A fragrant, crunchy and stable sweet pastry dough, perfect for most types of tarts and biscuits!
ingredients for about 570 g of dough (total cost about 5 € for the whole preparation with organic ingredients)
- 250 g pastry flour
- 150 g butter
- 75g superfine sugar
- zest from 1 lemon or other citrus fruit
- 1 egg (50 g)
- 1 g salt
- 40 g of ground almond flour (or other nut)
After endless testing and failures, I standardized this dough for my tart and biscuit based preparations, which I use ever since. It is a sweet short crust dough, a sucrèe, as French call it or a pasta frolla, as the Italians call it with my personalized adjustments.
We use it for the Italian crostatas we make, as well as the French style tarts, filled with jam, custards, ricotta cream, ganache, fresh fruit etc. We also use it to prepare various biscuits, with the addition of 1 tsp of baking powder in most of them. Baking powder, apart from provoking a little puffing of the dough, also makes it a little flakier and mouth melting, which is very pleasant, when consuming a biscuit.
There are two basic methods to prepare this type of dough: either by creaming the butter with the sugar and the eggs and adding the flour in the end, or by sanding butter with flour, until creating little crumbles and then adding sugar end egg. In both cases the butter has to be softened (not cold as in the brisèe dough), yet still plastic and the egg at room temperature.
For our tart shells, we prefer using the first method – the creaming one, which is explained here. When making Italian stuffed pastries, such as pasticciotti, buccelatti, gobeletti etc, we use the sanding method, which is explained in our article “basic frolla dough for Italian style stuffed pastries” (see NOTE in the end).
Creaming the butter with the sugar and the eggs, before adding the flour makes the dough not significantly crumbly. Since it does not contain water, the dough is not very elastic, but rather dense and dry, compared to the brittle texture of the brisée dough. Therefore, it is more stable when baked and holds better the garnish. Moreover, it does not get soggy easily, which makes it perfect for runny ingredients, such as custards, jams and fruit. For all these reasons, I consider this dough ideal for sweet tarts and decorative shapes, where stability in form is required.
The use of a little ground almond (or hazelnut), is something the French mostly do, and I like it because it adds complexity both to the flavor, offering nutty nuances to the dough, and to its texture, making it more crispy.
Before explaining how to make the dough, I must point out that when the preparation includes other fatty ingredients, I prefer to lower the amount of butter down to 125 g or even 100 g per 250 g of flour. I also lower the sugar (which, by the way, is already low enough), when I am using other very sweet ingredients, such as jams, made with a high percentage of sugar. Last but not least, in certain recipes I substitute almond for hazelnut or other nuts, to match the flavor of other ingredients, or I even omit it. Therefore, in each particular recipe, I will be giving you the exact ingredients and amounts you will need to use to prepare the dough and you will only have to look back here to find out or remember how to prepare it.
So, to make the dough, we begin by mixing the sugar with the zest of the lemon, or another citrus fruit, such as orange or even tangerine. We set it aside to let the sugar absorb the essential oils of the zest. This helps intensify citrus aromas and gives as a really fragrant dough.
Using the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, we beat the butter, already cut in cubes and softened, as already explained, with the mixture of sugar and zest at medium-low speed, just until butter has absorbed the sugar. We add the ground almond and mix to incorporate.
We lightly whisk the egg with the salt to dilute it and we gradually add it to the butter mixture, continuing to mix, until it is absorbed by the butter. It might curdle a bit at this point, but this won’t be a problem.
Finally, we add the flour, already sieved and we mix always at low speed, just until it is fully absorbed by the butter mixture and the dough comes together. If we are going to use baking powder, we sieve it along with the flour.
We transfer to a lightly floured working surface and we press it with the palm to confirm its homogeneity and to ensure an even blending of the flour and the butter (this is called “fraisage” in French). We gather the dough, we form a ball, we cover it with cling film, and we refrigerate for some hours (ideally overnight) to let the dough the gluten rest and the butter to chill again.
I prefer to use the stand mixer to make this dough, because it blends the ingredients evenly, producing a perfectly homogeneous dough, in no time. But if you don’t have one, you can certainly make it by hand. All you have to do is to cream the butter with the sugar in a large bowl with a spatula, to add the ground almond, the egg, little by little, then to sieve the flour on top and to briefly work it with your hands, just until it comes together. Transfer the dough on a working surface, proceed to the fraisage stage, as described above, gather it to form a ball, wrap it with cling film and chill in the fridge, as already explained.
If you do not intend to use the dough straight away, or if using only part of it, keep in mind that it can be stored raw for 3-4 days in the fridge or for a month in the freezer, either way, tightly wrapped with cling film (if you store it in the freezer you ‘d better place it, wrapped as it is with the cling film, inside a freezer bag). If you choose to freeze it, then when it should be used, place it in the refrigerator the previous night to let it thaw slowly.
NOTE 2 Read also our article “basic frolla dough for italian stuffed pastries”.