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Three small fluted tartlets pans lined with pate sablee.

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!

Three small fluted tartlets pans lined with pate sablee.
Pâte sablée tartlets

What Is Pâte Sablée?

Pâte sablée is a shortbread pastry that can be used in countless desserts such as strawberry tarts, lemon meringue tarts and chocolate ganache tarts. Sablée 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 giving it a very rich flavor. It is typically made of 100% flour, 60% butter and 40% sugar (so for 100 g of flour, there would be 60 g of butter and 40 g of sugar). If you aren’t familiar with baker’s percentage, the idea is that the weight of the flour is at 100% and everything else is measured against it.

The dough in this recipe is made using the rubbing in method (sanding or sablage). We start by rubbing the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) with cold butter until the mixture becomes sandy. The egg is then added to hydrate the dough and give it more structure. In case you missed it, we talked about the sanding method when making French tarts.

one large pate sablee tart shell and five small ones

Pâte Sucrée vs Pâte Sablée

Pâte sucrée and pâte sablée 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.

Ingredients

  • Flour: All-purpose flour for structure. Some recipes will substitute a small portion of the flour with almond flour for a nutty flavor and more texture. I do this when making this chocolate tart crust and pâte sucrée.
  • Butter: Unsalted butter for richness and flavor. It’s best to use European style butter which has a higher fat content (at least 82%) and less water than American brands.
  • Sugar: I like to use white granulated sugar in this recipe for a crunchier crust. Using powdered sugar yields a dough that is smoother and easier to handle but not as flavorful (according to my taste testers, aka my family!).
  • Egg: A whole egg to add moisture and bind the ingredients together.
  • Salt: To round up all the flavors. You’ll need just a small amount but it really makes a difference without making the crust taste salty.

You could also add a little bit of fruit zest or vanilla extract if you’d like. One less common addition when making tart dough is baking powder. It will “lift up” the dough, making it lighter and airier. I haven’t used any in today’s recipe but I’ve added a little to the pasta flora dough.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Making the dough

  • Sift the flour into a large bowl.
  • Add the sugar and salt and briefly mix with a spoon or a whisk to combine.
  • Make a small well in the flour mixture and add the diced butter.

Sanding/Rubbing in method

  • 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. Don’t forget to combine the ingredients at the bottom of the bowl as well. Tip: If you have warm hands, you can start off with a pastry blender so you don’t melt the butter. Then finish by briefly rubbing the mixture using your hands, if needed.
  • Add the egg and knead (using your hands or pastry blender) just until combined. Don’t overwork the dough or it will have a tendency to shrink.
  • Fraisage, optional: Transfer the dough to a clean work surface just before it is fully combined. Using the heel of your hand, gently push the dough down away from you 2 or 3 times.

Rolling out the dough

  • Divide the dough into two portions (about 295 g/10.4 oz. each). It will be easier to roll out a smaller amount of dough. Each portion is enough for a 23 cm (9 inch) tart crust. If you’re not planning on using all the dough, you can freeze it for later use.
  • Place on a piece of parchment paper and flatten into a rectangle. Wrap with parchment paper (or plastic wrap). Chill for 15-30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.
  • Roll out between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of about 3-4 mm (1/8-1/6 inch). If making a large tart, roll out the dough into a circle that is slightly bigger than your pan (to account for the edges of the pan). Flip the dough and peel the parchment paper occasionally to make sure it isn’t creased. Note: If the dough warms up and becomes soft and sticky at any point, chill it for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.
  • Place the rolled out dough on a flat surface (I use a baking sheet). Chill for about 15-30 minutes or until you can easily peel off the parchment paper to line the tart pan. 

Lining the tart pan

  • In the meantime, prepare your tart pan (or tartlet pans). If your tart pan has a removable bottom, it’s best to place it on a small baking sheet before lining it with pastry. Depending on the type of pan you are using, you might need to grease and flour the pan.
  • Line the tart (or tartlet) pan with dough, making sure it touches all the edges of the pan by gently pressing with your fingers. Use a rolling pin (or a knife) to cut off the excess dough. If you’re not sure how to do this, read how to line a tart pan with pastry. 

