Recipe: Pate Sucree

Rolled pastry

03 Sep Recipe: Pate Sucree

Aunt Hilda's pastry board -

This is — or rather was — Aunt Hilda’s pastry board. It’s now mine and I’m hoping her tenacity and good baking karma will transfer to me through this well-loved board. Not only was Aunt Hilda a fabulous cook, she never stopped learning. After years of study, she obtained her BA — at the age of 72. When I inherited her board this week, I knew it was a sign to resume my pastry lessons. If she could earn a university degree in her 70s, I can move beyond no-fail pastry in my 40s. Or so my theory goes.

With a dozen pears glowering at me accusingly as they slipped from bright green to golden yellow, I decided to start my pastry schooling with pâte sucrée, a sweet dough usually reserved for fruit tarts. Some bakers say you shouldn’t bother to roll pâte sucrée as it’s too fussy. Michel Roux says otherwise. I’ve had his book, Pastry: Savory & Sweet, on my review list for over a year. One mention of  Type 45 and Type 55 French flour, a glance at the hand molded pie dough borders and the mere thought of decorative scoring sent me into pastry panic. I didn’t have a marble counter top. I didn’t have tiny scallop-edged tart shells. Most importantly of all, I didn’t have the confidence. I quietly closed the cover and slipped the book onto the shelf .

Now, as the proud owner of Hilda’s Board, I’m not about to let a bit of flour and butter beat me. Together we are going to make fancy French pastry. Here I go…

Making pate sucree - The

I got it done, but it wasn’t pretty. Flour and butter covered every inch of the counter and I managed to smear dough well beyond my wrists. But the pastry came together surprisingly easily. Despite my aversion to touching standard pie dough, I found I liked working this pasty with my fingers.  Shortening and lard? No way. Butter?  Let me at it.

What did I learn? This pastry isn’t hard to make but you can’t rush things. Patience is a key ingredient not listed in the recipe. I had to slightly soften the butter, let the eggs come to room temperature, and once the dough was made? I had to twiddle my flour-dusted thumbs for a good hour while the pastry “rested” in the fridge. Was it worth it? Two hours later, I rolled the supposedly fussy dough on Aunt Hilda’s board. Smooth as butter.

Rolled pate sucree -

Because I stopped to take photos in a hot kitchen, the dough refused to transfer into the pan in one piece. Colder dough would have held together better. Since normal people don’t stop to photograph their pastry process, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.

After a bit of maneuvering, I got the dough into the tart pan in two pieces and sealed the seam with my fingers. The mended crust then went back in the fridge to chill while I sliced pears for the Chocolate Pear Tart.

The results? Pretty snazzy for a first timer.


Once cooked, the pastry was more like shortbread than a standard pie crust, but who can argue with that? I’m calling this a success.

One dough down, eight more Roux recipes to go. Now that Aunt Hilda’s got my back I’ve got roasted peaches on choux pastry crowns to make, as well as croissants and eclairs. And palmiers. Will I attempt the homemade phyllo, a recipe even Chef Roux admits is challenging? Come on. Hilda got a BA not a PhD.

I’ll post the chocolate and pear tart recipe next week. In the meantime, make the pate sucree. It’ll keep.

Pâte Sucrée
Recipe type: Baking
Cuisine: French
This sweet pie dough is mostly used for fruit tarts. It is easier to work with than pate sablee and, once cooked, the pastry shells are less fragile. The dough can be kept well wrapped in the refrigerator for several days, or frozen for up to 3 months. My note: the book's step by step photos are exceptionally helpful since you can see the texture of the pastry at each stage.
  • 1¾ cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • scant ½ cup (100g) butter, cubed and slightly softened
  • 1 cup (100g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 medium eggs, at room temperature
  1. Put the flour in a mound on a counter (ideally marble) and make a well. Put in the butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt and mix together with your finger tips.
  2. Gradually draw in the flour into the center and mix with your finger tips until the dough becomes slightly grainy.
  3. Again, make a well and add the eggs. Work them into the flour mixture, using your fingertips, until the dough begins to hold together.
  4. When the dough is well amalgamated, knead it a few times with the palm of your hand until smooth. Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and rest in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours before using.
  5. When the dough is rested and you are ready to use it, unwrap and roll out on a lightly floured counter to a 1/16 - ⅛ (2 - 3 mm) thickness.
This recipe is published with permission from Pastry: Savory & Sweet by Michel Roux (Whitecap Books ©2009).

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  • Miranda Merten
    Posted at 12:20h, 03 September Reply

    Very snazzy indeed for a first timer. Much more ambitious than this gal, great job!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 19:11h, 09 September Reply

      @Miranda Merten, it actually wasn’t that hard. I’m finding butter-based pastry easier to handle than ones made with lard or shortening. Or, maybe after all these years, I’m just getting better. Nah. It’s the butter.

  • Michelle
    Posted at 14:22h, 03 September Reply

    What a great inheritance. Your tart is perfectly lovely.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 19:11h, 09 September Reply

      @Michelle, thanks. And yes, it is quite an inheritance. It’s one of my most prized treasures.

  • Robin Smart
    Posted at 22:27h, 04 September Reply

    That is a great pastry board!! I use an old floury tea towel.
    Thanks for the tastes of this lovely recipe – I greedily treated myself to the whole thing!! Yummy.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:09h, 05 September Reply

      @Robin Smart, I used the floury tea towel for years, too, but having rolled a few wrinkles into the crust, have given up on that method.

      Glad you enjoyed the tart. I’ll be making more pastry soon, so bring a fork!

  • Zo
    Posted at 03:10h, 09 September Reply

    Thanks for sharing this pate sucree recipe! Past recipes I’ve tried are actually far more fussy and involve ground almonds. I think it’s meant to be more of a shortbready type crust than flaky, and I love it! Will be trying this next time I make something with pate sucree and will link back when I do.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 19:13h, 09 September Reply

      @Zo, thanks! And you’re right. This sort of pastry is more like shortbread. It’s lovely but quite rich in itself. My mom loved it. Said it was the best part of the dish. Hmmm. I thought the chocolate was pretty good myself :-)

  • Keryn
    Posted at 09:17h, 15 September Reply

    Loved the way you gave so much detail in the process. will be making this pastry tonight!
    Lovely website.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 19:56h, 19 September Reply

      @Keryn, glad the write up helped. The pastry will be more like a shortbread than a standard flaky pastry but man, is it good. Even my mom, who likes old-fashioned lard-based pastry remarked on the crust.

  • Liz
    Posted at 23:54h, 26 November Reply

    I just tried this – I make that pear chocolate tart every Thanksgiving, using a different variation on the crust each year. The dough is in the refrigerator now!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:05h, 27 November Reply

      I love that you do chocolate pear instead of pumpkin for Thanksgiving (or in addition to?) Don’t get me wrong, pumpkin is great, but I like to have choice myself. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Susan
    Posted at 05:09h, 18 May Reply

    Awesome blog! Thanks for the post! I have this book also and it’s my go-to for pastry making.

    I added a link to you on my recent post on lemon tarts:


    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:23h, 02 June Reply

      Thanks so much. I love the look of your lemon tart. Lemon curd is a favourite of mine. Makes me want to make a batch right now! Keep baking!

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