For this recipe, we need one 9" crust and will use a 4" circle-shaped cookie cutter to get the needed 12 tart shells. To get a flaky crust, the key is COLD. I refrigerate all of my ingredients, including the flour, salt, and sugar--especially the butter and water need to be COLD. It is also key to work quickly to keep your dough from warming.
(I should mention that many of these pictures for the crust dough are reused from another of my instructables, Night Sky Blueberry Pie
, as the ingredients and steps are all the same except doubled. Even when only one 9" crust is needed, I still used the doubled amount, so I have another crust on standby in the refrigerator or freezer.)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/8 - 1/4 cup ice water
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor (or bowl, if that is what you have to work with). Add butter and pulse to combine until resembles course crumbs, about 10 to 15 seconds (if using bowl, cut the butter in with a pastry blender). Add ice water in a steady stream, starting with just 1/4 cup. Process just until the dough pinches together (crumbs about the size of peas now). If necessary add a little more water until you get to this state. You should not need more than 1/2 cup nor require longer than 30 seconds processing.
Shape the dough into a flattened disc, wrap into plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. (The dough can be frozen for up to a month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
Take the disc and roll it out onto your floured work surface until about 12" in diameter. Roll from the center out and rotate your crust quarter turns occasionally to avoid sticking. Using a 4" circle-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 12 pieces of dough and transfer each to a muffin pan. You can re-roll out your scrap dough if you are short, but avoid it if you can, as over-worked dough results in toughness. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.