Pâte brisée is French for short cut pastry or pie crust. It is similar to pâte sablée, the classic dough used in French fruit tarts and pâte sucrée, with added structure of eggs and sweetner.
Pâte brisée is made from equal parts fat (butter, lard, margarine or shortening) and flour, which is worked together and then seasoned with a touch of salt and sugar and some cold (very important to use cold) water to hold it all together. It is not a sweet dough per se, and thus works great with more savory dishes such as quiche, pot pies or vegetable tarts.
A pâte brisée has a fragile, crumbly texture and does not rise when baked. When learning how to make this dough, it is important not to over mix it or it will become too stiff and tough. Instead, the outcome when mixed just enough, should be nice and flaky. It is the pastry of choice for quiche and tarts and can be used for both savory and sweet dishes. The pastry can also be made with or without a small quantity of sugar, just enough to taste.
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