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Chocolate Tart Shells (about sixteen 4" tarts)

I used this dough in my plaid tart logo and in a chocolate version of Mont Blanc, my favorite dessert in the world. It has such a dark chocolate flavor and crisp texture that when I first set out to crack the Fauxreo code, I started here.

What you do with the tart shells is limited only by your imagination. For something impressive, think in layers. A little ganache, caramel or nutella on the bottom, a generous layer of pastry cream, and finished with a crown of nuts or fruit.

But the shells taste so good on their own, don’t hesitate to go simple. Use them as an edible bowl for your favorite ice cream, pudding or just whipped cream and fresh strawberries or raspberries.

If dark chocolate’s not your thing, I have a recipe for white chocolate tart dough too.

a stack of tart shells seen from above

Chocolate Tart Shells
3.75 ounces sugar
1.25 ounces brown sugar
scrapings from half a vanilla bean
1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4.5 ounces unsalted butter, very soft room temperature
2 egg yolks
9 ounces all purpose flour, sifted
1.75 ounces cocoa, sifted

Mixture for rolling
2 ounces cocoa plus 2 ounces powdered sugar, sifted together

With a hand or stand mixer, combine sugars, vanilla bean seeds, coffee powder, salt and butter on medium speed. Mix only until ingredients are thoroughly combined, but by no means light and fluffy. Add in the yolks, one at a time then reduce speed to low. Add in the dry ingredients all at once and mix until homogenous.

If you’re comfortable with dough and a pin, you can roll it right away. Otherwise, form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate about 15 minutes to make the it easier to handle.

You can refrigerate the dough for up to a week or freeze for several months. Before rolling, set the dough out and let it slowly come to room temperature over a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare a set of 4” tart shells by greasing very lightly with pan spray.

Dust the counter with the prepared cocoa/powdered sugar mixture. Don’t use flour, it will toughen the dough and dull the richness of the chocolate color. Divide the dough in half and roll to 1/4” thickness. Use a knife to portion the rolled out dough into squares just slightly larger than each tart shell.

Set a dough square over the tart shell and use your thumbs to press the dough into the corners of the pan. Press the overhanging dough against the edges of the tart pan to trim off the excess and leave the dough flush with the edges.

Repeat with the remaining dough until all tart shells have been filled, then dock each tart lightly with a fork. The dough is extremely forgiving and can be rerolled two or three times.

Bake for 15-18 minutes. After 7 minutes or so, check on the tarts. Some may have formed an air bubble; use a fork to gently poke a small hole in the bubble to deflate it. Continue baking until the tarts have become firm and dry to the touch.

dark chocolate tart shells

When the tarts are done, cool on a wire rack about eight minutes (the tart shells are too fragile to remove when they first come out of the oven, and more difficult to remove once fully cool). While the tarts still have just a hint of warmth, remove them from the pans by flipping a tart pan over and rapping the edge firmly against the counter.

I do this by holding the the tart/pan upside down, with my index and middle finger touching the center of tart itself and my thumb on outside/center of the tart pan; that way I’m supporting the tart shell while rapping, which helps keep it in once piece. The tart shell should release after a few taps. If you have trouble, use a toothpick to help loosen the tart, working it gently between the tart and the pan, then tapping again.

If any tart shells break, don’t throw them away. Store the broken bits in a heavy duty plastic bag in the freezer. Use them for a mix in with your next batch of ice cream, or crumbled up as a sundae topping. Their Oreo-esque flavor is too good to waste.

Once the tarts are cool, either use them right away or store in an airtight container for up to a week at room temperature. You can also freeze the finished tart shells for several months.


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Any questions?

Apr 08, 2012 ·  1:51 PM

Ooh this looks fab! I love the useful tips you give for using borked shells since it’s the sort of thing I routinely destroy!

 · Louise · 

Apr 08, 2012 ·  6:32 PM

Does it have to be instant coffee? Can I use ground coffee beans? This former barista shudders at the thought of buying or using instant coffee for anything! Can it at least be Starbucks Via, which is just microground coffee beans dissolvable in water??

 · YogaAndBirth · 

Apr 08, 2012 · 10:53 PM

@Louise, I am such a compulsive weirdo about using up scraps. You never know when they’ll come in handy!

@YogaAndBirth, Via is a perfectly fine substitute! Instant coffee has a bad rap, mostly because the beans used in it are fairly terrible, but buying from reputable brands means they’re using decent beans and that improves the overall flavor. Not that I’m probably telling you anything new. I’m not crazy about drinking instant coffee; in baking, I’m just after the bitterness it brings, which rounds out the sweetness of chocolate without adding sodium.

At any rate, it’s my understanding that VIA is a instant coffee hybrid, pairing the traditional instant coffee process (freeze drying coffee concentrate) with microground coffee (apparently a new and highly guarded secret process!) for the ideal blend. I haven’t tried it yet.

