Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Begin at the Beginning

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Part of the idea for this forum was that it would also include recipes. There are a bunch of sites out there that do this better and more prolifically than I have, can, or ever will. Whatevvvvvs. This is the recipe for the most basic pie crust I make. It's the first one I ever used and the one I go back to the most because I always have the ingredients around, you can control the level of moisture in it even in humid weather, and it barely shrinks when baked.

I also like it because you don't need any fancy equipment to make it. I do like to use a pastry cutter if I have one handy because it helps you work quickly so that the butter doesn't start to melt and ruin the texture of the dough. If you have a food processor you can pulse the butter, flour, salt, and sugar together very quickly before sprinkling the water over it and kneading by hand. My favorite method when making Pate Sucree is to simply cut the very cold butter up into small pieces and rub it into the flour. This gives the dough the most even distribution of fat and makes it easy to roll. It also means that as the pastry bakes, the butter will melt through it uniformly, making a very flaky crust.

Pate Sucree
1 crust about 9 inches (recipe is easily doubled)

1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
3 or so tablespoons ice water, ice strained prior to sprinkling

Use one of the methods mentioned above to combine dry ingredients with butter. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over top and incorporate until dough forms. Press into discs and wrap in plastic wrap. It's very important to let this dough rest at least 30 minutes in the fridge (ideal) or 10 minutes in the freezer (if you are in a rush).

Sprinkle work surface with a scant amount of flour. The tendency here is to use a generous amount so that your dough doesn't stick. DON'T CHASE THAT FEELING. Your dough will become tough if it absorbs too much flour. But you should be fine.

Once you've rolled it out about a quarter of an inch thick, roll the round gently onto your pin and lay it in a buttered tin or glass dish. You don't need to press the dough into the corners of the dish, it's best to let it settle naturally.

Prick the bottom all over with a fork and brush with egg yolk after trimming the excess from the edges. Press all scraps together and keep in the freezer in plastic wrap for up to a month. You can use this extra dough for decorative cutouts or lay small rounds over the back side of the cups of a muffin tin to make little fillable tart shells.

Bake unfilled shell at 425 for 7 minutes, decrease heat to 350 and bake for an additional 5 before filling. This way you guarantee a non-soggy bottom, which no one likes.


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