The Unexpected Ingredient Thomas Keller Uses In Tart Crust

A tart crust is a buttery, crispy, crumbly pastry with a cookie-like texture. "Pâte sucrée" in French, a tart crust is an excellent pastry for sweet fillings like jelly, custard, or fruit. Thomas Keller, who has won more Michelin stars than any chef in America, has an unexpected ingredient swap that makes his tart crust remarkable — he adds pine nuts. The pastry chef at his 1980s New York restaurant, Rakel, originally shared the recipe with Chef Keller and it's been a favorite of his ever since.

"This lemon tart is very special to me," he told his Master Class followers. "It's the only recipe I've included in two of my cookbooks, The French Laundry and Bouchon, because I love it so much." Buttery and not too sweet, flaky but not too crumbly, Chef Keller's lemon tart calls for a pine nut tart crust, no-roll dough, and a room-temperature kitchen. Its appeal results from the combination of pine nuts, which add taste and texture, and a filling that has a bright, lemony flavor.

Thomas Keller's lemon tart recipe

To create Chef Keller's keynote tart crust recipe, you'll start by building the tart crust. Pour pine nuts into your food processor, and pulse them only halfway. Too much pulsing will release their oils prematurely, and your goal is for those oils to be absorbed by the flour. Don't worry about pre-cooking the pine nuts, as they'll get roasted when you bake the crust. Add the flour and sugar to the food processor and pulse so no single ingredient stands out over another.

With a clean work surface, transfer the dough, mold it into a mound, and shape a well in the center. Next, you'll work the egg and butter into the well while methodically bringing them into the flour mixture. If the dough seems dry, don't despair, as the butter will soon be absorbed into the flour. Keep in mind you shouldn't roll out the dough, so, in its final stages, knead it with the heel of your hand until all ingredients are blended; the dough will transform into a new and enticing mass. Shape the dough into thirds in discs and if you have leftovers, put them in the freezer and save them for another time.