Side note: Is the instant coffee in Korea as crazy delicious as the instant coffee in Japan? I never drank instant coffee until Japan, it’s so good over there…


Apr 09, 2012 · 11:38 AM

Is it natural cocoa or dutch processed ? I know one is alkalized and might work as well as the other.

 · Tunde ·

Apr 09, 2012 · 12:11 PM

@Tunde, I use natural most often, but Dutch works too in this case. Use whatcha got!


Apr 09, 2012 ·  6:12 PM

The timing on this could not have been better, since I need to make a chocolate/raspberry cookie-ish treat for a friend’s Bday…Thanks Stella!

 · SamCyn ·

Apr 10, 2012 ·  2:53 AM

I’ve been “researching” pastry dough for the last week because I wanted something unique…and I’m so adding this to the list!

 · Amrita ·

Apr 10, 2012 · 11:31 AM

@SamCyn, layer of raspberry jam, ganache layer, fresh raspberries, a spot of whipped cream, perhaps? In any event, hope you enjoy whipping up something fun for your friend’s birthday treat! Lucky friend.

@Amrita, glad to help. You’ll have to let me know when your research is complete! I also have a white chocolate tart dough that uses melted white chocolate in the dough, which you can also replace with caramelized white chocolate. Definitely unique!


Nov 01, 2012 · 12:26 AM

I tried making this tonight with rice flour, and the dough never really got dough-y. It was basically just a bowl of crumbles. I’m pretty positive I measured everything correctly. Thoughts?

 · heather · 

Nov 01, 2012 ·  9:17 AM

Hi Heather. Oh, no! I based this recipe off my Fauxreos, which work beautifully with rice flour. The only thing I can think is that changing the ratios result in a dough that still works nicely with APF, but not with rice flour, for some reason. I’m scratching my head. I’ll go back to the kitchen and do some investigating. In the meantime, I’ll take the “GF” label down so no one else will run into that problem before I can figure out what’s going on.

I think you can save the bowl of crumbles (if you still have it!) by whisking up a few more yolks in a bowl, then drizzling them in and kneading until the dough smooths out. I’m sorry you ran into trouble!


Nov 04, 2012 ·  1:25 AM

Hi Stella,

The same thing happened to me (as Heather), even with APF. It was bowl of pretty crumbs. Just added somemore egg yolk and a little bit of cold water till the dough could stick.

Gonna fill ‘em up with bananas to make a banana cream pie! =)

 · sooyin ·

Nov 04, 2012 · 10:53 AM

Hi Sooyin. Okay, now I’m really mystified, cos this is my go-to chocolate tart dough. The first thing that pops to mind is to wonder what role my flour (APF from a local mill) might play in the tarts; I know it has a slightly lower protein content than a typical APF, but still. Hmmm… Just to ease my mind, did you use a scale? In any case, I’m glad you could tinker to get the dough workable, but I’m a little surprised you had trouble with the “regular” version. I’ll investigate!!


Nov 05, 2012 ·  1:39 AM

Hi Stella, yup, I used an electronic scale…=) The flour I used was the one I use in all my cakes, etc. so no changes there either. I was kinda mystified as well haha, but one more egg yolk and a little bit of cold water worked wonders.

I filled the tarts yesterday with banana cream, chocolate ganache and salted caramel…the tart base tasted wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! =)

 · sooyin ·

Dec 07, 2012 ·  8:17 AM

Stella, can you use the dough in a full sized tart shell like a 10” or 11” tin? Or would you make any changes?

 · Andrew · 

Dec 09, 2012 ·  6:23 PM

Hi Andrew! I don’t think you’d have any trouble making these in a larger pan. You might want to roll the dough just a little thicker, though, so it has enough structure to hold up in the middle.


Feb 17, 2013 · 10:33 PM

Firstly thanks Stella for the recipe … When it came time to roll it I found it too crumbly, not knowing how to save it I simply spooned it into the tins and pressed it with my fingers. While this seemed to have done the trick I am curious to know if any one can suggest a trick in future to save the dough should I encounter the problem of crumbly dough again ???

 · Dixie Normous  · 

Feb 18, 2013 ·  8:28 AM

Hi Dixie (not falling for that one I use this recipe often and work and haven’t had trouble with it, yet you’re not the first person to experience some crumbling. I’m trying to figure out what’s happening between my kitchen and yours (and theirs) that’s causing the differences. Just to be double sure: you used a scale to measure?

In the future, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to sprinkle a little water in to help the dough come together, but in my experience the dough is almost sticky as it is thanks to the creamed butter and yolks. I am so curious to figure out what is going on here. I’ll make a batch today and take more notes…


Jul 10, 2013 ·  3:57 PM

So excited to try this for petit fours for a tea party! Thank you so much- you’re my culinary idol.

 · Haneul · 

Jul 10, 2013 ·  6:58 PM

Aw, thanks so much, Haneul. You’ll have to let me know how they turn out!


