Wednesday 19 September 2007
I’m not sure I should tell you this, but there are many things I take for granted; at least in the pastry realm.
Indeed, I tend to think that every single person on earth knows how to make a Forêt Noire from scratch or that Ispahans are referred to as easy-peasy. It seems I’m that much into pâtisserie that I assume everyone is to and honestly, I thought it was the case; this until I found my mum storing some store-bought pâte sable in the fridge.
‘Maman, tu pourrais quand même la faire toi-même; c’est tellement meilleur!’ [Mum, you could make your own; it's so much better!], I said and then what she answered made me realise that some people do see pâtisserie as the very-complicated-and-not-enjoyable part of gastronomy.
‘Oh mais non, la pâte sablée, c’est tellement difficile à faire.’ [Pâte sablée is way too difficult to make.]
I realise that some pastries are time-consuming and require some advanced skills, but pâte sucrée… No way! Once you get the few basic principles, you’ll produce a flawless and consistent (not to mention lick-your-fingers delicious) pâte sucrée.
The few basic principles as said above are:
1. Do not overwork the dough or the gluten will develop and you’ll get a chewy and elastic crust (while, what you want is a crisp one).
2. Do not overwork the dough or the butter will melt and your crust will be greasy.
See, just a few principles to respect and now, you’re ready.
I can’t stress enough on the importance of mise-en-place. Getting all your ingredients ready before actually starting makes you save time and teach you to be organised.
Here you’ll need:
300g unsalted butter, at room temperature
190g icing sugar
60g ground almonds
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
500g flour (ordinary type 55 will do wonders)
1 tsp fleur de sel
Start by creaming the butter until soft and smooth (I use my kitchenaid stand mixer with the paddle attachment just because I’m still excited by the fact that I got one for my birthday, but mixing by hand is just as easy).
Then, mix in the icing sugar, ground almonds and vanilla seeds.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated.
Remove from the mixer.
Mix in the flour and salt until just incorporated. Do not overwork! The dough should be crumbly, lumpy… Definitely not what you would expect from a French pâtisserie standard.
Form three balls (each weighing approx. 365g) , gently press them down and wrap them tightly in cling film. Refrigerate overnight.
At this step, the pastry can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or it can be frozen for a month (you’ll just need to thaw the pastry in your fridge the day before you want to use it).
Roll the dough between two layers of baking paper. Cut into a disk 5cm larger that your tin (ie. if you’re making mini-tarts and using 8cm cercles, you’ll need to cut your abaisse into a 13cm disk).
Refrigerate the disk for at least 2 hours.
You can now start lining (foncer in French) a buttered cercle à tarte. The butter helps the dough to slide on the sides of the cercle.
I will try to make a video about fonçage so you can see how you need to proceed, as it can be quite tricky sometimes. Basically, you need to pinch the dough between your right finger and push it down using the sides. Keep doing this, until the full cercle is lined and check if the dough forms a 90° angle (if not, push it towards the bottom a little more).
Chill for an hour.
It’s now time to bake the crust. Pre-heat your oven to 175°C.
Take the lined cercle out of the fridge, cover the base and side of the pastry with baking paper and fill with dried beans or rice (baking weighs are to heavy for this fragile pastry).
Bake for 17 to 25 minutes (depending on the size of your crust. Remove the dried beans/rice and baking paper and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until nicely coloured.
Can you guess what’s coming next?