Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sweet Tart Dough

Sweet Tart Dough
(adapted from "Baking From My Home To Yours" by Dorie Greenspan)
In French, this dough is called pate sablee because it is buttery, tender and sandy (that's what sablee means).  It's much like shortbread, and it's ideal for filling with fruit, custard or chocolate.
The simplest way to make a tart shell with this dough is to press it into the pan.  You can roll out the dough, but the high proportion of butter to flour and the inclusion of confectioners' sugar makes it finicky to roll.  I always press it into the pan, but if you want to roll it, I suggest you do so between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper or inside a rolling slipcover. 

Makes enough  for one9-inch crust
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.  Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.  Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little a a time, pulsing after each addition.  When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds.  Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working  the dough will change - heads up.  Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

To Press The Dough Into The Pan :  Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked.  Don't be too heavy-handed - press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

To Partially Or Fully Bake The Crust : Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights).  Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.  Carefully remove the foil.  If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.  For a partially baked crust, patch the crust if necessary, then transfer the crust to a cooling rack (keep it in its pan).

To Fully Bake The Crust :  Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown.  (I dislike lightly baked crust, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer.  If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust's progress - it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash).  Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.

To Patch A Partially Or Fully Baked Crust, If Necessary :  If there are any cracks in the baked crust, patch them with some of the reserved raw dough as soon as you remove the foil.  Slice off a thin piece of the dough, place it over the crack, moisten the edges and very gently smooth the edges into the baked crust.  If the tart will not be baked again with its filling, bake for another 2 minutes or so, just to take the rawness off the patch.

Storing : Well wrapped, the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5  days or frozen for up to 2 months.  While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, I prefer to freeze the unbaked crust in the pan and bake it directly from the freezer - it has a fresher  flavor.  Just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

Playing Around :
Sweet Tart Dough with Nuts
This dough has a slightly more assertive flavor than Sweet Tart Dough, but you can use the two interchangeably.  For the nut dough, reduce the amount of flour to 1-1/4 cups and add 1/4 cup finely ground almonds (or walnuts, pecans or pistachios).


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