This recipe for pâte sucrée can be used to make either a homemade pie or tart shell. Try it with this recipe for Toasted Coconut Cream Pie with Lime Whipped Cream.
Adapted from "Flour" by Joanne Chang and Christie Matheson.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and salt on medium speed for 2–3 minutes, or until pale and light. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and beat on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the flour mixes with the butter-sugar mixture. The mixture will look like wet sand. Add the the egg yolk and continue to mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until the dough comes together.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour. (At this point, the dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using.)
If making a pie shell, have read a 9-inch pie pan dish. If making a tart shell, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a 10-inch tart right on top. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let soften at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Using a rolling pin, bang and flatten the dough into a disk about 1/2-inch thick. Flour the work surface, and sprinkle the dough disk with a little flour. Roll out the dough into a circle 10–11 inches in diameter and about 1/4-inch thick for a 9-inch pie shell, or about 12 inches in diameter and just under 1/4-inch thick for a 10-inch tart shell. Make sure the work surface is well floured so the dough doesn't stick to it, and make sure the disk itself is floured well enough to keep the rolling pin from sticking to it. Roll from the center of the disk outward, and gently rotate the disk a quarter stretched into a nice circle. Don't worry if the dough breaks a bit, especially toward the edges. You can easily patch any tears once you have lined the pan.
Roll the dough circle around the pin and then unfurl it on top of the 9-inch pie pan or the 10-inch tart ring. Press the dough well into the bottom and sides of the pan or ring, and use any scraps or odd pieces to patch up any tears or missing bits. Make sure the entire interior is well covered with dough, and then press one last time all the way around to ensure any holes have been patched. Trim the edge of the dough so it is even with the rim of the pan or ring.
Refrigerate the pastry shell for at least 30 minutes. The gluten needs a little time to relax so the pastry doesn't shrink in the oven. (The pastry shell can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Bake directly from the refrigerator or freezer.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. If you are making a tart shell, remove the tart ring. Proceed as directed in individual recipes.