Sep 13, 2013 · 10:36 PM

Hi Stella – I have just made this pastry, and have also previously made the white choc one. I have measured everything on a digital scale, used large egg yolks, followed the recipe, but my doughs have both been so dry they would not come together. What am I doing wrong? I have had to add about 1Tablespoon of iced water to get a dough formed??

 · Vickie · 

Sep 15, 2013 ·  5:06 PM

Hi Vickie! Aww. You’re not the first person to have this experience, so I know there’s something going on, but I don’t know what it is. I’ve double checked the recipe against the one I use at work (it all checks out), and I never seem to have any trouble with it.

I do knead the dough by hand, to bring it together, once everything is mixed it. It seems dry at first, but once you start kneading it comes together quickly. Or at least, it does for me. I will try to investigate further to find out what is causing this problem! The only thing that is really coming to mind is simply that in a restaurant kitchen, the environment is so much warmer that perhaps the temperature of the butter has something to do with it.

At any rate, I am happy you were able to bring it together with a little water and didn’t have to waste the whole thing. I’ll try to get to the bottom of it!


Nov 26, 2013 ·  6:11 PM

I love your site & can’t wait for your book! What is the yield on this recipe? i.e how many tart pans are in “a set”? Can I set the tart pans on a baking sheet to make it easier to get them in & out of the oven? Thanks.

 · Liz · 

Nov 26, 2013 ·  7:10 PM

Hi Liz! It makes about 16 four inch tarts (I have the yield up top, but it is in a pale font; I really need to do some redesign!), give or take depending on how thinly the dough is rolled. I am not sure how the tart pans are sold retail, as I’ve always purchased them in bulk in connection to a restaurant or bakery. I did a quick google and it seems they are often sold in packs of 6. And I definitely recommend putting them on a baking sheet for ease of handling, great questions! Let me know if I can answer any other questions as you prepare to make a pan purchase.


Feb 20, 2014 ·  3:41 AM

My dough got crumbly too.. ;( but thanks so much for sharing ;D

 · Kayg · 

Feb 25, 2014 ·  7:31 PM

Mine turned out crumbly, too. I added another egg yolk and about 1.5 tablespoons of melted butter, then instead of rolling pressed the d ough into the pans. It baked up great! I am making peanut butter tarts.

 · Hoofer · 

Feb 25, 2014 ·  9:16 PM

Kayg and Hoofer: argh!! This is driving me up the wall, I’m so sorry you wound up with the crumbles.

I’ve made and re-made the recipe, and it never gives me any trouble though I see it continues to “crumble” for others. I’m trying to figure out just what I’m missing (some obscure step in the directions, some unnoticed detail) that’s causing this recipe to dry up for some people. The only thing I can think of is that I developed this recipe in a restaurant kitchen, where it is always toasty warm (like, in the 90s). At those temperatures, the butter will be melty and soft, which may be why my dough is well behaved and it’s dry for people at home.

I’m going to try making this at my house (rather than at work) to see how it turns out in a cooler kitchen.


Apr 23, 2014 · 10:01 PM

Hi Stella
I noticed there’s a difference between this dough (something like a pate brisee right?) and your “regular” tart shell dough, 1-2-3 which is basically a shortbread ratio (a bit less sugar and no yolks). Is there a reason why don’t you use pate brisee for all your tarts?
One more comment: I salute you for insisiting on measuring everything by weight, maybe that should be applied to eggs/yolks also. One yolk could weigh as little as 14 grams (half an ounce), and another could weigh around 25-30% more – both coming from the eggs of exactly the same weight. If this dough is dry and crumbly, one can simply add small quantity of egg white to it. In my experience a lot of practice is needed with dough like this if one wants to roll it neatly – it’s harder than a pie dough or puff pastry. Really a narrow spot between too crumbly and too soft/sticky.

 · ceca · 

Apr 27, 2014 · 12:56 PM

Hi ceca. This dough is based on my Oreo recipe, so it channels a much darker flavor than a cocoa 123 and a snappier texture. I definitely agree that eggs often bear measuring by weight, but a level of precision that I haven’t stepped up to just yet. I periodically weigh my eggs, to make sure they’re not significantly larger or smaller than normal, and they consistently clock in at 1.75 oz.

I think the trouble with this recipe in particular is the pro to home kitchen transition. In a restaurant kitchen, the temp is pushing 90 degrees, so the dough can’t help but be supple. But a note in the directions about softer butter may go along way in leveling the playing field.


Jan 19, 2015 ·  3:08 PM

HELP I just made this and the dough wasn’t dough like it was more like cake mix but just a teeny bit thicker. I had to make a last minute dessert for a family brunch and my dough isn’t , well, dough. I wrapped it and placed it in the fridge in hopes it’ll thicken up a bit, but no results yet. Please help

 · panicking · 


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