Saturday, May 16, 2015

French Pastry Tart Shells ~ Pate Brisee

Making pastry dough, what the French call 'pate brisee' is a necessity for a lovely summer fruit tart, but getting the dough just right in a warm summer kitchen is tricky.

Julian's French Pastry Dough
They say the secret is working very quick and very cold, and includes steps to chill your hands under cold water as you are working the mixture. It's for this reason I rarely make a classic tart shell, opting instead for a Graham cracker crust. So when food blogger David Lebovitz presented Paule Caillat's hot oven technique, I jumped at the chance to try it. Paule gives cooking classes to Americans in France, so if you are thinking of Europe this summer, consider a class with Promenades Gourmandes. If this recipe is any indication, you won't be sorry. It's now the only way I make a pastry tart crust.

As you can see from the photo, this recipe has nothing to do with cold and all to do with hot. It requires you put a dish of butter in a hot oven and then work with the hot dough. I wear my oven gloves when working on this recipe. I use the pictured Pyrex measuring cup in the oven, and because of the handle you will be tempted to pick it up. Be very careful as it will stay hot for over an hour and you will be inclined to grab it with your bare hands, as I have done.

This dough is simple and comes out light and flaky every time. I weigh the ingredients as indicated for precision in most baking is required for a perfect result. This works great for any fruit tart including those with pastry cream on the bottom and fresh uncooked glazed fruit on the top. I've also used it for a chocolate ganache, which came out well.

Ingredients (makes one 9" tart shell)
3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5oz (or 1 slightly-rounded cup) all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 410ยบ F.

In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, such as a Pyrex bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt. Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges. When done, remove the bowl from oven and pour in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Take care in that the butter can sputter and splash when the flour is added.)

Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula. Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with your hand and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks.

Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown. Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them. Pinch off a small amount of the reserved dough, roll it gently between your fingers to soften it, then wedge it into the cracks, smoothing it gently with your finger.

Let the shell cool before filling.

Julian's French Pastry Tart Crust

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