Are you confused between the different types of crust for pies and tarts? Do you wonder which one to use and when? Well, in today's lesson we will learn the differences between the different types of crust and when to use them. I will also share with you some useful tips, tricks and troubleshooting.
Table of Content
Most often, you would use a crust to make a pie or a tart. Technically, they are the same in the sense that they all have a shell and a filling. Also, the basic ingredients to make these crusts are usually flour and butter with a few other additions for binding. And, while they are similar, they are not exactly the same. And, That's exactly where things get confusing.
There are three main crust:
- Pâte Brisée - Pie crust
- Pâte Sucrée - Sweet pie crust (shortcrust)
- and Pâte sablée - Rich shortcrust (sweet cookie crust or shortbread crust)
The main differences
Pâte Brisée - A pie crust is a basic pastry dough using flour, butter, and water as the main ingredients. It can be used for sweet pies, like apple pie, as well as for savory dishes like quiches. Brisée in French means 'broken' and refers to the broken pieces of fat in the pie crust. In addition, it uses water to combine the ingredients and has a delicate and flaky texture.
Pâte Sucrée - Is the same as the above pie crust but sweeter. Sucrée means sweet in French. It also uses the same ingredients and method with the addition of a little sugar. And, it uses egg yolk as the binding agent. As a result, it's more crumbly rather than a flaky crust. Shortcrust is often used for sweet tarts with sweet fillings. And yet, it can also be used for some pies, quiches and savory treats.
Pâte sablée - Rich shortcrust pastry, is your dessert pastry and very much like a cookie crust. In addition, it has a higher percentage of sugar. Sablee means sandy or grainy. It uses a shortbread style creaming method in which sugar and butter are creamed together. As a result, the dough is very tender and crumbly, similar to shortbread. Also, almond or nut meals are often used to enhance the sandy texture of this dough.
Let's identify the three tarts below
The top two are pie crust: one is a single pie crust made for a pecan pie while the second is a double pie crust made for an apple pie. On the bottom left, is a sweet pie crust made for a cherry pie. And, on the right is a rich shortcrust made for a fruit tart. Notice the shortcrust dough has the color from the egg yolks while the other three are made with water or a combination.
Lets discuss each of these
1. Pâte Brisée - Pie Crust
If you made a pie from scratch, this is probably the dough you prepared. Tender, flaky and of course buttery. Very common to use and very popular as well because it can be used for both sweet and savory fillings. If you made an apple pie, then you've made this dough with a sweet filling. And if you've made a meat pie, again you've made this dough with a savory filling. So you see, it's one you definitely want to master.
Pâte Brisée is the basic dough of them all. This is probably the one recipe you can make any time because it uses every day ingredients we always have on hand. With only four main ingredients butter, flour, salt, cold water, and a simple method this is the easiest of all pastry doughs.
The process is simple - we use cold butter that's cut into the flour into small pieces. The uneven texture resulting from the butter distribution results in a dough that's flaky and crumbly.
How to make a homemade pie crust ?
When do you use a pie crust - Pâte Brisée?
This is the default crust that goes for savory pies such as meat pies and quiches, as well as some sweet treats like pecan pie, apple pie, peach pie, galettes, and hand pies. If you are not sure which to use, this would often be the safe option.
2. Pâte Sucrée - sweet shortcrust pastry
This is the same as the basic pie crust but sweeter. Sucrée means sweet.
It also uses the same ingredients and method with the addition of a little sugar. Often, egg yolk is used as the binding agent, instead of water. As a result, the crust is more crumbly.
How to make a shortcrust pastry
I have shared a step-by-step and video tutorial on how to make this shortcrust pastry here.
6 Tips to making the perfect Pâte Brisée and Pâte Sucrée every single time
The secret to making a perfect pie crust is not only in the recipe but in the method of making it.
- Fat - You will see a big difference in the quality of your crust based on the fat you use. If you ask my mom, it can't be all butter. It had to be mostly full-fat GHEE (Shortening) and some butter for flavor. The higher the percentage your fat is, the better the crust. My grandmother would use 100% lard (animal fat). For her, making a pie crust with butter is a No-No! And yet, she lived healthily until 89. I, on the other hand, never use lard for making my pie crust. I use butter or sometimes half butter and half veg shortening. I'd be lucky if I live to her age..!
- The amount of water in your pie dough plays a very important role in the final texture. Too much water will make your crust very tough. And too little will make it very crumbly. Crumbly is good, and yet you still want to be able to hold a slice of pie.
- Avoid the fat/butter from melting into your flour. I usually place my bowl with the flour and chilled butter into the fridge for at least half an hour before I start to work it into the dough. Those of you living in a hot and humid climate can avoid touching the dough too much with your hands by rolling the pastry between two parchment papers.
- Also, use chilled iced water to maintain the temperature of the dough.
- Cool the pie crust for at least half-hour before you bake. This will prevent the sides from shrinking.
- Let the pre-baked crust cool for 15 minutes before you add in the filling. This will prevent the liquid from being absorbed into the crust. And, if your filling is very liquidy, brush the pastry with egg white, before adding the filling. This creates a seal between the filling and crust.
3. Pâte sablée - Rich shortcrust
This is the richest of all the three crusts. It has a higher amount of sugar, which makes it perfect for desserts such as fruit tarts.
If you've ever eaten a fruit tart - it's probably made with a Pâte sablée. Sometimes, the crust is fully baked, then the filling is added later such as a pastry cream with fruits. But, often this crust is also partially baked before adding the filling and baking it further with a filling such as a frangipani.