TIPS

  1. Make sure the dough is at the right temperature. If it’s too warm, it will be sticky. Return it to the fridge. If it’s too cold, it will tear. Let it warm up at room temperature.
  2. Press the dough into the corners of the pan and onto the sides. If there are gaps, the dough will start to slide down during baking.
  3. Don’t worry if the dough tears. Just patch it up with your fingers!

Baking the tarts

  • Prick the tart(s) with a fork then chill for at least an hour. Chilling the tart is essential so that it doesn’t puff up or shrink in the oven. Tip: Cover the tart after about 30 minutes of chilling so it doesn’t dry out if you plan on chilling it for several hours. If you cover the dough when it’s warm and soft, you might accidentally tear it.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F), conventional setting. Bake in the bottom third of the oven until just firm to the touch and golden. Tip: If you notice the crust puffing up during baking, remove it from the oven, push down the bubbles with the back of a metal spoon before the tart sets and return to the oven. Alternatively you can bake with weights (see section below). Baking time: For a 9 inch tart: 25-30 minutes. Small tartlets: 18-20 minutes. The baking time might vary depending on your oven and the pan used. Check a few minutes before the suggested time.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack (in the pan) before filling.

Baking with weights

  • Line the cold pastry with parchment paper and fill with weights such as chickpeas or lentils. The parchment paper should have an overhang so that you can easily lift it and remove it when needed.
  • Bake in the middle shelf (not bottom third) of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the edges of the tart are lightly golden. Remove from the oven and carefully lift the parchment paper with weights and set aside. If the dough is sticking to the paper, bake for a few more minutes then try again. Alternatively, let the tart cool down slightly before removing the paper.
  • Return to the oven and bake for 5-10 more minutes or until golden.

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This post was originally published on January 5, 2021. I updated it with new pictures and more information.

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Pâte Sablée (Shortbread Pastry)

Pâte Sablée (Shortbread Pastry)

5 from 1 vote

Pâte sablée is a rich and crumbly dough that can be shaped into cookies or used to make delicious tarts. This recipe yields about 590 g/20.8 oz. of dough which is enough for two 23 cm (9 inch) tarts. If you’d rather make just one tart with no leftover dough, simply divide all the ingredients by two. To use half an egg, crack it into a small bowl, mix it with a fork and use only 25 g/0.9 oz.

Course: DessertCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Easy
Yield

590

grams
Prep time

10

minutes
Resting time

2

hours 
Baking time

25

min

Ingredients

  • 280 g all-purpose flour (9.9 oz., about 2 cups)

  • 110 g white granulated sugar (3.9 oz., 1/2 cup and 3/4 Tablespoon)

  • 1/3 teaspoon salt

  • 160 g unsalted butter, diced and cold (5.6 oz., 2/3 cup)

