(Rich, Sweet Shortcrust Tart Pastry)
Pâte sucrée is fussy, difficult to work with and sensitive. Having said that, I will add this: it also makes a dynamite tart crust! It is buttery, sweet and tender, like a good shortbread, and is perfect with fruit tarts. Don’t even try to roll it out – just press the crumbs directly into the tart tin with lightly floured fingers. A tip: pop the flour in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before starting and make sure the butter is very-good and very cold.
1 x 10 INCH (25cm) TO 11 INCH (28cm) TART SHELL, 6 x 4½ INCH (11cm) SHELLS OR 12 x 1½ TO 2 INCH (4-5cm) TARTLETTE SHELLS
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour (6oz/150g)
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted(2oz/60g)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces (4oz/113g)
- 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten.
- By-hand method: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. With a pastry blender or two knives, cut the bits of butter into the dry ingredients until the largest pieces of the mixture are about the size of at peas. Add the lightly beaten egg yolks, then use the tips of your fingers to gently rub the mixture together (the heat from the palms of your hands will melt the butter); the dough should quickly come together and feel moist and crumbly. If the dough seems to dry, lightly beat a whole large egg and half of it to the mixture. You may need the entire egg if the air is very dry. Food processor method: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse several times just to blend the dry ingredients. Add the bits of cold butter and butter and pulse until the largest pieces of the mixture are about the size of fat peas. Add the lighten beaten egg yolks and pulse two or three times, just until the mixture looks moist and crumbly and comes together in a clump when you squeeze it. If the mixture seems very dry, lightly beat one whole egg in a separate bowl and add half of this to dough, pulsing until it is incorporated. The dough should be moist but still crumbly.
- Dust your fingers with flour and press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9inch, 10inch or 11inch tart pan with a removable bottom (or see alternate sizes above). Carefully plastic wrap the dough lined pan and refrigerate for 2 – 3 hours or overnight. (The shell(s) may be made to this point and frozen for up to a month.)
- Blind bake: (see note below for more on blind baking) Preheat oven to 375℉ (190℃). For a partially baked shell, prick the bottom of each tart shell all over with a fork. Line the bottom with a piece of the parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill the liner with dried beans or pie weights and place the shell(s) on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the edges are just coloring and the bottom of the pastry is beginning to cook. Remove the foil and weights and return the shell(s) to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until lightly browned all over. For a fully baked tart shell, return the shell to the oven for 20 minutes after removing the foil, until the bottom is golden and dry. Watch closely – every oven is slightly different, and the high butter-sugar content of pâte sucrée makes it easy to overcook! Allow the tart shell(s) to cool before filling. The partially or fully baked tart shells may be made up to 1 day ahead of time and store, airtight, at room temperature.
Note: Blind Baking
Baking blind (sometimes called pre-baking) is the process of baking a pie crust or other pastry without the filling. Blind baking a pie crust is necessary when it will be filled with an unbaked filling (such as with pudding or cream pies), in which case the crust must be fully baked. It is also called for if the filling has a shorter bake time than the crust, in which case the crust is partly baked. Blind baking is also used to keep pie crust from becoming soggy due to a wet filling.
Blind baking can be accomplished by different methods. In one technique, the pie crust is lined with aluminium foil or parchment paper, then filled with pastry- or pie weights (sometimes called “baking beans”) to ensure the crust retains its shape while baking. Pie-weights are available as ceramic or metal beads, but rice, dried peas, lentils, beans or other pulses can be used instead. When using this method for a fully baked crust, the weights are removed before the pre-baking is complete in order to achieve a browned crust. Another technique dispenses with weights by placing a second pie tin on top of the crust, then inverting the tins to bake. In this method, the crust browns between the tins. A further simplified technique involves piercing the crust repeatedly with the tines of a fork to produce small holes, allowing steam to escape and preventing the crust from bubbling up, but that does not work with soft doughs such as pâte sucrée.