I’ve tried many recipes for sweetened pastry over the years, but this one still tastes and handles the best. It is also known as pâte sucrée. The addition of egg and sugar makes the pastry shell richer and sweeter yet less flaky than an ordinary piecrust.—Flo Braker
LC note: You might like to try this Classic Sweet Pastry Dough recipe with Flo’s Lemon Tart with Blueberries.
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Make the dough
1. Place the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process with 2 or 3 short on/off bursts to blend.
2. Mix the egg and vanilla in a small bowl just to combine.
3. Cut the chilled, firm butter into 12 to 16 pieces and scatter them over the dry ingredients. Process the butter and dry ingredients until the mixture resembles bread crumbs (about 15 to 20 seconds).
4. Then, with processor running, pour the egg mixture down the feed tube in a steady stream and continue to process just until the ingredients come together.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean, dry work surface. Then, with the heel of your hand, smear a small amount on your work surface by pushing it away from you. Repeat with small amounts of the remaining dough. When you’ve worked all the dough in this manner, give it a couple more strokes to bring it together into a smooth, homogeneous unit.
Chilling the dough
1. At this point, you may divide the dough into thirds (8 ounces each, a scant 1 cup). Flatten each third into a round disk 4 to 5 inches each and wrap each in plastic.
2. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until the dough is chilled and slightly firm. (Chilling reduces the strength of the gluten in the flour when the dough is rolled. It you become accustomed to the feel of making the dough, you can use a machine. Correct butter temperature is the key to making sweetened pastry by hand successfully. It shouldn’t be too firm (cold) or too soft (warm); the best description is cool and malleable. Kneading the dough by smearing it with the heel of your hand is called fraisage. It not only forms the dough into a smooth, cohesive unit, but it develops just enough structure so that the dough is less likely to tear or crack while being rolled and lifted. (Chilling reduces the strength of the gluten in the flour when the dough is rolled. It also makes it easier to roll without sticking.)
Rolling the dough
1. If the dough is cold and firm, remove it from the refrigerator to room temperature for 1 hour, or until it is still cool (room temperature, 70 degrees) and feels malleable, though it may crack at the edges slightly when pinched. These doughs may be pressed with the fingertips into pans, rather than rolled. However, rolling is faster, gives a more even thickness and requires less manipulation than pressing.
2. Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Position the rolling pin across the center of the disk and push the pin away from you in one stroke; use just enough pressure to extend the dough about 2 inches. Let up on the pressure as you near the edge. If any tearing or cracking occurs as you roll, press the edges together, sprinkle with a little flour and continue to roll. (If the dough cracks too much, it is too cold; if it is soft and sticky, it is too warm. Should it crumble into pieces as you begin to roll, repeat the kneading process; this will not overwork it.)
3. Gently lift the dough and rotate it a one-eighth turn in one direction. Repeat rolling procedure, working from the center out, always rotating dough a one-eighth turn in the same direction. Lightly flour the surface when necessary to prevent sticking. If the dough does stick, carefully slide a metal spatula under that portion, lift and dust with flour. Rub off any particles adhering to the rolling pin; they could
puncture the dough.
4. Continue rolling and rotating until the circle of dough is 1/8 inch thick and measures the diameter you need. The most important guideline for lining the pans is an 1/8-inch thickness; any thicker, and it will not serve as a container for the filling.
Fitting the dough in the pan
1. Lay the rolling pin across the upper third of the circle of dough. Lift the edge of that section on and fold it toward you, draping it over the pin. (The ends of the rolling pin will remain exposed.) Roll the pin toward you, wrapping the remaining dough loosely around the pin.
2. Lift the rolling pin, and suspend it 1 inch above the farthest edge of the tart pan. Allowing for a 1-inch overhang, unroll the dough toward you, easing it into the pan’s contours as you go. (Unrolling the dough toward you, rather than away from you, is best since you can see the pan and guide the dough precisely.) When the dough is completely unrolled, mold it into the pan’s crevices, pressing down slightly with fingertips until it fits snugly against the sides and bottom. If it tears, patching is easy: press the two torn edges together.
3. Rest the rolling pin on top of the pan, and roll across with enough pressure to cut off the overhang on all sides. (The overhang can be as much as 1 ounce for an 8-inch quiche pan, but that is preferable to not having enough dough to fill the pan evenly and efficiently.)
Baking the tart shell
1. At least 15 minutes before baking, position rack in lower third of oven; preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
2. Bake in preheated oven for 17 to 22 minutes, or until the shell appears golden, looks done and contracts from the side. After the initial 5 to 7 minutes in the oven, looks done and contracts from the side. After the initial 5 to 7 minutes in the oven, the shell may blister; if so, prick the bottom in 3 or 4 places with a metal skewer, allowing the steam to escape so that the dough will fit snugly in the pan again. It is important to prick it before it bakes too long and sets its shape.
Cooling the tart shell
1. Remove from oven to cooling rack. After 5 minutes, place on top of a can smaller than the baking pan, releasing the pan’s metal rim from the baked crust.
2. Fill and serve the day it is baked.
Recipe © 1992 Flo Braker. All rights reserved.