The foundation for tarts
Pâte sucrée is the crisp, sweet, tender base for tarts with all kinds of fillings. For a step-by-step tutorial on making a great tart crust from pâte sucrée, click through the slideshow.
Sift the flour
Begin by sifting the flour to remove all the lumps—this will help you make an even dough and avoid overworking it during mixing.
Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs
Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar for 6 to 8 minutes, until light and fluffy (If you're new to creaming butter and sugar, take a moment to look at this tutorial). Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. As you're mixing, take time to periodically scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle.
Add the dry ingredients
Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Finish mixing by hand to avoid over-mixing, which will make the crust tough.
Shape dough into a disk
Shape the dough into a flat, round disk. Note that many recipes are sized for two tarts. If this is the case, divide the dough into two disks. Double wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Preparing to roll
Flour the bench with a thick, even dusting of flour. Place the chilled dough on the bench, then dust the top with flour.
Roll the disk out flat
Use a rolling pin (my favorite kind for pies and tarts is the French rolling pin, which is tapered at both ends) to roll out the dough. Start at the outer edges first. If they crack and spread, push them back together and keep rolling. As you roll, pick up the dough and turn it a bit to ensure that it is not sticking. If it does, free it, then add more flour to the bench.
Roll to shy of 1/4 inch
Continue to roll, and turn, roll, and turn, until the sheet of dough is of even thickness, just shy of 1/4 inch.
Roll the dough onto the pin
The dough will get very fragile as you roll it. Carefully roll the dough around the rolling pin to transfer it in one piece to the tart pan.
Unroll the dough
Unroll the dough lightly over the top of the tart pan. Be sure to place it gently over the top so that the edges of the pan do not cut the dough.
Shape the tart shell
Using soft, gentle fingers, press the dough evenly into the tart pan. Use the edges of the pan to help cut off excess dough, but be sure to leave 1/4-inch of overhang. Chill the shell for 1 hour.
Trim the tart
Remember that overhang that I left before chilling? I leave it there to allow for shrinkage, which can happen in the fridge when the gluten in the dough relaxes. After chilling the tart, cut off the excess dough by running a knife around the edge.
Patch, if necessary
Look closely at the tart shell for thin spots, cracks, or holes. Strengthen and patch these areas with small pieces of excess dough.
Line the chilled tart dough with foil and fill it with pie weights or beans (I prefer beans, which are cheap and can be re-used over and over again). Bake in a preheated oven, set in the middle of the bottom rack, for 20 minutes.
Remove the weights
After the initial 20 minutes of baking, remove the weights and foil and return the shell to the oven to finish baking. When the bottom of the crust is golden brown, it's done. Be sure to rotate the crust as it bakes for even browning.
Cooling and filling
Be sure to allow the tart shell to cool completely before removing it from the pan or adding a filling. For freshness, it's best if you bake the shell the same day that you plan to serve it.