Forward and backward

Rules is rules. And the baker is advised to follow them. Should she care to produce a tender and tasty tart, she will mind the pate sablee rulebook.

Pate sablee means sandy pastry. That's because the classic buttery pastry is enhanced with sugar grit. Its pat-in-the-pan ease and crisp bite offer the sweet tart a sturdy start.

Pate sablee, like all pastry, calls for sound technique: Dip and scoop the flour, sugar and salt. Whisk evenly. Cut in the butter. Enrich with egg yolk, just until clumped.

She knows these rules. She practices these rules. She believes in these rules. Imagine her surprise when confronted with a recipe that goads: break them.

The renegade pate sablee urges the baker to work backward: Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg yolk. Bolster — last — with flour.

Strange. And strangely enticing.

Feeling bold, even brash, the baker tries the reverse method. Avoiding eye contact with the scorned Cuisinart, she turns to the mixer. She creams the butter and sugar. She beats in the yolk. Then — shuddering — adds the flour. The pastry clumps, like, well, pastry.

She is shocked. And slightly ashamed. Does she lack bravada?

She bakes up a set of tarts and — for fun — a set of fingerprint cookies. To her purist palate, the standard method yields a flakier, more traditional tart. The newfangled method yields a more satisfying cookie.

But the real surprise is that the differences are slight. Strangely, both methods work. Deliciously.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.

leahreskin@aol.com

Pate sablee, forward

1 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon cold water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla (plus 1 drop almond extract, optional)

Measure flour, sugar and salt into the food processor. Pulse once to mix. Pulse in butter until mixture looks crumbly. Mix together yolk, water and extracts. Pulse in, until dough starts to clump (if mixture seems dry, pulse in up to 1 tablespoon water).

Pate sablee, backward

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon cold water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla (plus 1 drop almond extract, optional)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

Cream butter and sugar, using an electric mixer. Mix together yolk, water, extracts and salt; beat in. Beat in flour.

Use it

Tart: Pat pastry into a 9-inch tart pan; follow a sweet tart recipe.

Cookies: Roll pastry into 12 balls. Roll each in sugar; set on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees, 5 minutes. Press each ball with a pinky finger (or the back of a small oval measuring spoon) twice to form a heart-shaped indentation. Return to oven and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. While warm, fill heart with raspberry or strawberry jam

Featured Stories

CTnow is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on ctnow.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.