The fluted-edged, removable-bottomed tart pan comes out to play with some frequency in my kitchen. It’s not just that I’m a sucker for the beauty of the pan, though that does have its role (who can resist such a pretty thing?). This is one of those instances where form and function meet in perfect balance. The chi, the energy, of these pans is in true alignment. I suppose we all could take a lesson from that.

It’s a pan that is perhaps most often associated with summer, for a tart’s ability to show off berries and other fruits with such finesse. For me, it’s a pan far more frequently used in seasons other than summer, to cradle my favorite lemon meringue tart (in spring, when we need brightness in the north so badly), and even more often to hold my prized, holiday-perfect, chocolate-caramel pecan tart—one of my all-time favorite desserts to make and to eat.

My tart pan collection consists of three beauties: the traditional round, a long and narrow rectangular, and a square. Each one is good for different types of tarts, and each one results in a different type of slice. The square will have a few pieces from the center of the pan that don’t have the fluted crust on them, unless the slices are cut fairly large. I use this shape the least but I still enjoy having it around. The rectangular pan is a crust-lovers shape because every piece has two edges of fluted crust with it from either side of the pan. And the slices are such lovely rectangular shapes themselves.

It’s the classic round tart pan that is, and always will be, my go-to. The balance here is about the right amount of crust and filling in every slice, and the shape of the finished tart fits beautifully on any platter or cake plate or dinner plate, for display. We have to put our desserts out for admiration and to cultivate longing far before they’re served, don’t we?

There are tricks to the trade of tart-pan use. Here’s what I know:

  1. Always line the bottom of the pan with parchment. Either buy parchment rounds to make life easy, or trace the bottom of the tart pan on parchment, then cut the circle, square, or rectangle out. It’s easy to imagine that the buttery crust ought to slide right off the pan bottom of the pan, but trust my own experience when I say that it doesn’t.
  2. It’s considered bad table form to serve your tart with the metal bottom still attached to it. Remove it using a big spatula that gets under the parchment and moves the tart off with ease.
  3. Remove the ring, or edge, of the pan with ease by setting it on something tall and narrow, like a jar, and letting the rim fall to the counter. The tart may require a little adjusting, a little gentle prodding, to get the ring to release, but then it will, and off you go with your tart. If you remove the ring with the tart just in your two hands, it’s awkward as all get-out. Plus you’ll find yourself with the tart in your hands and the ring hanging off your elbow like a massive bangle bracelet. It just ain’t kitchen-cool.

If you don’t have a tart pan because you don’t think you’ll use it often enough, I’m begging you to give it a shot for the holidays this year. Buy one here, sized at 9.5″ or 10″. I have an easy, nutty-good crust recipe that doesn’t even require a rolling pin. Once you try the special tart that I’ve made so many times now that I call it MY chocolate-caramel pecan tart, you’ll be making it so often yourself that you’ll start calling it YOUR tart soon enough.