Imagine the tines of your forking breaking through, almost snapping, the velvety crust of a fruit tart. It crumbles a bit, but is far from dry — each bite more rich and buttery than the last. That tender crust is typically known as pâte sablée. Unlike a flaky pie crust, pâte sablée is crisp and more cookie-like. The name literally means "sandy," although it's anything but. Pâte sablée is a classic French shortcrust pastry dough that, once baked, becomes the base for any tart you can imagine.
When to Use Pâte Sablée
Pâte sablée is the dough used to create the shell of a classic tart. The types of tarts that use this tender, buttery crust are typically filled with pastry cream and topped with fresh fruit. It can also be used as the base for lemon tarts, chocolate tarts, and tarts made with almond frangipane. Fully bake the tart crust, and you can fill it with whatever you're craving!
Why Pâte Sablée Uses Softened Butter
While other flaky pie crusts and doughs use cold butter, pâte sablée calls for the butter to be softened. The butter is creamed together with the sugar, so it is fully incorporated into the dough. This creates a sandy texture in the dough and tender texture in the baked crust.
How to Blind-Bake a Crust
When using pâte sablée, the crust needs to be either partially or fully baked before filling. The rule of thumb is that the less time the filling needs to bake, the longer the crust needs to bake on its own. So in the cases where the filling needs just a little baking, like with frangipane, the crust should be partially baked. If the filling does not need to cook at all (like for pastry cream, whipped cream, fresh fruit, etc.), then the crust needs to be fully baked.
To blind-bake a tart crust, chill the dough once it's in the tart pan, and then line it with parchment paper or foil. Fill the lined, chilled tart with pie weights or uncooked beans to keep the dough from puffing up. Bake until you see the edges of the tart just start to brown, about 30 minutes, then remove the weights. At this point, the tart is partially baked. If you need to fully bake it, return the tart to the oven (without pie weights) for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the center looks golden.
The less time the filling needs to bake, the longer the crust needs to bake on its own.
Fixing the Cracks
Tart dough is extremely forgiving. If the dough cracks as you roll it, just press the crack together or patch it up with a little extra dough.
Save any extra dough after you fit the tart in the pan — if you notice any cracks after the blind-bake, just use any saved scraps of dough to simply patch up the crack. It will bake and fix any minor cracks once you fully bake the crust or return it to the oven to cook the filling.
How To Make Pâte Sablée for Classic Tarts
What You Need
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cream or milk, if needed
Measuring cups and spoons
9-inch tart pan
Parchment paper or foil
Pie weights or beans
- Beat the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Since the butter is softened, it should combine easily with the powdered sugar to create a creamy, homogeneous mixture.
- Beat in the egg yolk. Keep mixing until the egg yolk is fully combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the flour: With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and flour — just until the dough comes together and there is no more visible flour. Like most batters and doughs, be careful not to overmix. The dough should be able to be pressed together between your fingertips and hold when done. If the dough appears dry or doesn't hold together at this point, lightly mix in up to 1 tablespoon cream or milk.
- Chill the dough before rolling: Dump the contents of the mixer bowl on a piece of plastic wrap. Gather the dough together and press it into a round disk. This will make rolling it out into a circle easier. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
- When ready to roll, remove the dough from fridge and let soften on the counter. Now the butter in the dough has chilled and firmed up enough to hold together when you roll it, but it's probably actually a bit too firm. Let it warm up on the counter just enough so it's still cool to the touch, but starting to feel pliable.
- Roll the dough out to an 11-inch circle between two sheets of wax paper. To prevent sticking or adding more flour, roll the dough between two pieces of wax paper. Be sure not to press too hard at the edges or thin them out; rotate the dough to keep its round shape.
- Transfer the dough to the tart pan: Peel away the top layer of wax paper, and invert the crust into the tart pan. Peel away the top layer and fit the tart into the pan. Gently lift the edges and then press the dough down into the shape of the pan. Continue around until the dough is snug in the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the edges by simply running a paring knife around the top edge of the pan. Save any scraps to repair cracks that may occur during baking.
- Wrap the pan loosely in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Blind-bake the tart, about 30 minutes: Line the chilled dough with parchment paper or foil. Fill the inside with pie weights or beans and bake until the edges just begin to brown. Remove the pie weights.
- Fully bake the tart, if needed: To fully bake, continue baking the tart crust without the pie weights for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the center of the crust is golden.
- Storing the dough: The prepared dough may be chilled and kept in the refrigerator for two to three days before being baked, or you can freeze it for up to one month (thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using). Alternatively, you can freeze the tarts right after rolling them out and then bake directly from the freezer.
- Storing the baked tarts: You can also bake the tart crust by itself a day or two ahead of when you plan to serve it. Completely cool the unfilled tart shell, wrap it in plastic (or transfer mini tarts to an airtight container), and keep it at room temperature until ready to fill. You may also wrap it in foil and then place in a large zip-top bag (or place minis in a plastic, lidded container) to freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw baked, frozen shells in the refrigerator before adding the filling.