Pâte Sucrée is an essential dough to have in your repertoire, as its variations are endless and also keeps well (properly wrapped) in the freezer for months. As it is a building block of French pastry, there should be no surprise that I first learned this recipe during my time studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. Since my days at school, I have adjusted the recipe somewhat (adding rye flour for a nutty and rustic edge), though adhering to the same precise technique of fraisage, which gives this dough an incredibly flaky and tender finish. Fraisage is a method of evenly blending the fats (butter and egg) into the flour using a smearing motion, so you look like a cat kneading a blanket with outstretched claws…
The purpose behind fraisage is to distribute fat in long even streaks, which results in tiny pockets of steam during baking to create that sought after delicate and tender crust.
Recipe is for 2 rounds of dough, scaled to line a 10” tart pan.
300 grams —— All Purpose Flour
100 grams —— Rye Flour
200 grams —— Butter, small dice, firm room temperature
8 grams ———- Salt
40 grams ——- Sugar (white or brown)
5-10 grams —- Water, cold (I find less water is needed on humid days)
2 Eggs, whole, medium-size
Cut cold butter into small dice and set aside. Using a serrated knife will make for a cleaner release when cutting. On a warm day, store butter cubes in the fridge until ready to use.
In a pouring cup, whisk together 5g water and whole eggs. Set aside. As you later incorporate the water and begin the fraissage, if the dough is too firm, you can dribble an extra 1-5g of water as needed to adjust. It’s more difficult to take excess water away after the fact…
Weigh out and blend together the dry ingredients (flours, salt and sugar) into a large bowl. Add in the butter pieces, tossing to separate and coat each one in flour. Working quickly, smash the butter blocks between the tips of your fingers, creating flaky and flat discs. Make a well in the center of the dough, and pour in the egg-water mix. Use a dinner fork to stir dough together until it resembles a shaggy mess.
Pour out dough onto a working counter into a pile. We will now fraisage the dough. Find inspiration from the cat above and do your best imitation! You will essentially be smearing small portions of the dough (2-3 Tbsp) at a time across your working counter using the heel of your hand.
Smear your dough from one pile to another across from you, then using a bowl scraper, bring it back. In 2 or 3 passes, you will see the dough forming together as the butter and egg are incorporated, and the dough is hydrated.
Split dough into 2 portions (approx 375 grams each) and flatten into a disc. Wrap well in plastic and store in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, or overnight as the dough needs time to relax. If you plan on freezing your dough, wrap in one additional layer of plastic before placing in freezer.
When ready to bake : Preheat oven to 350F and prepare your tart mold. I have had great success with both removable-bottom tart pans as well as cast iron pans lined with a layer of tin foil. Use what you have and what you like! If using tin foil, make sure there’s enough overlap to create two handles for lifting the tart out of the pan.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if using frozen dough, defrost overnight in the fridge) and allow to temper for 5-10 minutes. Keep poking the dough to assess its flexibility, there’s a magic window between being too hard and too soft! If it gets too warm, just pop it back into the fridge for a bit to firm up.
Lightly flour your counter and begin rolling out dough starting from the center. If the dough becomes soft while rolling and sticks to the pin, you can either lightly dust with flour, or roll between two sheets of parchment.
Roll out to a 12” diameter circle and transfer to your baking tin.
A trick that I like to do when using a tin-foil lined cast iron : roll out dough on a sheet of parchment, then lay the tin foil over the top. Flip over, peel off the parchment and set your tin foil inside the cast iron. The dough might crack, but that’s ok. Simply press back into place. This is a rustic tart after all!
Line your tart shell with a round of parchment (re-use your rolling sheet) and fill with baking weights (dry rice or beans work well and can be re-used)
Bake for 20 minutes, then carefully lift out baking weights with parchment. Bake an additional 5 minutes to dry out.
Cool before filling.