing. You can add little bowls all over the room and on your buffet table so people can snack and mingle. But it is the Golden Globes! It must be just a bit fancier than a can of mixed nuts.

So…I took a can of mixed nuts and seasoned them with a little garlic, rosemary and pepper. Delicious. To make them gold, I sprayed a few with edible gold spray, which you can find in your area or here.

color mist-food spray


I’ve sprayed nuts to go on top of cookies before, so getting to that place of spraying nuts with gold, wasn’t a stretch. I love them all shimmery and metallic mixed into a simple bowl. And with simple seasonings the flavor is elevated to celebrity status. Ready for the red carpet!

sprayed nuts seasonings Golden Rosemary Garlic Mixed Nuts

Golden Rosemary Garlic Mixed Nuts

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: Makes 2 cups

Golden Rosemary Garlic Mixed Nuts

Make these for a fancy party or special gathering. Edible gold spray makes for metallic shimmers in the bowl of savory mixed nuts.


  • 2 cups fancy mixed nuts
  • 1 can edible gold food spray
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • crushed pepper


  1. Spread ¼ cup of the nuts on a sheet of parchment. Spray with gold food spray and let dry a few minutes. Turn nuts over and spray so each nut is completely covered. Let dry.
  2. Chop 1 sprig of rosemary and leave the others intact. In a microwave safe bowl, microwave the oil, garlic powder, cayenne, chopped rosemary, rosemary sprigs and pepper for 10 to 15 seconds to heat the oil. Toss the remaining mixed nuts with the oil mixture to coat.
  3. Transfer nuts to a serving bowl with the gold painted nuts mixed in and on top.
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Recipe, Photo and Food Styling Tara Bench

Speedy Turkey Tetrazzini — For Thanksgiving Leftovers!

By | Casserole, Easy Dinners, Main Dish, One Dish Meals, Thanksgiving | No Comments

Thanksgiving Day Leftovers are the bomb! And no need to settle for the same old sandwich. This creamy, comforting casserole will make your head spin with joy.
Turkey Tetrazzini

Do any of you remember the Turkey Tetrazzini of your childhood? There’s a chance it was loaded with the good stuff, turkey, peas, mushrooms and noodles. But probably had loads of cream soups from a can, sour cream or mayo. As much as these things make food quite delicious, they are heavy and sometimes kind of bland to be honest.

My take on this bake combines all the good stuff with a lightly creamy sauce made from broth and a hit of Parmesan for intense flavor. And of course the crunchy, buttery crumbs on top.


Speedy Turkey Tetrazzini

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Calories per serving: 505

Fat per serving: 20 g

Speedy Turkey Tetrazzini


  • 8 oz curly egg noodles
  • ⅔ cup plain bread crumbs
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1⅛ tsp salt
  • 1¼ cups sliced white button mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ¾ lb cooked turkey, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 cans (14 oz each) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp dried thyme


  1. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425°F. In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup cheese, 3 tbsp butter and ⅛ tsp salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 tbsp butter, the mushrooms, onion and remaining 1 tsp salt. Cover and cook over medium-high heat 3 min. Uncover and cook, stirring, 3 min more; transfer to a bowl. Toss in turkey and peas; set aside.
  4. For sauce, in a medium saucepan, whisk together broth, flour and remaining 2 tbsp butter, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened, 4 to 5 min; remove from heat. Stir in remaining ½ cup cheese, the lemon juice and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. In a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, combine sauce, turkey mixture and noodles; top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake until golden and bubbling, 13 to 15 min. Serve warm.
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Recipe: Tara Bench
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Nov 2008
Photographer: Burcu Avsar
Food Stylist: Susan Vajaranant
Prop Stylist: Sarah Cave

Perfect Pie Crust Plus 5 Expert Crust Tips

By | Baking + Desserts, DIY, Holidays + Seasons, Pies + Tarts, Thanksgiving | 3 Comments

Perfect Pie Crust is flaky, tender and most of all tastes great! You want it to taste so good, the filling is second thought! Follow this easy recipe to find out how to do just that.

Perfect pie crust can sometimes be intimidating. But it shouldn’t be. It’s as simple as getting some cold butter mixed into flour with a bit of cold water in the right proportions, in the right way. Piece of cake. I mean pie!


Below are 5 Crust Tips that will help you make perfect pie crust–and then take a look at this little video on how to make it in the food processor. You’ll see I try to work quickly and not handle the dough much. Warm hands can melt the butter in the dough and make it tough. This one recipe makes 2 single crusts and you can see how I bring the dough together and divide it in half. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

These 5 tips for perfect pie crust might just change your life.

