There are three types of pastry dough in the classically trained chef’s arsenal that should be known by heart: brisée, sucrée, and sablée. To the uninformed observer, these doughs may seem quite similar, even interchangeable. However subtle their differences may seem they are each important and when used correctly transport a pie or tart to new heights of glory. We’ll deconstruct the differences between each dough for you so you’ll know when and how to use each.
These three doughs can be remembered by association:
SUgar for SUcrée
SAndy for SAblée
BRoken for BRisée
This is the most basic of our three crusts and contains only flour, butter, salt, and cold water making it great for savory bakes. Think of it as the standard French crust. The ingredients are very similar to our American flaky pie dough but the incorporation of ingredients is slightly different.
With American pastry, we emphasize the “rubbing in” of cold butter into flour which gives us that irregular flaky texture. While the French mix their butter into flour while it’s still cold as well, they generally rely on the use of a standing mixer. Sometimes going as far as adding an egg yolk (in which case the crust is then referred to as a pâte à foncer). These slight alterations yield a crust with a finer, stronger, crumb, which is much more uniform but lacks the flaky quality of its American counterpart.
Great for: Savory meat pies, and quiche
Think sugar when making a paté sucrée, its name even means “sweet dough” in French. Very similar to the paté brisée ingredient-wise, the sucrée differs slightly when it comes to method. Typically when making the sucrée you cream together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and flour. What you get is a light, crisp dough. With a tight cookie-like crumb that’s strong enough to hold liquid fillings without the worry of leakage.
Great for: Cream pies, chocolate ganache pies, and fruit curd tarts.
The richest of our three doughs the sablée is one of the most delicious and one of the most difficult crusts to work with. Sablée is reminiscent of a good shortbread, both in flavor and in its rough-on-the-tongue texture. Like the sucrée, it is a sweet dough and generally utilized for a lot of the same dishes. The method is also similar to the sucrée as it too uses the creaming method. However, the end result could not be more dissimilar.
Sablée is named after the French verb sabler meaning to “make sandy” and its texture is truly a crumbly “sandy” product. The addition of almond flour in many sablée recipes undermines gluten formation even further and adds to that delicate texture, making sablée sometimes difficult to roll out. When lining a tart tin we actually suggest pressing the dough in, instead of rolling the dough and transferring it as you might with other doughs.
Great for: Fruit tarts
Notes on Pastry
-The golden rule when making a pastry dough is “quick and cold”. Whether using your hands or a machine, work swiftly so the butter stays cold and the dough is not overworked.
-While sweet doughs take well to “blind baking”, both the American and French savory doughs do not. If using either of these consider baking with a filling.
-Use cake flour for the sweet doughs sucrée and sablée, while all-purpose works well for the savory brisée dough in tarts or quiches.
–When you are planning on blind baking these empty and filling them later with custards or fruits, etc., you can brush the inside of the dough with egg white before you bake it. This will “seal” the shell, so to speak, which will slow down the process of the shell getting soggy and soft.