  • 1 large egg (50 g/1.8 oz. without the shell), slightly beaten with a fork

Directions

  • Sift the flour into a large bowl.
  • Add the sugar and salt and briefly mix with a spoon or a whisk to combine.
  • Make a small well in the flour mixture and add the diced butter.
  • Sanding/Rubbing in method: 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. Don’t forget to combine the ingredients at the bottom of the bowl as well. Tip: If you have warm hands, you can start off with a pastry blender so you don’t melt the butter. Then finish by briefly rubbing the mixture using your hands, if needed.
  • Add the egg and knead (using your hands or pastry blender) just until combined. Don’t overwork the dough or it will have a tendency to shrink.
  • Fraisage, optional: Transfer the dough to a clean work surface just before it is fully combined. Using the heel of your hand, gently push the dough down away from you 2 or 3 times.
  • Divide the dough into two portions (about 295 g/10.4 oz. each). It will be easier to roll out a smaller amount of dough. Each portion is enough for a 23 cm (9 inch) tart crust. If you’re not planning on using all the dough, you can freeze it for later use.
  • Place on a piece of parchment paper and flatten into a rectangle. Wrap with parchment paper (or plastic wrap). Chill for 15-30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.
  • Roll out between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of about 3-4 mm (1/8-1/6 inch). If making a large tart, roll out the dough into a circle that is slightly bigger than your pan (to account for the edges of the pan). Flip the dough and peel the parchment paper occasionally to make sure it isn’t creased. Note: If the dough warms up and becomes soft and sticky at any point, chill it for 10-15 minutes before proceeding.
  • Place the rolled out dough on a flat surface (I use a baking sheet). Chill for about 15-30 minutes or until you can easily peel off the parchment paper to line the tart pan.
  • In the meantime, prepare your tart pan (or tartlet pans). If your tart pan has a removable bottom, it’s best to place it on a small baking sheet before lining it with pastry. Depending on the type of pan you are using, you might need to grease and flour the pan (see recipe notes below).
  • Line the tart (or tartlet) pan with dough, making sure it touches all the edges of the pan by gently pressing with your fingers. Use a rolling pin (or a knife) to cut off the excess dough. If you’re not sure how to do this, read how to line a tart pan with pastry. Tips: 1) Make sure the dough is at the right temperature. If it’s too warm, it will be sticky. Return it to the fridge. If it’s too cold, it will tear. Let it warm up at room temperature. 2) Press the dough into the corners of the pan and onto the sides. If there are gaps, the dough will start to slide down during baking. 3) Don’t worry if the dough tears. Just patch it up with your fingers!
  • Prick the tart(s) with a fork then chill for at least an hour. Chilling the tart is essential so that it doesn’t puff up or shrink in the oven. Tip: Cover the tart after about 30 minutes of chilling so it doesn’t dry out if you plan on chilling it for several hours. If you cover the dough when it’s warm and soft, you might accidentally tear it.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F), conventional setting. Bake in the bottom third of the oven until just firm to the touch and golden. Tip: If you notice the crust puffing up during baking, remove it from the oven, push down the bubbles with the back of a metal spoon before the tart sets and return to the oven. Alternatively you can bake with weights (see recipe notes below). Baking time: For a 9 inch tart: 25-30 minutes. Small tartlets: 18-20 minutes. The baking time might vary depending on your oven and the pan used. Check a few minutes before the suggested time.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack (in the pan) before filling.

Notes

  • Make-ahead tips: 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.
  • When using a 23 cm (9 inch) tart pan with a glass removable bottom, I grease and flour the edges of the pan. I also grease the bottom, line it with parchment paper and grease it once more. When using my tartlet pans or mini cupcake pan, I simply grease the pan. And if using tart rings, no greasing is required. I simply place them on a baking sheet lined with a perforated silicone mat (or parchment paper).
  • Baking with weights: 1) Line the cold pastry with parchment paper and fill with weights such as chickpeas or lentils. The parchment paper should have an overhang so that you can easily lift it and remove it when needed. 2) Bake in the middle shelf (not bottom third) of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the edges of the tart are lightly golden. 3) Remove from the oven and carefully lift the parchment paper with weights and set aside. If the dough is sticking to the paper, bake for a few more minutes then try again. Alternatively, let the tart cool down slightly before removing the paper. 4) Return to the oven and bake for 5-10 more minutes or until golden.
  • Mini tartlets (in mini muffin pan): This recipe is enough to make about 42 mini tartlets if you gather the scraps and roll out the dough a few times. I used half a portion of dough to make 21 mini tartlets and baked them for about 18 minutes (middle shelf).
  • Filling ideas: You can fill the tarts with vanilla pastry cream, banana pastry cream, cocoa powder ganache, caramel cremeux. For more ideas, head over to the tart section.
  • Cup measurements: Please note that these measurements are approximate. For best results, I’d recommend weighing the ingredients.
  • Inspired by Christophe Felder’s pâte sablée found in his 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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