This rich pastry, called pâte sucrée by the French, is crisp like a biscuit because of the sugar and egg yolks it contains. Unlike ordinary shortcrust pastry, the key to success here is using butter that is soft at room temperature, not well chilled. To make a rich nut pastry to complement a fruit filling substitute ground nuts for half the flour in this recipe and only use 2egg yolks. Try ground almonds, walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts.
To fill a 23cm (9in) tart tin, use 200g (7oz) plain flour, ½teaspoonsalt (if using unsalted butter), 125g (4oz) diced, softened butter (preferably unsalted), 50g (2oz) caster sugar, 4egg yolks and ½teaspoonvanilla essence.
Sift the flour and salt on to a work surface. Make a well in the centre, circling from the middle outwards with your fist.
Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla essence to the well. Use your fingertips in a quick ‘pecking’ motion to mix together.
As the mixture comes together use both hands to draw in the remaining flour and shape the dough into a ball.
Lightly knead the dough until smooth with the heel of your hand. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes before using.