October 23, 2009

Pâte Brisée (Shortcrust Pastry)

This pastry is the French version of shortcrust pastry and it is suitable for both sweet and savoury dishes, such as French Apple Tarts or Quiche. It is a lovely flaky, crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth pastry and the egg yolk gives a lovely rich taste. Once you have made this pastry you will never buy shop-bought again!
It is incredibly easy to make and it is actually quite a forgiving pastry, so it is easy to patch up any tears when lining your tins.

You can make this in the food processor, but I prefer to make it by hand as you get a better feel for how much water you need to add. I have given directions for both methods though.

  • Makes: approx 345g of pastry
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C

Ingredients:
  • 185g (6.5oz) plain flour
  • 15g (½ oz) sugar (omit for savoury dishes)
  • 90g (3.5oz) butter, cut roughly into pieces
  • 1 egg yolk
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-3 Tablespoons of water

Directions By Hand:
  1. Sift the flour onto a board or into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  2. Put the sugar (if using), butter and egg yolk in the well and gently rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add about 1 Tablespoon of the water and bring the dough together gradually - don't try and force it together, just add a little more water. Knead very lightly until you have a smooth dough.
  4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board until it is about 3mm thick, then line your tins. Prick the bases with a fork to prevent any funny air pockets forming.
  5. CHILLING: it is important to chill your pastry before you bake it as it needs time to rest, because kneading the dough works the gluten in the flour and you want it to relax. I like to line my tins with the pastry first and then chill, but if you’re finding it difficult to roll your pastry then chill it for about 30 minutes in the fridge before rolling out. Your pastry will happily sit in the fridge overnight as long as it is well covered to prevent it from drying out. You can also freeze it.
  6. BLIND BAKING: You should first bake your pastry without any filling so that it is practically cooked. You want the pastry to be light golden brown and you should be able to remove the cases from the tin to check the bottoms are brown too (but don’t remove them as you need to cook the filling!).
    If you’re making a large tart: place some greaseproof paper over the pastry, then fill the tin with an even layer of baking beans (or uncooked rice or dried lentils, which you can re-use but not eat!). Bake at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for about 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes to dry out the base.
    If you’re making small tarts: then there isn’t any need to use baking beans, provided your pastry is well chilled first. Bake at Gas mark 5/375°F/190°C for about 15 minutes.
  7. You can now add your filling and continue baking as per the recipe.

Directions using Food Processor:
  1. Place flour, sugar (if using) and butter in the food processor bowl. Using the pulse action, pulse for 30 seconds or until mixture is like breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon of water; process a further 20 seconds until mixture forms a dough. Adding more water bit by bit if you need to.
  3. Follow on from Step 4 in the above directions.
COOK’S NOTES:
  • The secret to good pastry is to handle it as little as possible, so don’t try to mix the ingredients or knead the dough too much. Having cold hands is also a bonus as you don’t want all the fat in the dough to melt whilst you’re handling it.

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