1  Start with chilled ingredients
Refrigerating everything—yes, even the flour—is key to creating tender, pliable dough. Warm ingredients make tough crust because they bind too quickly with the gluten in the flour.

2  Use shortening and butter
Shortening provides flakiness while butter adds flavor; combining the two gets you the best of both worlds.

3  Add water carefully
Too much water makes the crust tough. But don’t try to play it safe and be stingy. The crust will crack and fall apart without enough liquid. Be sure to have a light hand so you don’t over mix the dough.

4  Crumble-proof your crust
Do this by using a tenderizer such as salt, vinegar, vodka or lemon juice. Each provides a different hint of flavor.

5  Roll the right way
Lightly flour your work surface, then roll dough from the center outward to create a circle. Lift and move the dough frequently as you work so it doesn’t stick to the surface. Avoid stretching it: stretched dough shrinks during baking.



Perfect Piecrust + 5 Crust Tips

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 single crusts

Perfect Piecrust + 5 Crust Tips


  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 12 tbsp (1½ sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup chilled shortening
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • ½ cup very cold water


  1. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and half the butter. Pulse 8 to 10 times or until mixture is coarse crumbs and some of the butter is pea-size. (Alternately, combine in a bowl using a pastry blender or a fork.)
  2. In a measuring cup, combine vinegar with ½ cup cold water. Add the remaining butter to the food processor, and while pulsing processor, drizzle in just enough water mixture to form dough, 5 to 8 tbsp. (Dough may be slightly dry but will hold together when you pinch it.)
  3. Transfer dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and use the wrap to bring the dough together in one ball. Halve dough, wrap each half in plastic wrap and press into disks. Chill 1 hr or until ready to use. May be kept refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or frozen for up to 4 months.
  4. To pre-bake crust, roll into a 12- to 13-inch circle and gently transfer to pie plate. Trim edges (or decorate as desired) and chill or freeze until very cold. Line cold crust with a double thickness of foil or line with parchment. Fill with pie weights or dry beans and bake at 375ºF until edges are just golden, 12 min. Remove foil or parchment and weights; bake another 10 to 12 min until cooked through. Let cool before filling.
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Recipe by Tara Bench
Photography Kate Mathis
Food Styling Sara Neumeier
Prop Styling Megan Hedgepeth

Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust

By | Baking + Desserts, Holidays + Seasons, Pies + Tarts, Thanksgiving | No Comments

Cheesecake is the new pie.
If you don’t believe it, just make this Spiced Cheesecake for Thanksgiving dessert and see who pays attention to the pie!
Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust
Just look at that impressive situation! It begged to be shot with velvet, like a fancy painting.

There’s fresh ginger in the chocolaty crust as well as in the filling. Traditional spices like ground ginger and cinnamon also lace the rich, cream cheese filling. It’s also no-fail. The crust gets pressed into the pan and that little touch of oil in the crust mixture keeps it slightly soft so it doesn’t shatter to crumbs with every bite. The filling is blended up in one bowl and poured into the crust and baked. The parchment circle on the bottom allows the cheesecake to slide right off the pan bottom onto a serving platter.

Raise both hands in the air because YOU JUST WON!

Happy baking my friends!

Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

Yield: Serves 16

Calories per serving: 685

Fat per serving: 53 g

Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust


  • 12 oz (53 cookies) chocolate wafer cookies, such as Nabisco Famous
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 4 8-oz pkg cream cheese
  • 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 2½ tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • ⅔ cup confectioners' sugar
  • Chocolate curls


  1. Heat oven to 400°F with rack in the lower third. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with a circle of parchment; set aside.
  2. In a food processor crush chocolate cookies and sugar until mixture is fine crumbs. Stir together oil, butter and grated ginger and drizzle into mixture, pulsing until combined. Press mixture into the pan so crust is about ⅜ inch thick on the bottom and all the way up the sides (you may have a little extra). Set crust aside.
  3. In a mixer beat together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and grated ginger until there are no lumps. Mix in the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger. Add eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing in completely and scraping sides of bowl as needed between each addition, until completely combined.
  4. Place springform pan on a foil-lined baking sheet and pour filling into crust. Bake for 20 min, then reduce heat to 200°F. Loosely cover cheesecake with greased foil and cook until center is just slightly wobbly and cake is set, about 1 hr 10 min more. Cool on a wire rack completely, then chill 4 hr or overnight.
  5. Whip cream and confectioners' sugar to firm peaks and swirl on top of cheesecake; sprinkle with chocolate curls.
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Spiced Cheesecake With Chocolate-Ginger Crust
Recipe by Tara Bench
Photography by Seth Smoot
Food Styling Sara Neumeier
Prop Styling Michelle Wong
Originally published in Ladies’ Home Journal Nov 2012,