Searching and comparing recipes is part of my daily basis, but recently I ran into some questions about the 3 types of basic pastry dough every baker or pastry chef should know: pâte brisée, pâte sucree, pâte sablée and the major differences between them, which are actually stated from their name, brisée mening broken, sucrée sweet and sablée meaning sandy. So I decided to do some serious research on this.
Pâte brisée is the most basic dough of all and contains only basic, common ingredients: butter, flour, salt and cold water. Julia Child says that adding a small amount of shortening to this dough will make it more flaky. This dough is easy to make: the cold butter is cut into cubes, then mixed into the flour until it looks flaky, then cold water is added bit by bit until the dough gets together. The golden rule is that you work the dough quickly so that the butter stays cold. You can use your fingertips or even a food processor, but make sure you move quickly and don’t overwork the dough. It is perfect for both sweet and savory dishes. It is also known as pate a foncer so don’t panic if you see this name in culinary books as well. There are tons of recipes out there, but the main rule is that you use 1 part butter – 2 parts flour.
Pâte sucrée is basically the same as pâte brisée, except that confectioners sugar is added to the flour before rubbing in the cold butter. Some recipes, such as Pierre Herme’s also call for almond flour and even eggs, but Pierre Herme’s recipe is special as it’s made by creaming the butter with the sugar first, then adding the rest of the ingredients. To be fully honest with you, I prefer the creaming method because it yealds a better, easy to work with dough, but in the end it’s only up to you which recipe you want to use.. don’t be afraid to try until you find one recipe that best suits your needs.
Pâte sablée is obviously the richest in flavour from the three of them and has a higher sugar ratio which makes it more suitable for desserts such as fruit tarts. Actually, browsing through Pierre Herme’s recipes, I noticed that pâte sucree and pâte sablée are very similar: they both use the creaming method, the dough is made more tender by the addition of almond flour and eggs and sometimes a bit of milk if the dough is not workable enough. I am a huge fan of this dough and for some reason I find it easier to work with than pate brisee. Pâte sablée is, for obvious reasons, used for desserts, such as pies, tarts and even biscuits. In fact, Herme’s recipe yealds some of the best biscuits I ever had 😉
The pâte sablée recipe I usually use is Pierre Herme inspired:
140g butter, room temperature
70g confectioners sugar
30g almond flour or other type of nuts
280g all purpose flour
vanilla/orange zest (or any other flavours you like)
To make the dough, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the almond flour and egg, vanilla and orange zest. Mix, then incorporate the flour. The dough will be quite soft. Shape it into a ball and refrigerate for 1h then use for tarts or biscuits.
Don’t forget to explore and experiment with recipes. Start small, changing a few things and you’ll end up creating your own recipes. Baking isn’t always about perfect measurements and right temperature, but about being bold and having fun 🙂