Tart Smart

Jacques Pépin offers tips for homemade puff-pastry dough, the secret to his favorite summer tart.

For me, there is no summer dessert like a raspberry feuilleté—a delectable strip of crisp and flaky all-butter puff pastry topped with fresh raspberries that have been brushed with raspberry jam. When I make this free-form rectangular tart, I prepare my own puff pastry because, as the recipe has only three components, each has to be outstanding.

Puff pastry is one of the most difficult doughs to make because its characteristic flakiness depends on evenly distributing butter within the dough as it's rolled out and folded. When the pastry bakes and the butter melts, the steam that forms pushes the layers of dough apart to create the impressive multilayered rise. The main challenge when making this delicious pastry is working quickly to keep the dough cool, so it doesn't get tacky; ideally, the butter and the dough should always be at the same temperature. If the dough becomes too soft at any point, simply refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to firm it up before proceeding.

This recipe makes enough dough for three tarts; carefully wrap the remaining two portions and freeze them for later use. Let the frozen dough thaw slowly in the refrigerator and use it to make other fruit tarts, savory pastries or cheese straws.

PUBLISHED July 2004

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