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one large pate sablee tart shell and five small ones

How to make Pâte Sablée (Shortbread Pastry)

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Pâte sablée could be called the stand-alone tart dough. It doesn’t really need any filling. It doesn’t really need to be in a tart pan. You could just eat it as a cookie. It is THAT good! But if you just got a hold of some fresh fruits and want to impress your guests, then this is the tart for you. Bake your tart, fill it with some pastry cream, and have some fun creating pretty fruit designs on top!

one large pate sablee tart shell and five small ones

What Is Pâte Sablée?

Sablé translates to “sandy” in French. Just as the name implies, this tart dough has a wonderful crumbly texture. Pâte sablée contains a lot of butter and sugar giving it a very rich flavor. According to Suas, a pâte sablée is typically made of 100% flour, 60% butter and 40% sugar.

An egg yolk can be added to bind all the ingredients together and add flavor and color to the dough. Some recipes will substitute a small portion of the flour with almond flour for a nutty flavor and more texture. You can also find sometimes vanilla extract (or bean) or fruit zest in the list of ingredients.

One less common addition is baking powder. It will “lift up” your dough, making it lighter and airier. Including it in your recipe will however reduce the shelf life.

What Is The Difference Between Pâte Sablée and Pâte Sucrée?

The two tarts can be used interchangeably when it comes to making sweet tarts. Pâte sablée contains more butter than the pâte sucrée, making it richer-tasting and crumblier. Since there is less butter in the pâte sucrée, the flour particles aren’t shielded as much from the liquid and more gluten develops leading to a sturdier dough.

Which one to pick will depend on your personal preferences but also on how long you plan on storing the tart. The sturdier pâte sucrée will keep longer in the fridge while the pâte sablée should preferably be eaten on the day it is made.

The Recipe

Yield

The recipe I will share with you is from Christophe’s Felder wonderful pink book: Patisserie. It is enough for one 23-cm tart crust and 5 tartlets of 8-cm. You could maybe make two 23-cm tarts but I think it will be a bit too tight. I recommend making the full amount of dough and starting with the 23-cm tart crust.

Freezing

You can then freeze the remaining dough and reuse it for tartlets whenever you have an urge to bake (and eat!). Another great advantage of this dough that I should point out is that you don’t need weights while baking! It won’t puff up! How great is that?! Simply freeze it for 15 minutes while preheating your oven and you are good to go.

Ingredients

In this recipe we will be using:

  • All-purpose flour, which will provide structure to the dough.
  • Granulated sugar, for sweetness and texture.
  • Unsalted butter that is softened to room temperature and cut into pieces. This will make it easier to blend into the other ingredients.
  • A large egg yolk.

Making Pâte Sablée

  • Sift the flour into a large bowl. I’ll admit I usually avoid sifting but I thought it would be best to follow all the instructions this time!
  • Add the sugar and the butter softened to room temperature and cut into pieces.

Sanding

  • Combine everything using your fingertips or by rubbing all the ingredients together with the palm of your hands. This is known as the sanding method or sablage in french (in case you missed it, we talked about it when preparing pâte brisée).
  • Make sure to combine the ingredients at the bottom of the bowl as well. As explained when making pâte brisée, the dough shouldn’t be homogeneous at this point. So stop mixing when you obtain a sandy texture.

Adding the egg

  • Add the egg yolk and knead until the dough is easy to gather and doesn’t fall apart. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look fully homogeneous if you are planning on doing the next step, or fraisage.

My dough looked very dry at this point and was way too crumbly so I added some egg white and got to the right texture. Just follow your instincts on this one. I know other people have had success with just the egg yolk, but if you feel like it needs more liquid, just add the egg white slowly until you manage to gather it into a ball.

Fraisage (optional)

  • Place your dough on a clean surface and using the heel of your hand, push it away from you. Start from the top of the dough and move down. Don’t do this more than 3 times as you don’t want to overwork it.

Storing Pâte Sablée

  • Flatten the dough on a piece of parchment paper and wrap it up fully.
  • Using the rolling pin, flatten the dough as much as possible and fill in the gaps (top left in my picture for example) by rolling dough towards it.
  • Use your hand to feel the dough, check if it has an even thickness. I just slide my hand over the dough. You’ll notice if there is a really big bump to flatten!
  • Refrigerate your dough for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

And that’s it for preparing the dough! You can line your tart pan after the resting time or you can freeze the dough for later use. This really is an amazing dough so I wouldn’t wait too long before eating it!

How to make Pâte Sablée (Shortbread Pastry)

0 from 0 votes
Cuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Easy
Servings

14

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Resting time

2

hours 
Baking time

25

min

Sweet, rich and crumbly dough that is perfect eaten on its own as a cookie, or used to make tart shells.

Ingredients

  • 250 g all-purpose flour

  • 140 g unsalted butter, diced and softened at room temperature

  • 100 g granulated sugar

  • 1 large egg yolk

Directions

  • Start by sifting the flour into a large bowl.
  • Sanding: Add the sugar and softened butter. Using your fingertips or the palm of your hands, rub everything together until the mixture looks sandy. It’s okay if there are some pea-sized butter chunks. Do not combine until the dough looks homogeneous.
  • Add the egg yolk and knead until the dough no longer falls apart. If the dough feels too dry and crumbly and you are unable to gather it into a ball, add some of the egg white until the dough is smooth and easy to handle.
  • Flatten the dough into a disk or rectangle and wrap it well in parchment paper or cling film.
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. The dough will be sticky and difficult to handle if not cool enough.
  • Pre-baking: Line the tart pans and freeze them for about 15 minutes to prevent puffiness without resorting to weights. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F) and place a rack in the lower third of the oven (level 2).
  • Bake tarts for about 25 minutes and tartlets for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Notes

  • This recipe yields about 500 g of dough. If flattening the dough to a thickness of 3 mm (1/8 inch), you will need about 240 g to 260 g of dough to fill a 23-cm pan (9-inch). I would recommend making one large tart and using the remaining dough for tartlets or cookies.
  • Make-ahead Instructions: 1) The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month. To defrost, place it in the refrigerator overnight or thaw at room temperature for 1 hour. 2) The baked tart shell can be frozen in a sturdier freezer-proof container for up to 1 month. Do not put it in a bag so it doesn’t break. Simply thaw at room temperature before filling.
  • Sablé cookies: This dough can easily be made into cookies. Roll the dough to a thickness of 0.25 – 0.5 cm (1/8 to 1/4 inch) and cut out desired shapes. Bake on the middle rack of the oven (conventional setting) at 180°C (356°F) for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.
  • This recipe was found in Christophe Felder’s book, Patisserie.

Bibliography

Felder, C. (2014). Patisserie: Mastering the Fundamentals of French Pastry (4th ed.) Rizzoli.

Pfeiffer, J. & Shulman, M. R. (2013). The Art of French Pastry. Alfred A. Knopf.

Suas, M. (2008). Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach (1st ed.). Delmar Cengage Learning.

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