Following my super popular Pâte Sablée recipe, today I am sharing with you the chocolate version of that, my very best Chocolate Pâte Sablée recipe. It works perfectly as a tart shell, very easy to fill and super versatile!
What is a tart?
A tart is a freestanding shallow open-faced pastry, often baked in a tart ring with fluted or straight sides. Smaller tarts are referred to as tartlets. Tarts can be filled with a variety of creams; Chocolate tart, Caramel tart, Fruit tart, Frangipane tart… the variations are endless. Some refer to Pâte Sablée as sable cookie, sweet short pastry, sweet tart crust, sweet shortcrust or simply tart shell. No matter how we call it, Chocolate Pâte Sablée one of the baking basics every home baker has to learn at some point and let me tell you that this is the only tutorial you will ever need!
The sweet tart crust recipe contains only a few basic ingredients – butter, sugar, egg, flour and cocoa powder – yet can turn desserts into fancy French patisserie style goodness! There are two important factors you have to take into considerations when making Chocolate Pâte Sablée; 1. Understanding and learning the right technique and 2. Having the right equipment. In this tutorial I will take you through step-by-step on both so you can master Sable cookie at home!
First let’s start with some important notes regarding the ingredients of this Chocolate Pâte Sablée recipe
- read the recipe carefully
- avoid using substitutes unless aware of how to fully reformulate the recipe in order to keep the balance in texture as well as flavours
- measure your ingredients with the help of a digital kitchen scale
- Flour: I am using pastry flour for this tart shell recipe, feel free to use AP if can’t find pastry flour in your local supermarket. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my article in here
- Almond: Some Pâte Sablée recipes contain almond, some don’t, I prefer mine with some almond flour in it from taste and texture point of view. It is worth to buy good quality ground almond, without skin. You can replace with equal amount of flour
- Cocoa powder: Always use unsweetened, 100% cocoa powder in baking. I use dutch-process cocoa powder, it has a lovely dark colour and it is lower in acidity
- Sugar: This sweet pastry dough is made with icing sugar. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here
- Salt: An essential ingredient in most of the dessert recipes. Balances flavour and enhances other ingredients especially chocolate desserts. This is a sweet tart dough and I just love that extra very mild salty kick at the end
- Butter: Use always unsalted as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content butter in all my recipes. While in most of the recipes butter needs to be on room temperature, this is an exception and you have to take it very seriously. Butter needs to be chilled, which means take the butter out of the fridge, cut into cubes then place it into the freezer for 10-15 minutes before using it
- Egg: Room temperature as always
As you can see this is a super simple recipe in terms of the ingredients. The secret behind making beautiful, neat and delicious tart crust is all about mastering the technique, understanding how temperature plays in role while working with the dough and using the right equipment.
Now let’s continue with my top 7 tips regarding the technique and equipment of making this Chocolate Pâte Sablée recipe
1. Crumbling method
There are 2 methods in the pastry chefs’ world making tart shell; one is creaming, the other is crumbling. With creaming method the butter is on room temperature and first needs to be creamed with icing sugar. In case of crumbling method, basically you need to rub the mixture between your hands until it becomes a sand like consistency. I am sharing the crumbling method with you in this recipe, which is my preference for one single reason; as the butter used while it’s very cold, overall it makes the dough colder meaning easier to work with. And that brings us to the next important topic.
The dough will come together in literally few minutes. First rub the mixture between your hands until it becomes like a sand then mix the egg in, knead with your hands only for a minute and done! Do not use mixer.
When I started experimenting with baking, I had several disastrous attempts making tart shell. Now I understand that the one and only reason I failed was me being inpatient and forcing the dough even when its temperature was inappropriate.
Baking is science and in general temperature is one of the most important factors to understand AND utilise for our benefit. When I say temperature I don’t purely mean baking temperature but also the environment we work e.g kitchen temperature as well as the dough temperature.
While making sweet tart crust, temperature is everything! If the dough is too hot, it’s sticky and can’t be rolled out or shaped. If too cold, it will easily break. The entire tart making process is a balancing exercise between keeping the dough cold enough but not too cold.
To give you a concrete example, in a home kitchen environment on a warmer day this practically means taking the dough in and out of the freezer about 15 times in between steps to ensure the dough is always on the right temperature to work with. Yes, not just to chill once or twice but to be in control of the dough temperature all the time! Obviously in professional kitchens temperature as well as humidity is under control and the rolling process is done by a machine, however in home environment this is something we have to be super careful with.
