300 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
1¼ teaspoons fine salt
200 grams cold unsalted butter, chopped
100 grams caster (superfine) sugar
1 egg yolk (optional)
If using a mixer: Using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine the flour, salt and butter on low speed for 2–3 minutes, or until the lumps of butter are evenly dispersed and the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (sablage).
Stop the mixer, scrape down the side of the bowl, then add the sugar and the egg yolk, if using, and mix until well combined. Transfer the pastry to the work surface and shape it into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When you are ready to use it, transfer the cold pastry to an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and mix on low speed for 2–3 minutes, or until the pastry reaches a consistent, firm texture.
By hand: Put the flour and salt in a mound on your work surface and make a well in the middle. Place the butter in the well and mix the butter into the flour by rubbing your hands together until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (sablage).
Shape the mixture into a mound again and make a well in the middle. Add the sugar, then the egg yolk and use your fingertips and the heel of your hand to incorporate them into the flour without kneading the dough (fraisage). Note that kneading will develop the gluten and toughen the pastry.
Shape into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Makes 600 grams.
Cooking tips: Never want to forget this recipe again? Weigh any amount of butter, divide it by two to work out the amount of sugar, then combine the weight of the butter and sugar to work out the weight of the flour.
To make deliciously buttery Scottish shortbread, simply substitute 10 per cent of the flour in the recipe above with maize cornflour (cornstarch) and do not add the egg yolk. This will make your dough incredibly short, but amazingly buttery and brittle.
Note: To make chocolate pâte sablée, substitute 60 grams of the flour with unsweetened cocoa powder.