As I have mentioned previously, I am a product baker, not a process baker. Folding, rolling, chilling and beating rarely offer any type of catharsis, and making pastry stresses me out. Because of this, I am always looking for easy but delicious tart crusts, and the pretzel crust is my new favourite.
Having a bunch of pastry crusts ready to go in your freezer is for sure a winning strategy when preparing those summer desserts, but having a recipe for a crust that can be made and filled in less than an hour is the backup plan the more lackadaisical of us need and deserve.
A pretzel crust is a quick crust, but it’s also a delicious crust, perfect for the sweetest, richest fillings. Pretzels are salty, obviously, but they’re also a bit bitter, thanks to the lye treatment that gives them their dark, burnished crust. These two flavours provide a counterbalance to caramel-y, custardy, and treacle-y tarts, meaning your palate doesn’t get oversaturated, and you can eat more tart.
In the realm of gluten-free goods, I’ve found that pre-packaged gluten-free pretzels are, if anything, even crispier than their gluten-ful counterparts, which is a bonus when you’re saturating the crumbs with butter. You can also swap out the butter for margarine, making this the perfect crust for gatherings of people with various dietary restrictions (hello, summer parties).
There are a lot of pretzel crust recipes out there, but I base my pretzel:fat:sugar ratios on David Lebovitz’ recipe, as Mr. Lebovitz knows what he is doing, and this ratio has never failed me. If I know I’m going to be making an extra sweet tart, I’ll use salted butter, and if I want the crust to have a deeper sweetness, I’ll use toasted sugar, or take it even further with dark brown sugar. For a crust with only three ingredients, it’s surprisingly riffable. To make it, you will need:
140 grams of hard pretzels, preferably sticks like these
3 tablespoons white, toasted or brown sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Add pretzel sticks and sugar to the food processor and pulse into crumbs. The pretzels should be fairly decimated, with only tiny little nubs scattered throughout that remind you that they were once whole pretzels.
Add the melted butter, and pulse until everything is saturated with butter. (If you don’t have a food processor, crush pretzels in a plastic bag, then pour the butter into the bag and mix it around until everyone is nice an acquainted.)
Dump the buttery crumbs into the centre of a lightly-greased tart tin, dish or container (silicone tart pans are great), then pat the pile of crumbs with the palm and heel of your hand until you have an even layer covering the base and sides of the dish.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the tart is lightly golden. Let cool completely before filling. It can be stored in the fridge for five days ahead of time, or in the freezer for a couple of months, but given how quickly it comes together, there’s no real reason to make it in advance.