One of the many fundamental recipes every baker needs in their repertoire is a recipe for a sweet tart dough, or pate sucree’. Similar to a pie dough, sweet tart dough creates a buttery, sturdy crust perfect for filling with curds, custards, fruit, and much more. Sweet tart dough differs a bit from pie dough as tart dough is sweeter and more cookie-like, reminiscent to a sable’ cookie, while pie dough has a small amount, if any, of sugar and is more flaky and crisp in texture.
Pie dough and tart dough are very similar, using many of the same ingredients – flour, sugar, butter and salt but with sweet tart dough containing an egg or egg yolk. All purpose flour is used in this recipe, helping to create a perfectly tender crust. Not too delicate and not too tough. Confectioner’s sugar is used here because it provides more of a melt-in-your-mouth, fine grained crust than granulated sugar would. Salt is added for flavor. An egg yolk is added for structure, and also contributes to browning. Cream is used to help bind the dough together and allow the dough roll out easier. You can skip the cream and use a full egg if you wanted to, though the crust will not be as tender. I have done this plenty of times and it’s still perfectly delicious.
I always make pie dough in a food processor and my sweet tart dough is no exception. I love the ease of it and it comes together much faster than doing it by hand. You’ll want to make sure you don’t overwork your dough. Just as with hand mixing your dough, be sure not to over process your dough in the food processor. Pulse just to combine.
Cold ingredients are key to a good pastry dough. I like to grate my super cold butter on the large grates of a box grater before adding it to my dry ingredients. Using grated butter ensures that the butter is uniform and evenly distributed in the flour mixture. Once the butter is added and combined, the mixture will look like coarse meal. Next, process in the egg yolk, cream and vanilla and pulse to form large clumps and curds. The photo above is what your dough should like when you’re done processing it.
Allow the dough to chill before rolling out. This relaxes the dough and makes it easier to roll. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. If you would like, you can also roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment. For a standard tart shell, roll the pastry out to a 12″ round, about 1/8 inch thick. You can certainly roll your dough a bit thinner or thicker, depending on your preference. I find that I prefer to use a slightly thicker tart shell for tarts made with curds, and fruit.
Place the rolled dough into the 9.5″ removable bottom tart pan. I use this traditional fluted tart pan. I find that the best way to do this is to take the removable bottom from the tart pan and slide it under the dough. Center the dough over the pan bottom, pick up and place into the tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan, taking care not to stretch the dough and making sure the dough is flush to the pan. Trim off the excess, then it’s off to the freezer to firm up before baking. Freezing the pastry completely will help prevent the tart shell from shrinking.
Once the tart shell is chilled completely, it’s lined with oiled or buttered aluminum foil and filled with pie weights (or uncooked rice, dried beans, etc.). This is to allow the tart to cook weighed down to prevent the crust from puffing up and distorting while baking. After the tart’s initial bake, the foil and weights are removed and it’s baked for a bit longer. For a partially baked shell, for tarts that will be baked further with their fillings, only a few more minutes of baking are required to dry out the pastry a bit more before filling. For a fully baked tart shell, bake until a light golden brown. I like to bake mine a deeper golden brown. Where there is browning, there is flavor.
Sweet tart dough can also be made in advance. Dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. It can also be frozen for up to a month. Just thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using. It can also be baked, cooled and stored at room temperature in a ziptop bag for up to two days.
If you make a tart using my sweet tart dough recipe, let me know! Leave a comment in the comment area below and be sure to snap a photo and tag it #littlevintagebaking on Instagram. I love seeing your Little Vintage Baking creations!
Perfect Tart Dough
- 1 1/2 cups (180g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (56g) confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 stick (113g) unsalted butter, very cold and grated on a box grated
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Place the flour, confectioner's sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple times to combine.
- Scatter in the cold, grated butter over the flour mixture. Pulse a few times to evenly distribute. The mixture will be clumpy, resembling coarse meal.
- Whisk together the egg yolk and the cream in a small bowl. Add the egg yolk mixture while pulsing. Pulse the mixture until it starts sticking together, forming large clumps. It's ok if there is still some flour that hasn't been fully incorporated.
- Pour the mixture out onto your work surface. With a light hand, knead just a few times to incorporate all of the flour and to ensure everything is thoroughly incorporated.
- Flatten dough into a disc, about an inch thick and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for 45 minutes.
- Place your chilled dough on a lightly floured surface. Let the dough sit for a 5-10 minutes until pliable. Roll out your dough into a 12" circle, about an 1/8 inch thick.
- Place the dough over your tart pan and quickly ease the dough into the pan. Avoid stretching the dough. Use the tips of your fingers to ensure the dough is flush with the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Trim the excess dough off the top of the pan. Take another look at your tart dough, checking for any tears, gaps or uneven edges, Use the excess dough to fill in those spots.
- Place the tart shell into the freezer for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Press the foil into the tart shell, covering the edges. Fill the shell with pie weights.
- Place the tart shell into the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and pie weights.
- For partially baked shell, continue baking for 5 minutes more. Proceed to your recipe for further instructions.
- For a fully baked shell, continue baking for 10 minutes longer or until golden brown. Be sure to keep an eye on the edges of the tart so they don't burn. Place on a wire wrack to cool completely.