Well, I had a brilliant idea that involved making my first pâte sucrée, but it didn’t work out so well. I used a recipe from Joy of Baking, a site that has always served me well in the past, but the recipe seemed really off. But let’s back up a little bit.
There are several of these “pâtes” in French pastry making: pâte sucrée, “sweet dough”, pâte brisée, “broken dough”, and pâte sablée, “sandy dough”. I’ve never (successfully) made any of them, so I won’t pretend to be an expert, but they are all doughs meant to be used in tarts. They are all “short” doughs, meaning they are not allowed to form much gluten, so they have a tender texture rather than a tough, chewy, or elastic one. I decided to make the sweet one, which has an ingredient list and mixing method not unlike that of chocolate chip cookies – but no leavening, and of course, no chocolate chips.
I’ve made chocolate chip cookies about a million times, and never had any trouble with the mixing (despite the fact that I do it by hand). But this time, it didn’t look right. I creamed the butter and sugar and then added the egg, and it didn’t all mix together as well as it normally does. I had pieces of creamed butter and liquid from the egg in two separate phases. Then I added the flour and salt and it seemed to come together just right. I chilled it like the recipe said to – longer, in fact – but it didn’t seem dry enough to be used the way it was supposed to be. And sure enough, when I baked it, it rose instead of staying flat like it should, and the texture came out softer than I expected.
I checked the ratios of the ingredients against these recipes: Meilleur du Chef and Culinary Alchemist. I think I found the culprit: the butter to flour ratio is higher in the Joy of Baking recipe than it is in these. Hence, a dough that wasn’t dry enough to be rolled out properly or to bake the way it should.
If I get up the nerve, I’ll try again with a different recipe. One way or another, I have to have some made by Friday!