Question: I'm having trouble identifying these two different types of pastry in French recipes. Pâte brisée and pâte sablée - my dictionaries don't help!
Is one of them flaky pastry (such as you'd use for vol au vents?)
Thank you in advance.
Answer: French pastry dough can be confusing. There are actually dozens of types, but I'll stick to the main categories here.
A pâte brisée is like a traditional pie crust, sometimes called a short crust pastry (made with just butter, flour, and a little water and salt). A pâte sablée is the same, but with sugar and is sometimes called a sweet crust pastry in English.
A layered puff pastry type crust is called a pâte feuilletée. It is used in numerous French recipes including to make the vol au vents you mentioned.
You will also find yeasted pâte feuilletée used to make croissants and all sort of French viennoiseries.
We can add to the list, pâte à choux, an eggy cooked pastry dough, that is used to make cream puffs, éclairs, and the like.
The French also use pâte à filo, or filo dough, a paper thin pasty dough made from flour, water and a little oil and les feuilles de brik, another paper thin dough made from wheat semoule and water. These both are used to make any number of sweet and savory layered pastry delicacies.
Hope that helps some in your navigation of the types of pastry used in French recipes. Happy baking!