Cornmeal Pâte Sucrée

Making a pâte sucrée is so easy & it takes no time at all.  The process is exactly the same as making a basic pâte brisée.  A pâte sucrée, however, has more sugar in it, is more cookie-like & crumbly, and rolling it out without any tears always presents a bit of a challenge for the baker.  This type of crust is used as a base for tarts and is always prebaked; it isn't meant for double crust pies.  After baking and cooling, the crusts can be filled in a number of ways.  It really is up to you.  The addition of cornmeal to this recipe yields a toothsome crust that makes it suitable for light, creamy fillings. 

A fully baked 9" crust.

The Ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup stoneground yellow cornmeal
  • 6 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup ice water (5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon), plus more if needed

Yield: Enough for two 9" crusts.
Note: All of your ingredients should be icy cold.  I always put everything in the freezer for about 30 minutes before I begin.

Pulse your dry ingredients in the bowl of your food processor to distribute evenly (about 3 quick pulses).  This can be done by hand with a pastry cutter.

Add your chilled butter; frozen is even better.  I always cut up the stick(s) of butter into cubes.  This will help distribute the butter quickly & evenly into the dough.  Pulse this in quick bursts until the mixture takes on the look of sand and is crumbly.  Only a few seconds in the machine.

Add your egg yolks and incorporate them thoroughly.  A few seconds more.

You can see that the dough has taken on a golden color because of the egg yolks & the cornmeal.  It's time to add your water.  I add it in a steady stream or tablespoon by tablespoon.  This is done while I use the pulse button on my machine. 

You're done when the dough can be gathered up into a clump (above).  If for some reason you've used up the 1/3 cup ice water & it's still not holding together, add more water, one teaspoon at a time until it does.  The dough shouldn't be wet or sticky.  It should be crumbly and still be able to hold together.  Voila!

Divide your pastry among two pieces (each double width) of plastic wrap.  It's sandy & crumbly, but that's exactly what you want.

Gather your dough with the ends of the plastic wrap & press down with your fists.  The dough will come together & compress itself perfectly.  Shape this into a flat disk. 

Two disks of cornmeal pâte sucrée wrapped & ready.  All pie and tart crusts benefit from a resting period & being well chilled, so I recommend placing them in refrigerator for one hour before proceeding with a recipe.  Pâte sucrée and pâte brisée can be held in the refrigerator for one day.  If you don't plan on using them within 24 hours, place these disks in a resealable plastic bag and freeze for up to one month.  Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

A closeup showing the bits of butter evenly distributed and that delicious cornmeal.

One of the many things I love about a homemade tart or pie crust is the flavor.  As long as it's homemade & well done, I will not leave a piece of crust on my plate if I'm enjoying a slice of pie.  This cornmeal pastry benefits from the addition of confectioner's sugar because it provides the right amount of sweetness and texture that any good tart crust should have.  I've already cautioned you that it's rather difficult to roll out, which is typical of any pâte sucrée, but you can be guaranteed success if you do so between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Follow my instructions for blind baking a tart crust to see exactly what I mean.  I'll show you in the coming days how I used this crust for a very special tart.