I decided to jump headfirst into pastry doughs by tackling the scariest of the lot – pâte sablée.
From what I had read, this was going to be the most fragile and delicate to handle. I had been warned that it would break when I rolled it out and then burn from the high sugar content.
But in actual fact, I found it quite easy and the results were great!
Taking a step back, let’s look at what pâte sablée is and when it is used.
According to Michel Roux, the high sugar and butter content of pâte sablée makes it delicate and crumbly on the palate. It makes a perfect shell for holding fresh berries and an equally tasty and crumbly cheesecake base.
Michel Suas describes it as having a cookie-like crust and says the crumbly texture is the reason for its name – translated as sand in French.
So, to keep things simple I decided to make sablé biscuits using Michel Roux’s recipe as below:
Ingredients (makes about 650g)
250g all-purpose flour
200g butter cut into small pieces
100g confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
2 medium egg yolks
Method (my version)
Start by heaping the flour onto your work surface and creating a well.
Add the butter, a pinch of salt and sugar into the middle.
Using the tips of your fingers, start mixing the ingredients together gradually drawing in the rest of the flour until you have a grainy, sand-like texture.
Next add the egg yolks and combine the mixture. At this stage you might start to worry a bit because the dough seemed too dry, but slowly it will combine and become very sticky.
The fraisage process is next, helped along by the use of a plastic or metal scraper to bring the dough back together again. Push the dough out 4-5 five times with the heel of your hand, then wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
When you’re ready, roll the rested dough out to a 2-3mm thickness between greaseproof paper to prevent it sticking.
Tip – if you add too much flour during the rolling process it will affect the butter/flour ratio of the dough. Using greaseproof paper will make the dough manageable without affecting the taste or texture.
Use a cookie cutter to stamp out patterns (for me, hearts) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 170° C for 6-10 minutes depending on the their size.
Keep a close eye on them because they will burn.
Leave them to cool on a wire rack and then decorate by sprinkling them with icing sugar or top with berries and cream.