Editors' Note: This recipe was originally developed by Lauren Weisenthal, and it has been updated with additional cross-testing and information by Kristina Razon.
Pâte sucrée is a cookie-like French tart dough that, when baked, serves as the sturdy yet tender crust for custard, curd, cream, and frangipane fillings. When made well, pâte sucrée is reminiscent of vanilla-scented shortbread and is able to support even the heaviest of fillings without crumbling to pieces.
While it’s a simple dough, the devil is in the details. More specifically, it requires patience and planning, so be sure to take these guidelines into account:
- Chill the dough thoroughly, twice. First, after mixing and shaping the dough into a disk, then again after rolling out and placing the dough into the tart pan. Doing so keeps the dough cold and relaxes the gluten.
- Keep mixing to a minimum. Overmixing the dough in the stand mixer will encourage gluten development, making the dough difficult to roll out and yielding a tough crust.
- Feel the dough to check its malleability before rolling. If the dough feels too firm, let it stand at room temperature until slightly softened. On the other hand, if the dough is too soft and sticky (or has become so over the course of rolling it out), don’t hesitate to place it back in the refrigerator until it has firmed up and it’s easier to work with.
- Account for overhang. After the dough is securely placed in the tart pan, we like to leave 1/4 inch of overhang all around to account for any shrinkage that happens as the gluten chills.
- Bake at a lower temperature. Blind baking at a moderate oven temperature of 350°F (177°C) with pie weights (we like to use granulated sugar*) in place the whole time reduces shrinkage and puffing, ensuring a larger capacity for your filling of choice.
*Regular old granulated sugar is our preferred pie weight when blind baking pie and tart crusts. It’s heavy and dense, always in our pantry, and if the same batch of sugar is used for repeated blind bakings, it eventually transforms into another favorite ingredient of ours, toasted sugar.
This recipe yields enough dough for two tart crusts. If you need a single crust or only have one tart pan, you can make one tart shell at a time. Begin by wrapping the remaining dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate it for up to 1 day or freeze it for up to 1 month before using (to defrost, simply transfer the dough to your refrigerator at least 24 hours before you plan to roll it out). If you require two tart crusts and only have one tart pan, roll out and blind bake the first disk while keeping the second one wrapped in the refrigerator the entire time, only pulling it out once the first crust is baked and cooled. Carefully remove the baked crust from the tart pan, wipe out the used pan, and proceed with rolling out and blind baking the second crust.
Why It Works
- Chilling the dough twice guarantees that it is easier to roll out.
- Leaving 1/4 inch of overhang after the dough is placed in the tart pan and then set in the refrigerator to chill offers a margin of error in case any shrinkage occurs as the gluten relaxes.
- Blind baking at a moderate heat, with pie weights in place for the entire duration, reduces shrinkage and puffing.
- Yield:Makes 2 tart shells
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:4 hours
- 8 ounces (2 sticks; 225g) unsalted butter, soft but cool, about 65°F (18°C), cut into 1-inch-thick slices
- 6 ounces (3/4 cup; 170g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg (1 3/4 ounces; 50g)
- 1 large egg yolk (3/4 ounce; 20g)
- 15 ounces (3 cups; 425g) all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal, plus more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use the same weight or half as much by volume
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons; 30g) heavy cream
- 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon; 15g) vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. Mix at low speed to moisten, then increase speed to medium-high and beat, pausing halfway through to scrape down the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Working one at a time with the mixer at medium speed, add egg followed by egg yolk, allowing each to fully incorporate before adding the next and pausing to scrape down bowl and beater in between each addition, about 1 minute total.
With the mixer turned off, add flour and salt to bowl. Turn mixer to low speed and mix until dough is crumbly, about 30 seconds.
With the mixer still running at low speed, pour in cream and vanilla and continue to mix until dough comes together, about 15 seconds.
Scrape dough onto a lightly-floured work surface. Divide into 2 equal portions, about 16 ounces (455g) each, and shape into flat, round disks. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Working with one portion of dough at a time, set a dough disk on a generously floured work surface. Using a rolling pin and adding more flour as needed underneath and on top of the dough to prevent sticking, roll out to a 13-inch circle that’s about 1/8 inch thick.
To transfer to the tart pan, carefully roll dough around the rolling pin, then unroll over the pan. Dust off excess flour with a pastry brush. Press dough gently yet firmly into the corners and up the sides of the pan. With scissors or kitchen shears, trim off excess, leaving 1/4-inch overhang all around. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate tart shells for at least 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat to 350°F (177°C). Remove one chilled tart shell from the refrigerator. Using a paring knife, trim dough overhang around the edge so that the dough is level with the top of the pan. Line tart shell with aluminum foil, fully covering bottom and sides, and fill to the brim with sugar.
Transfer to a half sheet tray, then bake until fully set and golden brown around the edges, about 35 minutes. To remove foil with sugar, fold long sides of foil toward the middle, gather short sides, and use both hands to carefully transfer sugar to a heat-safe bowl. Let sugar cool to room temperature (it may be used for repeated blind bakings, eventually yielding toasted sugar). If needed, continue baking tart shell a few minutes longer to brown on the bottom. Transfer finished tart shell to a wire rack and let cool completely before removing from pan or adding a filling. Repeat with remaining tart shell.