Pate brisee (or pâte brisée, si tu prefere) is one stable recipe that should be in every baker’s repertoire – especially if you’re a baker who likes to occasionally branch out from cookies and cakes into the realm of pies and tarts. It is a basic tart crust that is easy to make, keeps in the refrigerator or freezer exceptionally well, and works with both sweet and savory fillings.
The name means “short dough,” which short referring to the fact that it has a high ratio of fat to flour, and not to the height of the crust. In this case, the fat is all butter. This ratio serves to produce a light and flaky dough, with lots of little pockets (which make the flakiness) that are created by the water from the butter as it heats and turns to gas in the oven.
The dough is easily made by hand, but is even more easily made in a food processor. Just add chunks of cold butter to your dry ingredients and pulse until the dough resembles very coarse sand. You’re looking to see chunks of butter that range from the size of a sesame seed to the size of a pea. It’s fine to have a few pieces at the extreme ends of the spectrum, but check the dough as you pulse it to make sure you’re not over-blending. Once you have stirred in the water, the dough may still be a bit dry in some places, but as long as you can scoop it together into two balls it should be fine; the water will redistribute itself as the dough chills, so the drier parts will moisten and create a dough that is easy to roll out and work with.
I like this dough for tarts, and have included directions for baking a single-crust tart shell below (and included a picture of the texture of the finished crust). In addition to tarts, this can also be used as a basic pie dough and the recipe below will yield enough for a double-crust pie.
Pate Brisee (Tart Dough)
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup butter, chilled and cut into 12-15 chunks
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine flour, salt and sugar. Add in chunks of butter and pulse carefully until the mixture resembles very coarse sand.
Pour in ice water in a slow stream and continue to pulse (slightly longer pulses here) until the dough comes together into a large, rough ball. It should not be too wet or sticky, but if it is too crumbly to hold together, add an additional tbsp or two of ice water.
Divide dough into two discs and wrap each tightly in plastic. Chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, or store (even more tightly wrapped) in the freezer for 1-2 months. Refrigerated dough should be fine to work with for about a week.
Makes 2 single crust (9 to 11-in.) tart shells (or 1 double-crust pie)
Basic Single Tart Crust
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out half of the dough (one disc, from recipe above) into a circle large enough to fit a 9-10-inch tart pan.
Press dough into pan without stretching it and pinch any excess off along the top edge. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork several times, line with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights.
Bake for 25 minutes, remove foil and pie weights, and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool completely before filling.