Last updated on November 17th, 2016
Last week, I put out a request for more “Ask Casey” topics on the GFS Facebook page, and among the responses was a common refrain: “Why am I crap at rolling out pie crusts?” Good thing I had this post in the hopper.
I’ve done pie crust tutorials here (using the Alton Brown roll-out method) and on ReadyMade (using the King Arthur Flour roll-out method), but today, you can put that rolling pin away. You won’t need it. The French and their all-knowing pastry ways have your back with this one, and they call it pâte sucrée.
Its literal translation is “sweetened paste,” but pâte sucrée is a dough, no doubt. Only it’s a shape-shifting kind of dough. Half sugar cookie, half pie crust, it’s moldable but bakes up light and tender. It’s pliant yet structured, soft yet crumbly. And yes, you really can roll it out with nothing more than your fingers.
I came late to the cult of pâte sucrée, preferring to do things the hard way, as always. (See also: the homemade junk food obsession, using reusable plates and silverware at all my parties instead of going the disposable route, driving in slightly convoluted patterns to avoid making left turns across busy streets—what? I’m like Zoolander!) But stubbornness and perfectionism can co-exist even in a dough as simple as this one.
Pâte sucrée comes together in less than 5 minutes when you’ve got a food processor—just a little longer if you’re doing everything manually. After that, it’s time to let your fingers do the walking, pushing and flattening the dough against the bottom and sides of a tart pan. It can be as rustic or as refined as you want, but either way, the dough won’t fight back. I added a little whole wheat flour to my version as a halfhearted concession to health, but you can do it with all-white flour if that’s what happens to be in your pantry.
After a quick chill and a 15-minute bake, you’ve got a ready-to-go tart that’s just begging for a sweet filling. What to pour into it? Oh, how about:
- lemon curd
- a quick and creamy strawberry jam filling
- your favorite pudding: chocolate? butterscotch? pistachio?
- homemade dulce de leche
- your favorite ice cream; topped with whipped cream and fudge, it’s an almost-instant ice cream pie
- no-bake peanut butter filling
- or Biscoff cream for the Biscoff lovers?
If you want to fill your tart crust with fresh fruit and bake it like an open-faced pie, just nix the foil and pie weights below and use your favorite fruity pie filling instead. No sweat.
And when you’re ready to tackle rolled pie crusts again, don’t worry. I’ll be here for you.
Pâte Sucrée, or No-Roll Tart Dough
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes 1 9-inch tart or 6 mini tarts
- 1 cup (4 1/4 ounces; 120 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces; 57 grams) whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces; 57 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pulse the flours, sugar, and salt together in a food processor just until combined. Add the butter and pulse 8-10 times until the texture is pebbly with pea-size chunks of butter throughout.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract together. With the food processor running, drizzle the milk through the feed tube until a soft dough comes together.
Don’t have a food processor? Use the instructions for making dough by hand in my pie crust tutorial.
Press the dough evenly with your fingers into a 9-inch tart pan or six mini tart pans, making sure the crust rises at least 1/4 inch above the edge of the rim. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375˚.
Line the tart pan(s) with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for about 13-15 minutes, until the crust is starting to brown and is no longer puffy in the center when you peek below the foil.
Gently lift the weighted foil off the crust and bake for 3-5 minutes more until golden brown.
Remove the tart(s) from the oven and cool completely on a rack.