Texture - This is a sweetened, rich, buttery dough that's crisp. Unlike Pate Sucree that's still quite flaky and crumbly. This has a very cookie-like texture, very similar to a shortbread that will shatter into small crumbles if pricked with a fork.
It's definitely a very delicate crust. But, it's surprisingly easy to master because the dough is quite forgiving. You can easily patch pieces together and it will still be perfect.
The method - Unlike the other two crusts, where you use chilled butter and high-percentage fat/lard cut into the flour to create a chewy flaky texture. Here we use room temperature butter and the creaming method. The butter and sugar are creamed so it's equally distributed all through the flour. This method prevents the formation of gluten because each grain of flour is coated with butter. This results in a tender, rich, buttery crust. I have shown you three methods to work with this crust.
How to make the rich shortcrust pastry?
I have shared a step-by-step and video tutorial on how to make this rich shortcrust pastry here, including three different method to use it.
When do I use Pâte sablée?
There are many great recipes that use the Pâte sabléee as a base.
- A Bakewell tart is very common and uses this rich shortcrust pastry
- Fruit tarts filled with pastry cream and topped with your favorite fruits - Berries, strawberry, blueberries.
- Lemon curd tart is a simple and easy tart you can make in minutes if you have a Pâte sabléee on hand. Just use a jar of lemon curd, or better yet, make my no-fail recipe for lemon curd.
- Try chocolate ganache tart - White chocolate ganache with raspberries is very popular and so is a dark chocolate ganache.
Tips for making the perfect Pâte sablée
- Making pastry dough should be planned, not a last-minute chore. Planning means leaving enough time to chill the dough between steps.
- Always chill the dough before you roll, so you don't melt the butter too much. You want to keep that tender shortbread consistency.
- If the dough it stiff when rolling, let it rest for five minutes then roll again. This will prevent breaking.
- When rolling, use just enough flour so it's easier to handle but not loaded with flour.
- Dust any excess flour from the crust when possible.
- If you live in a hot and humid place - roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and let the rolled sheet of pastry chilled between steps to make handling easier.
- This is a forgiving dough so if it tears, don't' worry, just patch it up together and continue.
- Roll the dough to ⅛ thickness - too thick will make the baked crust look bulky but too thin will break easily.
- Always chill the pate sablee for at least 30 minutes before you bake it.
- Use pie weights to bake the crust or dock the crust with the tings of a fork. Pie weight is the most effective way to blind bake. But, I often use the fork method too.
- A partially baked crust will still be pale in color with slight brown on the edges.
- A fully baked Pate Sablee should be lightly brown in the center meaning it's cooked right thru.
- For fully baked Pate Sablee - If the pastry edges are browning before the center is light gold, tent the edges with foil or pie shield after you have removed the weights.
How to prevent your pastry crust from shrinking?
Nothing is worse than to find your tart has shrunk after baking. Here are a few tips that might help.
- Do not overwork the dough. Remember flour has gluten, and if you overwork the dough you will activate the gluten. You cannot omit the formation of gluten entirely, but you can control by handling it carefully, so it does not contract in the heat of the oven.
- Never add too much water to the dough. Keep it flaky by adding only enough water to bring it together. This is harder in the beginning but gather the dough lightly and use a cling/plastic wrap to help form a disc.
- Let the dough rest before rolling and before baking. This will help the dough relax, so it is easier to roll and helps the butter chill. As a result, it doesn't melt as quickly when baking.
- Bake at a higher temperature. This will melt the butter while cooking the dough instantly.
What pan do you use for pies, tarts, and quiches?
You can make a tart is a tart pan. You can make pies and quiche in a pie pan or tart pan with a removable bottom. Most of my pies are made in tart pans. The advantage of the tart pan with removable bottom is that you can take it with you over to friends and family.
And yet, when I make a quiche or pie for home, I like to use my stoneware pie pan. The advantage of stoneware is that it gives a lovely crisp crust that does not get soggy as it cools down. And, the quiche or pie also stays warm longer.
Frequently asked questions
Well, a pie can be sweet or savory with a crust and filling. A tart can also be sweet or savory but with shallow sides and only has a bottom, not a top crust. You make a tart with pastry dough while you make a pie with pie crust.
Tart can be savory or sweet whereas a quiche is always savory. Also, you make quiche with pie crust while you make a tart with pastry dough.
Pastry is a product made using one of the pastry doughs while Patisserie is a French word for pastry shop.
Usually a low protein flour works best for pastry. But, all-purpose works great as well. Most of my recipes are tested with all-purpose because it is easily available every where.
Low-fat pie - I just had to share this with you
When I was about nineteen (I think), I was getting very health conscious and started counting calories. Obviously, I dug into books to find a pie that was low in fat. Guess what? The filling was all gone while most of the pie crust was left behind.
My mom said: "if you are on a diet, don't eat pie - zero calories!" And, if you are going to ruin a perfectly good recipe and expect everyone else to eat it, you're on your own. I think she was very upset that after baking with her for years I had not learned how to make a good pie crust. So, the next day, I baked my Mushroom Quiche with the perfect pie crust just so she would be proud of me. Ever since then, it has always been a homemade flaky pie crust or no pie at all.
I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to eat healthily and watch those calories. We all have to watch that scale. And yet, I think it's important to understand that not everything works with a low-fat option. I don't count calories. And yet, often I will go the crustless route - you know my crust-less swiss chard quiche and crustless kale artichokes ricotta quiche. These are great recipes that work well when you are not entertaining and can still indulge.