Pâte Brisêe (Unsweetened Tart or Quiche Pastry)

This comes from Richard Grausman's book “At Home With the French Classics”. Workman Publishing, New York, 1988.

His words:

“French tart pastry is designed to be self-supporting when baked, and is firmer and crunchier than American pie dough — qualities that come in part from a more thorough incorporation of fat and flour in a belnding/kneading process known as fraisage.
Although pâte brisêe is traditionally made by hand, the food processor method included below makes an excellent tart pastry and takes much of the risk out of the procedure for the novice (inexperienced bakers tend to overwork the pastry, causing it to be tough and to shrink when baked).
Both pâte brisêe and pâte sucrée call for a whole egg (although many recipes for tart pastry call for no egg or the yolk only). The egg white acts as a sealant, preventing liquids baked in the tart from being absorbed or seeping through the crust. The yolk enriches the pastry and adds colour.”

Makes enough for a 25-28 cm tart

Food Processor Method Hand Method
190g plain flour Same
115g unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces Same, but cut into 1cm cubes
1 egg Same
⅛ teaspoon salt Same
1½ tablespoons cold water 2-3 tablespoons cold water

  1. Food Processor Method: Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until the mixture blends together to form a mass, about 20 seconds. If it doesn't form a mass after 25 seconds, add another teaspoon of water.
    Hand Method: Place the flour on a work surface, or in a large bowl, and form a well in the centre. Add the butter, egg, salt and 1 tablespoon of water to the well and mix with a pastry blender. The pastry should have a coarse, granular texture and be moist enough to stick together. If it is too dry, add up to 2 tablespoons of water.
  2. Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured work surface, dust the pastry lightly with flour and begin the process known as fraisage: With the heel of your hand, push the pastry away from you a little at a time and repeat this process three or four times or until the pastry is smooth and doesn't stick to the work surface.
  3. Lightly dust the pastry with flour and shape it into a flat round much like a thick hamburger. The pastry can be used immediately unless it is too warm and soft, in which case wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 to 20 minutes.

Variation: Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Tart Pastry)

The techniques for making and handling pâte sucrée are identical to those for pâte brisêe. The only changes are in the ingredients: ¼ cup (50g) of sugar is added and the salt is omitted. If you have never made pâte sucrée start by using 1 tablespoon (15g) of sugar. The more sugar you add (you can use up to 5 tablespoons or 75g), the more fragile the pastry will be.


Back to Food & Recipes ...