I am not the biggest fan of pastry and desserts, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like a good crust now and again. There are occasions where I might want a dessert, and trust me a slice of cheese cake every so often really does hit the spot.
My favorite kind of desserts tend to be fruit related. A good tart comes to mind. Whether it be a baked apple tart, or a chilled fruit tart with a custard cream. Those are the types of desserts that usually call my name.
Growing up, the only time my Mom made a dessert was for holidays and birthdays, or if she hosted a dinner party. So, I tend to follow suit. Funny though, my grandmother’s both loved to bake, so you would think that my mother would have inherited that “baking” gene. Not that she didn’t do it well. When she baked it was perfection. She just wasn’t big on sweets.
So, needless to say, I was very excited for this next lesson. Not only did it contain a nice, flaky, buttery, crust, but it can be made both sweet or savory. The recipe is the same for both with the addition of a little sugar and vanilla for sweet applications. So, if you master one, you have double the possibilities for recipes.
This type of dough is called a Pâte Brisée. It is a short-crust pastry dough. This type of crust can be somewhat fragile, resembling a buttery, short bread cookie, and they are usually pre-baked before adding the filling.
So away we go.
From Lesson 6 – Tarte a l’Oignon or Onion Tart.
Equipment needed is a 9 inch fluted, removable bottomed tart pan.
I start by preparing the crust. The recipe calls for 1 cup of all purpose flour and a 1/2 cup of cake flour. I made my own cake flour because I do not keep cake flour on hand. I measure out 1/2 cup of all purpose flour, sifted, and I remove 1 Tablespoon of the flour and return it back to my canister. I then replace that 1 Tablespoon of flour with 1 Tablespoon of corn starch, then I sifted those together at least 5 times for consistency purposes.
I combine the flours into a mound on a cool surface, and I make a well in the center of the mound, where I add 1 egg, 1 TB of water, a pinch of salt, and 7 TB of softened, unsalted butter (diced up). I first start to blend the water, egg, and salt, into the flour mixture with my fingertips, then I start incorporating the butter into the wet ingredients until well blended. I use a pastry scraper to help scrape up and fold the dough until it holds together. Once the dough holds together, taking a few TB of the dough at a time, using the heel of my hand, I smear the dough across the work surface, I continue to do this until all of the butter and flour is well combined and smooth. Then I gather up the dough with my scraper and flatten it to a disc, dust it with flour, wrap it in plastic, and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, I begin making my filling. I start by melting 5 TB of unsalted butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. Then I add 1 pound of onions sliced fine. I sliced them on my mandolin for consistency. Cook the onions until they are soft, but not colored. Adjust heat if necessary. I seasoned the onions with salt and pepper to taste, and I reduced the heat to low and continued cooking the onions for about another 40 minutes or so until tender and golden. Once the onions have finished, I kept those warm, off to the side, so I could finish the crust.
At this point I pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
I remove the rested dough from the refrigerator and place on a cool, floured, work surface. I roll out the dough until it is about 1/8th of an inch thick or so. Then I roll the dough around my rolling pin and transfer it over the tart pan. Using my fingers, I press the dough into the pan. If the dough sticks, then lightly flour your fingers.
This next step was a little confusing. This is when a pastry chef in the next room comes in handy. I am instructed to make a 1/4 ” horizontal lip around the inside of the rim. Even with the tutorial and photos of the technique in the book, it was kind of confusing, But I eventually understood the reason for this step. I need to trim off excess dough, but I want the edge to stand above the fluted edge of the pan. So I form the rim around the edge and then with my rolling pin, I roll across the top of the pan, thus cutting the excess dough using the edge of the pan and the pressure from the rolling pin. Then I can take that excess dough and stand it back up and flute it with my fingers to somewhat match the flute of the pan. Then I prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, then it pops back in the fridge for 10 minutes before baking.
While the dough is resting in the refrigerator I prepare a round of parchment paper to place inside the tart shell for baking. The parchment should cover the dough. After the dough is rested and cold again, I place the parchment into the tart shell, I fill it with dried beans and I place it in the oven and bake it for about 15 minutes. The edges will start to brown. Then I remove the tart shell from the oven, I remove the paper and beans, and brush the interior of the shell with an egg glaze made with one egg beaten in a bowl. Then the tart shell is placed back in the oven until it is dry, and lightly browned. Then it is removed from the oven, the fluted rim is removed, and it is left to cool.
I reduced the oven temperature to 375 degrees to bake the filled tart.
Now to assemble. I Mix 1 cup of heavy cream or creme fraiche with 3 egg yolks, salt and pepper, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg to taste. I spread all of the onions evenly in the cooked pastry shell. Then I poor the cream and egg mixture over the onions. At this point I want to be sure the edge of the pastry does not get too dark so I cover the crust with a silicone crust guard. You can also use the fluted rim of the pan turned upside down and placed over the tart, or you can cover it with a rim made of foil. The tart is baked for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until it is puffed and golden brown.
This was so delicious and would make an absolutely lovely starter or a light lunch. I could even eat this for breakfast with eggs. It was a little bit of an adventure my first time making it, but the second time went rather quickly.
I decided to try a variation that I made up in my head. I made the crust exactly the same way as above, but instead of onions I used wild mushrooms.
My own recipe for a mushroom tart – A short bread crust – Pate Brisee , as instructed above. A filling of mushrooms, shallot, thyme, and goat cheese. With no creme fraiche or heavy cream in the house, I concocted a mixture of mascarpone, sour cream, and whole milk, then I added the three egg yolks and poured that over the mushrooms that I layered evenly in the tart shell. I topped it with shredded Parmigiano- Reggiano. Then I baked it to a golden perfection. Honestly I don’t know which preparation I liked better.
Now that I know how to make this crust, anything goes. The filling ingredients are endless. Whether it is a quiche made with ham and cheese, or simply a vegetable tart, or even filled with fruit, I will be making this dozens of different ways with applications varying from appetizer, main course, or dessert.
For the sweet version. The recipe is the same except for the addition of the sugar and vanilla.
Sweet version – 1 cup flour – 1/2 cup cake flour – 1 egg – 1 TB water – pinch of salt – 3 TB of sugar – 1 tsp vanilla extract – 7 TB of softened, unsalted butter, cubed.
On to the next Lesson!