Imagine cookie dough as your base for the cake, it’s crumbly, soft, buttery, just melts in your mouth, this is exactly pâte sucrée (in French) or sweet tart dough.
The amount of materials used for making a sweet tart dough are minimal, in fact we are talking about 5 main elements, eggs, butter, flour, almonds and sugar, sounds simple right? well, when making a minimal dough, the details matter big time
Ppâte sucrée can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months so i recommend making at least 3 pie crusts at a time, use one for your tart, squeeze the other 2 into a disk shape and freeze so next time, all that’s needed is to unfreeze the dough for 1 hour on the counter or a night in the fridge and you’re all set.
Guidelines for sweet tart dough
When we make sweet tart dough there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind in order for succeeding in creating a shell that will be firm and crusty but will not break apart like cookies.
- Use cold butter, it keeps the gluten level low, we don’t want the dough to develop gluten otherwise it will be hard to work it out, the last thing we want is a flexible dough, we want it crunchy and crumbly like a cookie dough.
- You can use confectioner’s sugar (called also powdered sugar or icing sugar) or regular granulated sugar, if you want a smooth crust go for the powdered sugar but I have to say it does not make all that of a difference, tried both kinds and there are hardly differences.
- Regular all purpose flour is good enough for pâte sucrée, the idea is to use low protein (gluten) level for the tert to avoid flexibility in the dough. you can also use cookie dough which has a low level of gluten but I don’t use it because i’m adding almond flour which adds to the crunchiness and reduces gluten level in the dough.
- For this recipe I use 2 eggs for 3 tart crusts, I know it sounds less than the average since I see in many recipes the use of 1 egg and 1 egg yolk per tart shell which is pretty popular but it’s really not necessary.
- As a general rule with pâte sucrée, minimum tampering is needed so when it comes to kneading the dough, we pulse the minimum amount in order for the dough just to form up into lumps which we will combine on the counter later on,. We don’t want to overwork the dough, think of it as making a simple crust that can be easily break with minimum gluten.
Shaping and baking the Pâte sucrée
Working with tart dough can be tricky, the name of the game is temperature, as long as the dough will be cold, it will be possible for us to control it and shape it, when it warms up it will stick to the rolling pin and surface and will break apart.
Speed is the essential when making the tart dough, I have to work super efficient to get this right, by preparing my work surface, buttered tart pan and silicone mat on the counter, a bowl of flour on the side, so by the time I get the tart dough out of the fridge, I start working on it right away.
In summer days I turn on the aircondition and work in a cool environment to get myself a few more minutes without the dough sticking.
When it comes to baking we need to perform “blind baking” which is basically laying a perchment paper filled with weight of some sort, it can be any kind of grains, rice, dry pasta, anything that will help the dough keep its shape and not shrink.
Baking time for a “ready to use” tart shell is 25 minutes on 180°c/350°F and another 15 minutes without the weights in order for the crust to get baked as well, total of 40 minutes.
Pâte sucrée is easy to use and fun to make, I prepare it on a regular basis so I’ll always have a dough ready to use for a quick tart because after all, when you have the tart shell ready, making tarts and pies appear to be so simple and easy.
Recipe for Pâte sucrée
This recipe is good for 3 tart shells as adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets
- 290g/ 10 oz Butter
- 150g/ 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 70g/ ½cup Ground blanched almonds
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Vanilla extract
- 2 large Eggs
- 490g/ 3½ cups all-purpose flour
Place the butter and sugar in a bowl of a food processor, mix until smooth, add the ground almonds, Vanilla and salt and mix a bit more, scrape the bottom of the bowl and pulse for 5 more seconds.
Add the eggs one by one and pulse a few more seconds until fully incorporated, add the flour and pulse just until dough crumbs emerge.
Take the crumbs to a working surface, combine and divide into 3 equal parts.
Flatten each piece into a disk shape, cover with a plastic wrap and place in the freezer (or in the fridge for same day use).