Have you ever tried a Quiche Lorraine? How about a french apple tart? Did you ever wonder how to make that flaky, crumbly dough that was full of flavor? Well, today we will be making just that! And I think you’ll be very pleased to know that a pâte brisée is actually very easy to make and only requires a few basic ingredients.
What Is Pâte Brisée?
Pâte brisée is one of the most basic french tart dough. It is usually made with just flour, butter, water and a pinch of salt although some recipes might also use an egg (or just the yolk) to hydrate and bind the dough. Sugar can also be added to the dough to make a pâte brisée sucrée for sweet tarts. What does remain more or less constant between recipes however is that the amount of butter is usually half the amount of flour. So for 200 g of flour, you would need 100 g of butter.
What Can It Be Used For?
Pâte brisée can be used for pretty much any tart you like. It can be the base for savory tarts such as quiche or can be topped with fruits for a sweeter version. It is the perfect tart shell to have in hand when you want to turn seasonal fruits into a dessert. Plum tarts and apple tarts are two popular choices. You can see how I used it when making a French custard apple tart.
- A digital scale
- A rolling pin
- Parchment paper
- A 23cm (9 inch) tart pan with removable bottom
- A large bowl
Pâte Brisée Ingredients
- 200 g all purpose flour
- 25 g of sugar (optional)
- 3 g of salt
- 100 g butter, softened at room temperature
- 40 g to 50 g of water
Making The Pâte Brisée
You have several options when it comes to mixing all the ingredients. You can either put everything on a work surface (or in a bowl) and mix by hand. Or if you are not crazy about getting your hands dirty, you can use your mixing bowl with the paddle attachment on the lowest speed (you don’t want to overmix the dough).
Sanding (or sablage)
- Start by whisking your dry ingredients together: the flour, salt and sugar if using.
- Once combined, create a well in the center and put the softened butter (cut in pieces).
- Using your fingertips, rub the flour and butter together. You can also use the palm of your hands to rub everything. This is called sanding (sablage in French). What you are doing is coating the flour particles with the fat from the butter. This will minimize the hydration in the next step when you add water and therefore less gluten will be formed, giving your tart that wonderful crumbly texture.
What you are looking for here is a sandy texture without large chunks of butter (pea-sized is ok). It should not however be completely homogeneous at this point. Why? If the flour particles are overly coated with butter, they won’t be able to absorb the water added in the next step properly. There won’t be enough gluten formed, which is essential to the structure of the tart. You’ll end up with a dry dough that completely falls apart. In a nutshell, you need just enough gluten formation for a sturdy tart, without compromising the crumbly texture.
- Once more, create a well in the center and slowly start pouring your water in. Don’t pour everything at once as you might not need it all. Starting from the well, do circular motions with your fingers to slowly combine everything together. If it still looks and feels dry, add a little bit more water. Mix just until it forms a homogeneous dough. All the pieces will have stuck to the main ball of dough. If you are using the mixer with the paddle attachment, it is better to continue by hand when adding the liquid.
Do not overwork the dough or too much gluten will develop. You’ll end up with a tough, rubbery dough that has a tendency to shrink in the oven.
- Using the heel of your hands, press the dough down a few times (about 2 or 3, not more so the dough doesn’t become elastic) to homogenize the dough and get rid of any visible butter streaks. This is called “fraisage”.
- Collect the dough and form a thin rectangle, or a disk if you prefer. The important thing is not to form a ball. A thinner dough will cool down and defrost much faster than a ball. You will also need less effort to roll out the dough when lining the pan.
Storing the dough
- Wrap the dough in cling film or parchment paper to prevent it from drying out.
- This is optional but I like flattening the dough with the rolling pin a little once it is wrapped. The edges of the paper will help you get an even shape and thickness. And it will make it easier to roll out the dough later on.
- Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but ideally overnight.
Why? Refrigerating the dough will make it much easier to handle when lining the pan for several reasons. 1) The chilling time will make the gluten formed during mixing weaker. 2) You also want the dough to be properly hydrated without overmixing it. When you let it rest, the starch in the flour will slowly absorb the water. 3) This step will also firm up the fat and make the dough less sticky.
Baking the pâte brisée
- Line a 23-cm (9-inch) tart pan (I had a bit left over). If you’re not sure how to do this, read How to line a tart pan with pastry.
- Depending on your preferences and what you are making, you might want to partially bake your tart before adding the filling. I personally always pre-bake the tart crust with weights for 15 minutes. This will ensure the tart crust will be properly cooked and not completely soggy.
Pâte brisée contains water which will evaporate during baking and will cause an uneven surface in your tart. In order to avoid this, you should either use weights during the first few minutes of baking or fill the tart.
If the filling doesn’t need to be baked, keep baking the tart shell for about 20-25 more minutes after you remove the weights. The tart will feel dry to the touch when fully baked and the color will be very lightly golden. If you aren’t adding sugar, you might not notice a very big difference in color so go with the texture rather than the color.
And that’s it! Your pâte brisée is ready! So, what’s it going to be for you? Savory or sweet?