Posts Tagged ‘pate brisee’

The Theory Of Pie

November 23, 2015

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It is officially pie season. Pumpkin, apple, pecan…you name it, we’re making it! In past years, we gave you a comprehensive guide to making the perfect pie crust. This time, we are focusing in on what could possibly go wrong, and how to nip that problem in the bud.

So what happens when you followed our directions to a tee, yet the pie crust lost some of it’s shape in the oven? First of all, you eat it. Even the less lovely crusts usually still taste great. Shrug it off and learn from the experience.

Once of the biggest problems is shrinkage. It isn’t good for clothing or, ahem other things, but it is also a problem for pastry. With all that butter or shortening, the crust is bound to shrink a little. Here are a few tips:

Carry the Weight: Prebaked, or blind baked crusts suffer the most. The filling seems to keep it in place somewhat, even when it wants to shrivel. Make sure that crusts that require pre-baking are properly wieghted.  Cover the pie with foil or parchment paper, and then fill it with pie weights or beans. Bake it for the prescribed amount of time, and then gently remove the weights and the lining, and place it back into the oven to brown. Be careful not to pull the liner off too quickly, taking a hunk of hot, partially baked crust with it.

Prick It: To avoid the crust bubbling up, prick it in multiple places with a fork. This will allow the air to escape, and keep it from getting soggy in the process.

It’s A Stretch: When rolling the dough and placing it in the pan, don’t stretch the dough to fit. Instead, cut the rolled dough larger than you need it to be, settle the center part into the bottom and sides of the pie plate, and then give a little nudge towards the center before trimming off the excess. The dough is slightly elastic, and if it is stretched, it will eventually snap back. Tucking the excess under and crimping it, or adding a decorative border will give it some heft and keep it from shriveling.

Give It A Rest: Let the dough rest in the pan for a bit before trimming and baking. This lets the gluten relax and reduces the shrink factor. Don’t overwork the dough. Gluten, the protein which gives dough it’s elasticity and strikes fear in the hearts of trendy eaters everywhere, is activated when the dough is manipulated. Heavily kneeded doughs, like pizza crust have more gluten than you want your pie crust to have. Handle the dough gently, and minimally to keep it from becoming tough. ( Yes, even the most gently handled crusts have some gluten in them, if they are made of wheat flour.)

Just Chill: Just like us, the dough needs to relax and chill. In this case, it should be done in the refrigerator. Think about butter, one of the prime components of a pie crust. It expands when it is warm and soft, and contracts when it is cold and hard. Chilling the crust allows the butter to solidify. We often make our pie and tart shells a day or two in advance to allow the dough to be firm and cold when we bake them. You can even wrap them well and freeze them for a couple of days. There is no need to thaw them before baking.

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Unrecipe of the Week: Baked Apples with Lattice Tops

September 30, 2013

It is apple season, and the markets are filled with every type imaginable. Apples are low in calories, high in dietary fiber, and have a naturally sweet yet slightly tart flavor. Seeing all those apples at the greenmarket made me long for warm baked apples, filled with cinnamon and spice. My idea was instantly met with dissent. Apparently, some feel the best part of an apple pie is the crust.
This week’s Unrecipe shows an exercise in compromise.  I got my baked apple, they got their piecrust, and all is right in the world; for the time being. 

Stuffed Baked Apples with a Lattice Top:

Core the apples, gently scooping out the centers to create a well. This can be done with an apple corer, or by cutting a hole in the top of the apple with a paring knife, and using a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds and core.

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In a separate bowl, mix together about ½ cup each of oatmeal and brown sugar, depending on how many apples you wish to stuff.  Add a liberal amount of cinnamon, and a little nutmeg, ground cloves, ginger and allspice.  You can also add nuts or raisins at this stage if you like. Spoon the mixture into the well of the apple, pressing down with your finger to pack it in tightly. Dot each apple with a pat of butter.

Place the apples in an ovenproof dish and fill it with about 1” of water. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. At this point, the kitchen will smell heavenly!

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While the apples are baking, prepare the crusts using a simple pate brisee:

Mix together 1 stick of butter, 1-½ cups of flour, a pinch of salt and a little sugar.

Once the ingredients are mixed, begin adding ice water (it should take about 4 tablespoons) until the dough comes together into a ball.  For more complete instructions and piecrust tips, click HERE.

Roll out the dough on a floured cloth or parchment paper.

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Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into long strips. Weave the strips into a lattice pattern and cut the lattice into circles just large enough to fit over the top of the apples. Lay the lattice disks out on parchment paper, and refrigerate.

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Remove the foil from the apples. Brush the lattice disks with an egg wash, and sprinkle them with sugar. Gently set them on top of the apples, and press down lightly to make sure they adhere.  Place the open pan back into the oven, and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the tops are golden brown, and the apples are soft, but still intact.

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If you wish to skip the crust, and just make the baked stuffed apples, just omit the crust and return them to the oven uncovered. If the apples seem dry, add some more butter, or pour a bit of maple syrup over them before returning them to the oven.

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Serve alone, or with a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!

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Unrecipe of the Week: Tomato Tart

August 30, 2013

This delicious tart is a great way to feature the last tomatoes of the season. Served as a main dish with a salad, or as an appetizer, this savory tart features heirloom tomatoes, basil and soft goat cheese.

Tomato Tart with Basil and Goat Cheese:

Roll out pate brisee and place it in a tart pan with a removable bottom. Find our basic pastry recipe here.

