Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pâte Brisée (Savory Short Pastry)

A great crust for quiche or any savory tart. French crusts are always made with butter, rather than shortening. They're not as flaky as ones made with shortening, but they sure do taste good!

200g flour
1/2 t. fine sea salt
125g chilled butter, diced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
ice cold water

Combine flour, salt and butter in a medium bowl. Rub the mixture with your fintertips or a wire pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat the egg slightly in a small bowl. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the egg, and blend gently with a fork. When most of the egg is incorporated, knead gently until the dough comes together. If it is a little dry, add ice water, 1 T. at a time, until the dough forms a ball. Avoid overworking the dough, or it will become tough.

Shape the dough into a slightly flattened ball. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day. Let stand at room temp. before using, just long enough that the dough can be rolled out without cracking (usually about 10 minutes).

Sprinkle flour lightly on a clean work surface and on your rolling pin, and roll the pin over your dough 2-3 times with moderate pressure. Rotate the dough by a quarter of a turn and roll the pin over it 2-3 times. Repeat until you get a circle large enough to line your pan, sprinkling both your work surface and rolling pin with a little more flour when the dough starts to stick to either.

Variation: flavor the dough with a T. of dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano), 1/2 - 1 t. ground spices (nutmeg, ginger, cumin), or 30g hard grated cheese (parmesan in particular).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pâte Sablée (Sweet Short Pastry)

Makes enough to line a 25cm tart pan, or 6 10cm tartlet molds.

75g chilled unsalted butter, diced, plus a pat to grease the pan
75g sugar
150g plain flour
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1-2 T. cold milk

Grease a 25cm tart pan with butter.

Combine sugar, salt, and flour. Add butter cubes and rub into the dry ingredients with the tips of your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add a tablespoon of milk and blend it in, handling the dough as lightly as you can. The dough should still be crumbly, but should clump if you gently squeeze a handful in your hand. If it doesn't, add a little more milk, teaspoon by teaspoon, and blend again, still working lightly.

Pour the mixture into the tart pan and use the back of a tablespoon to spread it evenly over the bottom. Using the heels of your hands and your fingers, press down on the dough to form a thin layer, covering the surface of the pan and creating a rim all around. Don't worry if the dough is a little dry, this is normal. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to a day.

Variations: flavor the dough with 1 t. vanilla extract or finely grated citrus zest, 1/2 t. spice such as cinnamon or nutmeg, or 1 t. liqueur (Grand Marnier, rum). Add these ingredients along with the butter.