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Episode 7: Pate Sucree and Lemon Tart

Produced by Sarah Breckenridge. Videography by Bruce Becker, Dariusz Kanarek, and John Ross. Edited by Cari Delahanty. Food styling by Safaya Tork.
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Bite into a classic French fruit tart and right away you’ll notice how different the crust is from American pie crust. It’s sweeter, crumblier, less flaky, more like a cookie in texture. The dough is called pâte sucrée and it’s the foundation for many sweet tarts. In this episode, you’ll learn the differences between pâte sucrée and pie dough, and Abby demonstrates how to make a tangy lemon tart with a pâte sucrée crust.

Lemon Tart Maple-Walnut Tart Pineapple and Macadamia Nut Tart Chocolate Caramel-Almond Tart
Lemon Tart   Maple-Walnut Tart   Pineapple and Macadamia Nut Tart   Chocolate Caramel-Almond Tart

Mixing the Dough
Pâte sucrée is French for sweet pastry dough. It’s an apt term: this dough has more sugar than American pie dough, or the flaky French tart dough called pâte brisée. As with pie dough, you start out by cutting the fat into the dry ingredients. But unlike pie dough, where you want your butter super-cold, here you’re not aiming to keep the butter in large, distinct pieces, so it should be cool, but not ice-cold or frozen. Start by pulsing the butter in the food processor with your salt, sugar and flour until the mixture has the texture of coarse crumbs, with pea-size pieces of butter.

Now, where we’d add just water for pie dough, we see another difference for pâte sucrée: we’re also adding an egg yolk to the dough. Some versions of pâte sucrée call for whole egg too. The egg yolk gives the dough a bit more tenderness and richness, and when a whole egg is added, it adds strength and structure.

After adding the water and yolk, pulse briefly just until the dough comes together into a mass of moist crumbs.

Press In or Roll Out
One way to get your dough into your tart pan is to press it in: this method is great if you happen not to have a rolling pin at hand. To do this, dump the mass of dough crumbs into the. Use a teaspoon to gather crumbs up around the side, pressing the dough into the fluted edges. Press the remaining crumbs into the bottom of the tart pan, in a layer about 1/4 inch thick. The crust won’t be quite as neat and refined with this method, though you don’t run the risk of tearing it. And once the crust is filled, you can’t even see the difference.

Or, if you prefer to roll out your crust, when you’ve mixed the dough, dump the crumbs onto a large piece of plastic wrap, and use the plastic wrap to form it into a disk. Wrap the disk in the plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least one hour.

Once the dough is chilled, we roll it out, and this part of the process is quite similar to rolling pie crust. I want to turn my dough often, and lift it to make sure it’s not sticking, flouring the counter when I need to.

You’ll find that most pâte sucrées are more fragile and prone to tearing than pie dough, but the upside is that they patch and repair very easily-more so than pie dough in fact. If you get a tear, just pinch it back together.

Roll your dough around the rolling pin and transfer it to a tart pan with a removable bottom. Be careful as you ease the dough into the pan-you want to make sure the dough doesn’t cut itself on the pan edges until it’s settled into place.

Getting a neat edge on your tart dough is easy: just roll your pin across the top of the pan, which will trim the dough so it’s flush with the edge. As with pie crust, you want to chill this unbaked crust for an hour or freeze it for a half hour, to help it keep its shape in baking.

Blind-Bake and Fill
Depending on what type of filling you’re doing, you may fill an uncooked tart shell and bake it, or completely bake the shell and then fill it. For this lemon tart, you partially blind-bake it, then add the filling and bake it the rest of the way.

As with the single-crust pies, line your unbaked crust with foil and fill with pie weights to keep the crust from puffing up. Bake the crust at 425°F, until the sides are just golden and the bottom’s no longer wet, about 15 to 20 minute. Take the crust out of the oven, remove the foil and weights, prick the bottom lightly with a fork (but don’t pierce all the way through) and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven and let cool on a rack, and lower the oven temperature to 325°F.

While the crust cools, the filling comes together very quickly. Whisk together your sugar, flour, lemon zest, and salt, then whisk in the lemon juice until no lumps remain, then finally combine with your eggs and vanilla until just blended.

Return the tart to the oven and bake it at 325°F until the filling is set at the edges but still jiggles in the center when nudged-about 20 minutes. Let the finished tart cool at room temperature for at least an hour before serving.

More Pâte Sucrée Tarts
Bourbon Pumpkin Tart with Walnut Streusel
Chocolate-Caramel Tart with Macadamia Nuts
Nutty ButterscotchTartlets
Peach & Mascarpone Tart
Cherry Custard Tart with Sliced Almonds
Roasted Pineapple Tart

More Press-in Crust Tarts
Plum Tart with a Lemon Crust
Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramelized Pistachios
Banana-Toffee Tart

Related Articles
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Abigail Johnson Dodge is a contributing editor at Fine Cooking, and teaches cooking classes around the country. She studied at La Varenne in Paris, and worked with Michel Guerard and Guy Savoy, specializing in pastry. She has written six cookbooks, four of them about baking, including The Weekend Baker, winner of the IACP award. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.

Other episodes in this series
Press-in Cookie Crust Tarts Equipment Essentials for Pies All About Pie Dough
Episode 1: Press-in Cookie Crust Tarts
  Episode 2: Equipment Essentials for Pies   Episode 3: All About Pie Dough
Rustic Fruit Galettes Double-Crust Apple Pie Single-Crust Pecan and Pumpkin Pies
Episode 4: Rustic Fruit Galettes   Episode 5: Double-Crust Apple Pie   Episode 6: Single-Crust Pecan and Pumpkin Pies
Pâte Sucrée and Lemon Tart Lattice-Topped Mixed Berry Pie Rough Puff Pastry Tarts
Episode 7: Pâte Sucrée and Lemon Tart   Episode 8: Lattice-Topped Mixed Berry Pie   Episode 9: Rough Puff Pastry Tarts
Classic Fresh Fruit Tart    
Episode 10: Classic Fresh Fruit Tart        


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