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Make a basil puree out of fresh basil leaves, and clove of garlic. Pulse them in the food processor until they are finely diced. With the machine running, add olive oil until it makes a loose, spreadable paste. Spread this on the bottom of the tart crust.

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Place heirloom cherry tomatoes cut in half in concentric circles on top of the basil mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brush lightly with olive oil.
Bake in a hot (425 degree) oven for about 40 minutes or so. At this point, the crust will start to turn golden, and the tomatoes will begin to shrivel a bit.

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Sprinkle soft goat cheese on the tart and continue to bake until the cheese melts and the crust reaches the desired shade of golden brown; about 10 more minutes.

Allow to cool slightly and cut into wedges. Serve with a side of mixed greens and enjoy!!

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Unrecipe of the Week: Countdown to Thanksgiving

November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner always ends with pies and tarts at our house, and every great pie starts with the crust.
Many people find making piecrusts intimidating, but with a few tips and a little skill, they can be executed flawlessly every time.

Start with a simple recipe, and use good quality ingredients. Look for pure unsalted sweet cream butter, and consider splurging on French or Irish butters, like Kerrygold or President.

While many recipes call for mixing the dough by hand, it is quicker, easier and more consistent to use the food processor. It will literally mix the ingredients and roll it into a ball for you. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Most recipes also call for the dough to be chilled for at least an hour or two before rolling. While the dough should be cold, I find if it gets too cold it is more difficult to roll it out.  Use cold butter and ice water, to keep it as cold as possible while mixing it.

Roll the dough on a large clean dishcloth, or a piece of parchment or wax paper, instead of directly on the countertop. That way, once it is rolled to the desired size and thickness, the towel or paper can be lightly folded with the dough on it, gently laid into the pan (cloth side up) and the cloth can be easily removed. If you are using paper, wipe the surface down with a damp cloth first, so the paper doesn’t shift. Be sure to flour the cloth and the surface.

Handle the dough as little as possible. The more it is worked, the tougher it will become. For delicate dough, try to roll it out only once, if possible. If you need to roll it a second time, it will still be delicious…don’t worry!

If the dough tears, or there are areas that didn’t quite get filled, use the scraps to repair it. Just brush a little water onto the part of the dough being mended so it forms a bit of “glue” to help the added piece stick.

Here is a recipe for Pate Brisee (basic pie crust) that can be used with any filling:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) of cold butter cut into pieces

About 4 tablespoons of ice water

Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process with an on/off motion until the texture resembles a coarse meal. Do not overwork the dough!

If you do not have a food processor, use 2 knives or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the other ingredients.

With the machine running, add the ice water a little at a time until the dough comes together. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it seems dry or crumbly, add a little more water. The trick is to have the dough reach the desired consistency, using the recipe as a guideline.

Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, but not hard. As little as 15 minutes might do it.

If you need to do this in advance and roll it later, let it sit outside of the refrigerator for a few minutes until it is still cold, but pliable.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface (with a cloth or paper on it that is also lightly floured) until it is about 1/8” thick. Place it into the pie pan or tart pan.

If you are making a tart, roll your rolling pin across the top of the pan to trim off the excess. If you are making a pie, use a paring knife to trim the excess and crimp the sides or score with the tines of a fork.

Use a fork to prick the bottom of the dough, to allow the steam to escape during baking.

Chill the crust until ready to use, fill it with your favorite filling, bake and enjoy!

photos: Glasshouse Images

Unrecipe of the Week / Holiday Edition

November 14, 2011

The grand finale of any Thanksgiving dinner is pie. In our house, pumpkin pie is a seasonal treat that everyone looks forward to. This year, in addition to the traditional pumpkin pie, there will be an apple pie for my nephew Will, and a yummy chocolate cheesecake to celebrate Walter’s birthday.

Any great pie begins with the crust. I make a classic French pate brisee that is flaky and buttery.  If you have a food processor, it practically makes itself!

Pate Brisee:

In the bowl of a food processor, place 1 ½ cup flour, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar and 1 stick of cold butter, cut into small pieces.

Pulse the machine for several seconds until the mixture resembles a course meal.

With the machine running, add ice water SLOWLY through the feed tube. Use just enough to get the dough to stick together and start to form a ball. This should only be about 2 or 3 tablespoons or so. Be careful not to over process the dough or it will become tough. The dough should not be crumbly or too wet.  If you need to, add a little flour or water to get the desired consistency.

Flatten the ball of dough into a disc and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate briefly.
Most recipes require the dough to be chilled for a few hours. I find it is easier to roll when it is cold, but still very soft and pliable.

I roll out the dough on a clean kitchen towel or a piece of wax paper. Flour the surface, and the rolling pin to prevent sticking.

Roll the dough gently in all directions until it is about 3/16” thick and slightly bigger than the pie dish or tart pan.

Carefully fold the dough right on the cloth or paper and transfer it to the pan, with the excess hanging over the edges. Remove the cloth and gently smooth the dough into the pan. Trim the excess. In a tart pan, just roll your rolling pin across the top to get a nice even edge. For pies, there are a variety of crimping techniques.

The easiest, is to use a fork to score the dough all along the rim of the pan.

Use a fork to pierce the bottom and sides of the crust to prevent air bubbles when baking.
Place the crusts back in the refrigerator until you are ready to fill and bake them.

This recipe makes one crust. If you are making a double crust pie, you will need to double the recipe.

Happy Baking!

photo: Spencer Jones / Glasshouse Images

Food Styling: Shari Hershon / Indigo Jones


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