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What is Sugar Crust?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sugar crust pastry, or pate sucree in French, is used for dessert tarts and pies. As it is a sweet dough, the baked crust isn't suitable for savory tarts or meat pies. Although sugar crust sometimes refers to sugar-enrobed chocolates or sugar-topped cakes, it's most commonly used to mean the sweet French pastry.

There are different methods used to create sugar crust pastry. Some bakers blend everything together at once in a food processor, while others first stir the dry ingredients and cream the butter and sugar together separately. Typically, dry ingredients for this sweet tart or pie dough are flour, sugar and a little salt. Some bakers use soft butter to cream into the sugar, while others prefer to cut in hard chilled pieces of butter into the dry ingredients to form a crumbly texture. Some salt is usually added to French sugar crusts even though unsalted butter is also traditionally used in this pastry.

Egg and vanilla round out the rest of the ingredients typically used in sugar crust dough. The sugar used is often the icing or confectioner's powdered type rather than white granulated. Brown sugar may also be used rather that the white granulated kind when making sugar crusts. The dough ingredients may be mixed by hand using a spoon, or a food processor may be used. When completely blended, the resulting sweet dough should form a soft ball; it's then refrigerated for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour before baking, depending on the baking method and recipe.

Before being placed into the oven to bake, the dough is rolled out and lightly pressed into the bottom and sides of a tart pan. The tart pan may be round or rectangular, but this style of bakeware typically has a removable bottom. After the sugar crust is baked, cooled and removed from the tart pan, it may be filled with many different recipe options. Custard or chocolate are popular pate sucree fillings, but fruit is also often used.

A fruit-based filling is common for sugar crust and it usually creates a colorful dessert presentation. In classic French baking, a pastry cream, or creme patissier, and fresh fruit are used for this type of filling. Fruits used for the pate sucree may be carefully arranged alternating the types and colors, or a single fruit may be simply placed into the sweet, fluted crust. The creme patissier is made by cooking together eggs, milk, flour, sugar and cornstarch to make a rich, sweet accompaniment to the crust and fruit.

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