Cookie dough that does a sweet double duty.
What if I told you that a magical baked good exists that functions equally as a crisp, buttery tart shell and a rich, just-sweet-enough shortbread cookie? I present this butter cookie tart dough.
Traditional French-style custard tarts are made not with flaky pie dough, but with a different, sweeter kind of dough. This dough, called pâte sucrée, or “sweet dough,” tastes buttery and tender, but stays crisp. Regular, American-style pie dough should be flaky and light. That style works great for apple pie and the like, but less effectively for custards, since custards would make the dough soggy and bland.
What Makes Pâte Sucrée Special
A butter cookie tart dough (pâte sucrée) is a shortbread made from butter, powdered sugar, flour, and vanilla. Mix the dough until the butter fully combines into the other ingredients. (This differs from regular pie dough, where pea-sized bits of butter remain to create flakiness.)
Emulsifying the butter coats the flour, which helps the finished tart shell retain its crispness. Pâte sucrée then gets baked in the oven before any filling is added.
You may also enjoy: Perfect Pie Dough and Pecan Sugar Shortbread Cookies
Butter Cookie Tart Dough as a Tart Shell
After mixing the dough, roll the dough out into a round, wrap it, and chill fully. Roll it out further to line a tart pan, and blind bake the shell. You will then fill it with your custard of choice. Blind baking is a term that simply means to line the raw tart dough shell, dock it with a fork, then fill it with beans or pie weights to bake. Blind baking the shell with weights prevents the dough from slumping or puffing.
Butter Cookie Tart Dough as a Cookie
Same principal, different result. Roll the pâte sucrée into a log about 1.5″ in diameter. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill the dough fully for at least two hours, or overnight. Then, slice and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. Or, dress the cookies up by lightly egg washing the outside, then rolling them in sanding sugar or sprinkles before slicing and baking.
Any way you slice it, this fundamental dessert recipe works again and again.
Butter Cookie Tart Dough (Pâte Sucrée)
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose or cake flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons powdered sugar (10x)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 pound (8 tablespoons or 1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cubed
- zest of one lemon, optional
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, powdered sugar, and salt. Add the cubed butter and process until everything is even crumbles. The texture will be like lightly-moistened sand.
- Add the egg yolk, water, vanilla extract, and lemon zest (if using). Mix in the food processor until the dough comes together in a large ball. It is ok if there is a little loose dough, but it will basically be a whole ball.
- Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly-floured surface. Knead it a few times into a smooth ball. Do not overwork the dough.
As a Tart Shell
- Using the palm of your hand or a rolling pin, flatten the dough into a flat, even disk about eight inches in diameter. Wrap and chill the dough for a least one hour or for two days.
- After the dough has fully rested and chilled, unwrap it and lightly dust both sides with flour. Roll the dough to about 11" diameter, so that there is enough dough to lay into the tart shell and cover the sides, plus a little overlap.
- Run the rolling pin or a paring knife over the rim of the tart shell to remove the excess dough, leaving a neat and clean rim. Lightly wrap and chill the shell for at least 30 minutes, or one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Unwrap the tart shell. Line the tart dough shell with parchment or two layers of foil. Fill the shell with dried beans or pie weights, and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the beans or weights, and continue baking for 5 minutes more or so, until the tart shell is golden brown. Let cool fully before removing from the tart pan. Use a paring knife to gently pry away any stuck parts, but it should remove easily.
- Follow steps 1 - 3, above. Shape the dough into a log about 1.5" in diameter and 10" to 11" in length. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill fully, at least two hours or up to two days.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment. Remove the plastic wrap from the chilled dough. If you'd like, lightly brush the outside of the log with egg and roll the log in sugar or colored sprinkles of your choice. If you want to use a variety of sprinkles (or make the log less unwieldy), just subdivide it into smaller logs.
- Slice the dough into 1/4" rounds. Place each slice on the cookie sheets, leaving about an inch of space between each.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until very light golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.