One word can sum up this class - butter. Butter, butter, and when you think you have enough, add a little more butter. Of course don't forget about the sugar and brown sugar.... Isn't it amazing that there are so many recipes that start at the same place - cream the butter and sugar together - and end up in wildly different directions?
First on this week's baking menu were tarts. Tarts can be sweet or savory and we tackled both in our time together. Pate sucree provides a sugar sweetened butter and flour tart shell. Pate brisee omits the sugar for a flaky buttery shell. Pate sucree provided a flaky base for a smooth, tart, brilliantly yellow lemon curd. Calling on our newly learned custard making skills we whisked, tempered, and whisked the ingredients into a luscious filling for a lemon almond tart. Not only is this curd perfect for filling a pie it would also be delicious as ice cream or mousse. One exciting learning from these classes is knowing that many of these recipes are quite versatile.
The next task of the evening was tartalettes aux pommes - individual apple tarts. Pate sucree is prepared and divided into four equal portions. A filling of sliced apples is sauteed with sugar until just browned in color. The pate sucree is gently folded around the apples, wrapping them like a little gift. Of course this couldn't be complete with out an additional sprinkling of brown sugar after coming out of the oven. The beauty of this recipe is in it's rustic appearance. Afraid that you can't make a perfect crust? Worried about rolling out the crust into an amoeba instead of a perfect circle? With this is doesn't matter - just fold, pinch, and tell you guests that you made them a rustic apple tart. They will think you are a baking genius and they will forget all about the appearance after they take a bite.
For both the pate sucree and pate brisee (sweet and savory) kitchen appliances are your friend. A few quick pulses will evenly distribute the butter into pea sized pieces. Although if you hit pulse one too many times, you might go too far. The idea is to have noticeable sized pieces of butter throughout to produce a flaky crust. The butter melts during baking and releases steam, giving the crust its flaky texture.
If butter was the theme of the week, it was included in all its glory in Julia Child's basic quiche recipe that we prepared. A buttery pate brisee was filled with caramelized onions and Gruyere. A rich, decadent filling of heavy cream and eggs was poured over the top. As if that wasn't enough the quiche gets dotted with 1-2 tablespoons of butter before baking. Wow. This is not a light lunch at all - usually you think quiche and a salad is a good choice! After baking the custard is light in texture but the taste is quite the opposite. The additional butter caused our quiche to look like it was topped with an oil slick. It was quite decadent with the cream, eggs, Gruyere, butter, and butter crust.
Some of the takeaways from tonight's class:
- It's not too early to plan for the holidays. Well wrapped pie crust can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- Making the pie crust into a ball doesn't have to be a messy procedure. Dump the crumbs from the food processor directly onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to push it together until it forms a ball. Flatten slightly and chill in the plastic wrap (or freeze) until ready to roll out.
- With a little care it is easy to roll out an even crust. Roll just until the edge leaving a small lip. Turn 1/4 and repeat until the dough is the desired size.
- Always make sure the crust is securely in the pie pan. If there are air pockets under the crust it could cause it to bubble up or crack. It is also important to seal any cracks and holes when making a tart with a liquid filling. Say goodbye to a crispy bottom if you don't do this! We tried using white sandwich bread to plug a few holes in our quiche crust and it worked quite well.
This was a fun class and made tarts seem more accessible. There are a lot of techniques to remember but nothing so challenging that it can't be done at home. Do you have a favorite pie crust recipe? Any tips and tricks?
What is your favorite pie? I'm partial to fruit pies, pecan pies, and chocolate banana cream.