Sweet Crisp Pastry Dough

Pâte Sucrée

The traditional French sweet pastry dough called pâte sucrée used for fruit tarts with tart fillings (in both senses of the word) such as lemon curd, is made differently from most pie and tart pastry dough. The butter is not cut into small pieces with the flour; instead, it is creamed with sugar before beaten egg is added, a little at a time. The flour is then added all at once and mixed in just long enough for the whole thing to pull together.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • cup confectionerssugar, or ½ cup superfine sugar
  • 1 cold egg plus 1 cold egg yolk, well beaten, plus additional egg yolk if needed
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method

By hand in a bowl

Using a wooden spoon, cream the butter in a bowl and sift over the sugar. Beat until smooth and creamy. Beat the egg mixture into the butter-sugar mixture a little at a time.

Switch to a whisk as the mixture becomes more liquid. When the mixture has the consistency of sour cream or small curd cottage cheese, sift both flours over it and add the salt. Stir just long enough to incorporate the flour.

Flatten the dough into a disk if you’re using it for a pie or tart; roll it into a cylinder if you’re making cookies or tartlets. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

In a stand mixer

A stand mixer has the advantage of not overheating the pastry dough, and unlike a food processor, it leaves the butter in pieces so the pastry is flakier.

Cream the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula once during the creaming.

Beat in the whole egg until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat in the egg yolk and scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

Turn off the mixer and add both flours and the salt all at once. Turn the mixer on low speed (so the flour won’t fly around) for about 10 seconds, then turn it to medium. Continue mixing for about 30 seconds, or until the pastry clumps together, you hear the motor straining, and you see no more loose flour.

Flatten the dough into a disk if you’re using it for a pie or tart; roll it into a cylinder if you’re making cookies or tartlets. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

In a food processor

Making pastry dough in a food processor is by far the easiest method. The only disadvantage is that it mixes in the butter so completely that the pastry is less flaky and more crumbly. Much is made about overworking pastry dough in the food processor, but overheating it is more of a problem, because the food processor warms it very quickly. The secret is to chill all of the ingredients thoroughly before starting and, if need be, to chill the pastry dough in the food processor bowl if it gets too warm while you’re making it.

Process the butter and sugar for about 10 seconds, or until smooth. Scrape down the food processor bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the egg mixture and process for 5 seconds. Scrape down the bowl again with a rubber spatula and process for 5 seconds more.

Add both flours and the salt and process for about 10 seconds, or until the mixture comes together in a single mass, but not so long that it forms a ball. If the dough doesn’t come together, add 1 more egg yolk and try again.

Flatten the dough into a disk if you’re using it for a pie or tart; roll it into a cylinder if you’re making cookies or tartlets. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

Making Sweet Crisp Pastry Dough (Pâte Sucrée)

  1. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the creamed butter, and cream the sugar and butter with a wooden spoon until smooth.

  2. Work in the beaten egg-egg yolk mixture a tablespoon or so at a time. As the mixture becomes more liquid, switch to a whisk.

  3. Sift over both flours and add the salt, and work the flour into the egg-sugar-butter mixture just long enough to moisten all the flour and eliminate lumps.

  4. Press the dough with a spatula to flatten it (if you are using it for a pie or tart) or roll it into a cylinder (if you are using it for cookies or tartlets).

  5. In a stand mixer, stop mixing when the pastry dough clumps together; then shape, wrap, and refrigerate.

  6. In a food processor, process until the dough comes together in a cohesive mass, but stop before it forms a ball; then shape, wrap, and refrigerate.