Pâte Sucrée and the Paucity of Pictures

The second demonstration was a “quick” apple tartlet that specifically called for the sweet pâte sucrée dough.  Though the proportions are a bit different, this is pretty much the same dough as my standard sugar cookie recipe (Hence the name). 


After I adjusted the cookie recipe to match the tart’s weight of flour I found that it used one third the sugar, one quarter the baking powder and one half the butter.  That makes it thinner, less sweet, and less rich than the cookie (Which sounds about right for a tart). 



It starts with creaming butter and sugar,

then adding eggs, flour, and baking soda. 


The dough comes together easily and is gathered into a disc for rolling:



The creaming method of batter construction is so common that I have already mastered it making many cookies and coffee cakes. 

The rest of the recipe promises to be just as fast and easy.  There is no separate construction of apple compote, you just make a basic caramel, pour it into the pan and bake the whole thing at once.

I have used both the wet and dry methods of caramel making and I have to say that dry is by far the easiest and best controlled method for me.  I know that wetting the sugar is supposed to make it easier, but I become impatient waiting for it to evaporate, and once it does evaporate the color changes too quickly to catch at the right stage.  The trick to the dry technique is to start by melting just a few tablespoons of sugar.  That way it all melts without the chance to form clumps.  Then, add a bit more and stir until it melts.  The melted sugar absorbs the solid sugar and heats it quickly, thus keeping it from forming dry clumps.  You can add more dry sugar as the quantity of melted sugar increases so it can absorb more.  The color starts darkening very soon after the last of the sugar is added and then you pull it from the heat at the desired stage.

The directions tell me to pour the caramel into the mini tart pan.



“Arrange an equal number of apple wedges in a decorative pattern in each tartlet pan”

Okay, that is simple.


Hmmm, well …


Nope …


Huh …


Sort of …

I’m not convinced the authors ever managed this either.  This is where the absence of pictures really hurts.  I like pictures of the final dish so I know what it is supposed to look like and construction is a big part of that.  I did not realize going into this simple recipe just how much it would matter.

The dough is rolled out and then a circle is cut and laid on top of the apples.


That goes into the oven.

Caramel bubbles up and spills out onto the sheet pan.


The tartlets are turned over and served warm.



The dough was much less difficult to make than the pâte brisee but beyond that the tartlets were not all that much easier to construct and the flavor was definitely lacking any complexity.  The basic caramel just did not do enough for the tart; certainly not enough to justify what little time savings there might be.


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