How to make sweet pastry (pâte sucrée)


How to make sweet pastry (pâte sucrée)

by Great British Chefs30 November 2023
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Find out how everything you need to know about sweet pastry with our guide, and an easy recipe from Graham Hornigold.

How to make sweet pastry (pâte sucrée)

Not yet rated

Find out how everything you need to know about sweet pastry with our guide, and an easy recipe from Graham Hornigold.

What is sweet pastry?

Sweet pastry is a type of shortcrust pastry that is – as you can probably guess – sweet! It is sometimes richer than savoury shortcrust pastry too, as it often uses more butter than regular shortcrust and an egg or egg yolk. It’s used for making sweet pies and tarts, and is generally a little softer than savoury shortcrust thanks to the addition of sugar.

While making savoury shortcrust generally just has one method – cut butter into flour, bring the crumbs together with water – sweet pastry can be made in a couple different ways. You can cut butter into flour, and then add a liquid like an egg or water (this is called sablage), or you can cream together the butter and sugar is if you were making a cake, and then add flour (this is called crémage).

In French patisserie each style of shortcrust has its own specific name. However, in British recipes the terms ‘sweet pastry’, ‘tart dough’ or ‘sweet shortcrust pastry’ are applied to any shortcrust with sugar, regardless of how it’s made.

Sweet pastry is also different from American pie dough, which is much flakier and made with larger pieces of butter and more water. You can read more about the differences between shortcrust and American pie dough in this guide to making shortcrust pastry.

How to make sweet pastry (pâte sucrée)




  • 250g of unsalted butter
  • 175g of icing sugar, sieved
  • 2 eggs
  • 400g of plain flour
  • 1 pinch of salt

Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer very lightly – do not overmix, or you will add too much air to the pastry


Gradually add the eggs, mixing well between each addition. Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl so that all the ingredients are uniformly mixed


Turn off the mixer and add the flour and salt. Mix on a low speed until the flour is incorporated


Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape into a rough disc. Wrap tightly in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out

What is the difference between pâte à foncer, pâte sucrée and pâte sablée?

The most common type of sweet pastry in British recipes is pâte à foncer. If you’ve ever made a mince pie this is probably the type of pastry you’ve used! This is because pâte à foncer is perfect for any recipes where the filling is cooked in the oven, such as mince pies, apple pies, lemon tarts etc. Pâte à foncer is made just like shortcrust pastry (also known as pâte brisée), except with the addition of a small amount of sugar and an egg or egg yolk. The sugar is mixed with the flour, and then the butter is cut into this mixture by hand or with a food processor. An egg yolk and a little bit of water is used to bring the dough together. It’s a very forgiving dough, and often doesn’t even need to be blind baked.

Pâte sucrée is almost the reverse of a standard shortcrust pastry recipe. To make pâte sucrée, the butter and sugar are first creamed together, as if you were making a cake, and then the flour is added to this mixture. This type of pastry sometimes has ground almonds included, which help give it a pleasantly short and crumbly texture. It generally uses more sugar and often more butter than pâte à foncer, and also sometimes uses an egg yolk. It’s most popular for tart shells where the filling isn’t cooked, like French-style strawberry tarts, which have a base of crème pâtissière and a topping of fresh strawberries.

The final type of sweet pastry is pâte sablée. Sablée means ‘sandy’ in French. This refers to both the ‘sablage’ or sanding technique used to make this pastry, and also its very fine, sandy texture. This type of pastry uses even more butter and sugar than pâte sucrée, which gives it a very soft texture. It’s made by cutting butter into flour and sugar, like pâte brisée.

Although very easy to make, pâte sablée is infamously finicky to handle. It’s often pressed into tart tins, as it’s too soft to roll out. It’s also used for making sablé biscuits, like sablé Breton. As with pâte sucrée, it’s typically used for tarts where the filling just needs to set in the fridge.

Why do you need to chill sweet pastry?

Resting pastry helps the gluten relax, and makes the pastry easier to roll out. It can also help stop the pastry from shrinking during baking. Resting overnight will minimise shrinkage during baking the most, but if you’re short on time just make sure it’s in the fridge long enough to firm up properly and become nicely chilled (at least 30–60 minutes).

It can also help to chill the pastry dough in the tart tin before baking. When you line a tin with pastry, make sure to add at least 1 cm of overhang, as the pastry will shrink as it chills and in the oven.

What are some ways to use sweet pastry?

This sweet pastry recipe is quite soft, and so is good for fillings which aren't cooked in the pastry or where the dough is blind-baked very thoroughly before any filling is added. This strawberry tart from Pascal Aussignac is a great example, as is this stunning molten chocolate and salted caramel tart from Robert Chambers.

Can you make sweet pastry in advance?

Sweet pastry can be made in advance and then kept tightly wrapped in the fridge for several days. You can also bake tart shells in advance, if you're not baking them again after adding the filling. Simply bake them fully and then wrap well in cling film, and store in an airtight box. They will go soft eventually, but should keep well-wrapped for at least a day.

Tart shells can also be fully baked and frozen, tightly wrapped, for about 1 month.

Can you freeze sweet pastry?

Sweet pastry freezes very well. Simply wrap it tightly and then freeze in a block. It will keep for several months, although if not very tightly wrapped over time it can start to get freezer burn. You can also freeze sweet pastry after shaping it and pressing it into a tin – this is useful if you want to prepare a tart in advance.

Take the frozen pastry out of the freezer and transfer to the fridge 24 hours before you want to use it.

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