3. NO Blind baking
Do you know what blind baking is? Baking blind is the process of baking a pie crust without the filling. It’s done by lining the unbaked tart or pie shell with parchment paper and filling with baking bean. Frankly, it’s a half solution only and while it certainly prevents the crust from puffing up while it bakes, it does not provide even baking. Blind making makes the tart crust somewhat unappealing, full of wrinkles as I call it and baked uneven. My recipe DOES NOT involve blind baking and that brings us to the next important topic, the equipment.
Let me get this straight, I am not paid to say the below, I am only talking about my experience after trying a lot of different baking products. You can only achieve neat, visually appealing, even colour tart crust by using professional baking equipment. Luckily these are available to purchase on Amazon not just for professionals but also for home bakers. If you want to make beautiful, patisserie style looking tarts it’s worth to invest into a perforated baking mat, a couple of perforated tart rings and a silicon mat. They are not the cheapest and I was really wondering about buying them however they have changed my tart game forever! Best investment ever.
4. Silicone baking mat
I recommend using 2 Silicone baking mat for rolling the dough out in between them. The recipe is designed in a way that you do not need to add extra flour while rolling the dough however it might stick to your kitchen counter so use silicone baking mat. It’s also possible to use 2 sheets parchment paper however the silicone mat provides a much neater, smooth surface. It can be washed and then used all the time so overall worth the investment. I am using the “Amazon basics” cheapest version so no need to buy anything expensive.
While rolling, start from the center of the disc and work your way out in all directions. Again remember, temperature is very important. If the dough is too cold, you won´t be able to roll it out. If too warm, it will be difficult to handle and will even stick to the silicone baking mat.
5. Perforated baking “air” mat
I have been using Perforated “air” baking mat for more than a year now from a brand called Silikomart and loving it. The air mat is perfect for baking tart crust, éclairs or even cookies. Thanks to the holes in the mat, the heat spreads evenly throughout mats’ surface guaranteeing a perfect and even baking without blind baking. Use the Perforated “air” baking mat on top of the oven rack so that the air can circulate properly.
6. Perforated tart ring
Again, I have been using my Perforated tart ring for over a year and it’s the best investment I have ever made. I can not recommend it enough, it’s really one of those tools you have to invest in once and then will change your baking experience forever. Yes, I am loving it! The Perforated tart rings are non-stick and stainless, they allow homogeneous baking due to the even air circulation. It’s a a genius solution, isn’t it? Silikomart (and some other quality brands) offering the rings in various shapes and sizes, I am using a 8cm (3,14inch) diameter round version. As far as I can see there are several cheap copies of the initial Silikomart product, I am not sure though whether they are made of the same material and whether they work or not.
7. How to avoid tart dough shrinking while in the oven
Have you ever experienced shrinking, sad looking tart dough while baking? Again, 3 things to remember: temperature, technique and equipment. In terms of temperature, you have to freeze the dough before baking. In regards to technique, you must not force the dough while placing it into the tart rings. First cut the bottoms out then cut the side as long strips and carefully but firmly stick them together. Thirdly, use the right equipment, with Perforated tart ring the dough somewhat sticks to the side of the ring as opposed to shrinking like in case of non-perforated rings.
Recipes to use Chocolate Pâte Sablée
Once you nail this Chocolate Pâte Sablée recipe why not try some of my French tartlet recipes made using this Chocolate Pâte Sablée crust?
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US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Sift together dry ingredients; flour, cocoa powder, icing sugar, almond, salt
- Add very cold butter cubes and rub the mixture between your hands until it becomes a sand like consistency. This will take around a minute or two
- Add egg into the mixture and mix with your hands just until the dough comes together, few seconds
- Knead with the palm of your hand for a minute or two (do not over knead and do not use mixer) just until the dough becomes smooth. Form a disk and cover the dough in plastic wrap. Let it rest in the fridge for min 2 hours. You can leave it resting in the fridge over night or you can even freeze the dough
- After the dough rested roll it out into 2mm thickness between two Silicone baking mat. Do not use extra flour for rolling
- Place the dough into the freezer for 15 min in between two Silicone baking mat.. Do not remove the mat at this point
- If at any point the dough gets too warm to work with, pop it back into the freezer for 5 minutes. You might need take the dough in and out of the freezer 10-15 times. It is extremely important to work with a dough that is cold enough to be able to handle (so not sticky) but not too cold which would result in breaking it
- Cut 8 long stripes out of the dough, this will be the side of the tart
- Carefully place the stripes into the ring one by one. Press each stripe onto the ring so it sticks to it
- Place the Perforated tart rings with the pastry dough in them into the freezer for 2 hours
- Pre-heat oven to 160C / 320F
- After 2 hours take the pastry dough with the rings on them out and trim the top to the level of the tart ring with a sharp knife
- Bake for 18 min then carefully remove the rings and bake for another 5 min. Let them cool on the Perforated "air" baking mat