Which tart dough should I use, pâte brisée, sablée or sucrée?

The time of summer fruit has come and strawberries are our favourite! Wishing to make a tart with pastry cream and strawberries, we wondered which tart dough should we use. So, in our new sweet and nerdy article we will learn about the various types of tart dough, their qualities and uses, along with professional secrets, and we will make individual and mini tarts with pastry cream, strawberry jelly, fresh strawberry and berries from the neighborhood!

Individual tart with pastry cream, strawberries, berries and strawberry jelly by Eat Dessert First Greece!

There are three types of dough that French patisserie uses for tarts: pâte brisée, pâte sablée and pâte sucrée. Let’s approach them analytically to learn their differences with the aid of two of our favourite French pastry book, The Art of French Pastry (2013) by Jacquy Pfeiffer and Pâtisserie & Baking Foundations (2012) by the chefs of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school.

Pâte Brisée

Pâte brisée is a basic dough for savory and sweet preparations. Its name in French means dough that breaks and refers to its fragility. In Henri Pellaprat’s 1913 book La Pâtisserie Pratique, it is stated that in order for unwanted elasticity to go away, we must let the dough rest as much as possible. He warns that if the dough is too hard, after getting baked it will have the texture of hard cardboard. It will also shrink during baking and the filling may overflow.

Pâte brisée is made with the simplest ingredients: flour, butter, egg, salt and water. The technique for making a pâte brisée is as follows: sift the flour on a surface and make a puddle in the center. Add cold butter in pieces and mix and rub the mixture with your hands so that the flour goes everywhere and the mixture gets a fine sand texture. This is called sanding method. With this method, the butter’s fat gets wrapped around the gluten in the flour and reduces its action. Then add water, salt and egg to the center and mix again. Once you have a nice dough, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest.

Find here our recipe made with pâte brisée:

Pâte sablée

Pâte sablée is a dough with a higher content of butter and yolks, which results in a more crumbly texture. It is made with flour, sugar, salt, butter, yolks and vanilla. This dough is best used for desserts that will be consumed immediately. If you want, for example, a fruit tart to be kept for two days in the refrigerator, it is better to use the most stable pâte sucrée dough.

Pâte sablée is made with the same sanding method as pâte brisée. This gives it its soft, crumbly texture. The dough can also be used to make biscuits that melt in your mouth.

Pâte sucrée

Pâte sucrée is the dough most often used for tarts, such as baked or not fruit tarts, but also for cream-filled tarts, such as lemon or chocolate tarts. Its name means dough with sugar, ie sweet dough. It is made with flour, sugar, salt, butter, eggs and vanilla. It owes its fragility to the high percentage of butter and the method of its preparation.

The creaming method used here involves beating the butter with the sugar first and then incorporating the rest of the ingredients. That is why the butter must be softened at room temperature. By beating butter and sugar, air bubbles are created in the mixture. The moisture of the butter and eggs activates the gluten of the flour. The result is a stable dough with a flaky texture.

We made our tarts with pâte sucrée!
To sum up…

Whichever dough you chose, some things remain the same. As we have learned:

  • How crumbly our dough will be depends on the amount of fat we use. Pâte brisée, for example, is more fragile than pâte sucrée, as the former contains much more butter than the latter.
  • The egg yolks used in some recipes make the dough more crumbly and give flavor.
  • Eggs can be substituted by liquids such as water, milk or sour cream.
  • Powdered sugar gets dissolved more easily than granulated sugar.
  • You can replace part of the flour with potato starch to reduce the gluten and make the dough less elastic.

A little secret!

When using a tart pan or ring, it is very important to line it well without leaving gaps, because if there is space left between the dough and the sides of the pan, the dough will slip during baking and its shape will get spoilt!

The wrong and correct way of lining a tart pan (The Art of French Pastry, Jacquy Pfeiffer).

Once we have learned all the professional information we need, we can make our tarts and tartlets with no fear!

Our recipe

Tart dough (pâte sucrée)

Ingredients for the dough

Butter (room temp.)85 gr
Powdered sugar55 gr
Salta small pinch
Almond flour20 gr
All-purpose flour160 gr
Eggs1 small
Flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg, vanilla and almond powder are the ingredients for our sweet tart dough (pâte sucrée)

How to make the dough

Beat the butter with the salt in the mixer on medium speed for one minute. Add the icing sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated. Add the grated almonds and vanilla and continue beating. Add the egg and 1/4 of the flour. Beat for a minute and then remove the bucket from the mixer. Add the rest of the flour and knead lightly by hand, just enough to incorporate. We don’t want to knead too much, so that the gluten doesn’t get activated and our dough become elastic – this would make it shrink during baking.

Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or better overnight to loosen the gluten bonds and for the starch in the flour to absorb moisture.

Our dough ready to get wrapped and go to rest in the fridge!

When it is time to spread our dough with the rolling pin, you must be careful not to add too much flour. You can use two parchment paper sheets or two non-stick surfaces, instead of sprinkling with flour, so as not to change the texture of the dough, which would result in a hard dough.

Cut the dough shapes you want with cookie cutters and line your tart pans. We made a few dough rings for a more impressive look and some small tartlets by placing mini cake molds upside down in our pan and laying the dough on top. You must score the dough with a fork so that the steam escapes during baking and your tarts do not rise. Finally, place the molds in the refrigerator for at least an hour – the more the better.

We cut the shapes for our tarts with cookie cutters.
We made rings for the individual tarts and laid the dough on the reverse side of mini cake molds to make small tartlets.
Don’t forget to score the dough with a fork for the steam to escape during baking.

Bake in a preheated oven at 175°C for 10 minutes. Then let your tarts cool and prepare the pastry cream. You will find the recipe for the pastry cream in our previous article “We all scream for pastry cream!“. Put the cream into the fridge to cool and before using it, beat it for a while with the mixer to fluffen. Prepare a piping bag with a nozzle to make designs on your tarts, or without a nozzle to just fill them. We chose a dense star nozzle. Pipe the pastry cream into your tarts and then add strawberries cut into pieces and berries.

The recipe for the pastry cream in our previous article.
You can fill your tartlets this way too.
We collected berries from a tree in the centre of Athens.

For the strawberry jelly we added a little gelatin powder to water flavored with strawberry extract. After it set in the fridge, we added small pieces to our tarts.

We also made an individual tart with pastry cream, strawberry jelly, berries and strawberries.

Happy summer creations everyone!

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