Thursday, 22 March 2012

Pate Sucree

 

I love making tarts. They are so much easier than cakes and heaps more delicious. Who doesn't love the crust on any pie/tart? Unless of course it was burnt, soggy or just plain tasteless. In case you were wondering, a pate sucree is a sweet tart pastry while the savoury cousin of it is called a pate brisee. 

Now... making a tart shell is as easy as pie. All you need is a delicate touch and some patience. And of course, you can't make a tart without a tart/pie pan. There are so many types available these days. Round/rectangular, straight/fluted edges, stainless steel/ceramic. What I feel that is most important when choosing a tart pan is that it comes with a removable base. It makes it so much easier to remove the tart from the pan. And do you know what's even easier than a removable base? A tart ring. 

I've noticed that most professional pastry kitchens use them. If you don't have one or can't find them, not to fret. I use an "egg ring" which doesn't have a handle on it. It works perfectly and I got mine at the local supermarket for cheaps. 


This crust recipe should be part of your pastry closet essential because frankly, it's the only one you'll ever need. Use it for a lemon meringue tart or a blueberry tart or a salted caramel chocolate tart. Anything goes really. What makes this recipe different from other pie shell is the addition of almond meal and vanilla bean which adds a decadent touch to it. And of course, this recipe comes from the god of pastry himself, Pierre Herme. Now... this can't get any better, can it?

But wait! After reading Heston Blumenthal's latest cookbook, I've picked up a few trick from him which will make this tart even more awesome. One of Heston's tip is to use coins instead of beans to act as weights. I must say it is rather ingenious. Especially if you're someone like me who doesn't like wasting beans just to hold the dough down. Usually I don't use weights when baking tartlets. Which explains the shrinking in the first picture. The coins prevents the tart from shrinking and because it conducts heat well, the tart shell will bake more evenly.

Another tip he gave was to not cut off the excess dough after shaping it into the ring (Not like what I've done below). Let it hang and only cut it right after baking the tart. This will prevent any shrinking thus you'll have a tart with a uniform height. Neat trick I must say... And best of all, you get to munch on the excess! 


Pierre Herme’s Sweet Tart Dough from Desserts by Pierre Herme
Makes 4 9-inch tart

Ingredients
285g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar, sifted
100g ground almonds
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla bean pulp
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
490g all-purpose flour (You could chill this in the freezer if you're making it in the summer)

Instructions
Cream the butter using a food processor or a kitchenaid with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and mix well.  Next, add the almond powder, salt, vanilla and mix until the mixture is smooth, again scraping when necessary. Add the eggs and mix just until blended. Add the flour steadily. There is no need to wait for the flour to be incorporated thoroughly after each addition. Mix just until the ingredients come together to form a soft, moist dough that doesn’t clean the sides of the bowl completely but does hold together. Don’t overdo it.

Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces:  3 pieces for 10-inch tarts, 4 for 9-inch tarts.  Or, you can shape it into one large ball and cut off as much as you need.  Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic.  Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or for up to 2 days before rolling and baking.  The dough can also be wrapped and frozen for up to a month.

To bake:
Butter a tart ring and preheat the oven to 180ºC.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface (I roll mine between sheets of cling wrap so that it won't stick) to a thickness between 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch.  Fit the dough onto the bottom and sides of the ring and leave some of the excess.  Prick the dough all over with a fork and chill for at least 3o minutes in the refrigerator

When you are ready to bake the crust, fit a circle of parchment paper or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice or coins.  Bake the crust for 18-20 minutes , until it is just lightly colored.  If it needs more time in the oven, remove the rice/beans/coins and the parchment paper and bake for another five minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and trim off the excess dough using a sharp knife. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool.

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