Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pastry Dough Triumph! (and par baking tutorial)

No pate brisee can hold this blogger down, no sir! If you remember a few days ago, I said that pastry dough (pate brisee) had defeated me. I lied. The old saying, "I lost the battle, but I won the war" comes to mind. I licked my wounds and returned to the front for another round of shells, pastry shells that is. Of course, I am not at war with pate brisee (I am a lover, not a fighter), but I am a kind of culinary warrior, a samurai with a kitchen knife and a paper towel.

OK, enough of that. In this blog you will find a pasty shell tutorial (video), a pastry dough recipe (text), and some potential applications for your dough (I'm thinking pot pies!).

This is what a properly par baked pastry shell should look like. With the tomato pie, I had thought I'd got my dough all wrong (I'm still a pastry newbie), but I hadn't. I simply didn't spend enough time and care par (i.e. partially) baking it.

Glance at the background of this photo. Do you see some dried beans and foil? You should. Dried beans and foil are essential. After you have spread your dough into your pan, you will cover it with foil, fill it with dried beans, and pop it into the oven.

Isn't that a waste of beans? No, not really. The beans perform a valuable function in this par baking process. They weigh down the dough as it bakes. If you don't keep dried beans on hand, you can go to a fancy chef shop and buy some phony beans (and spend top dollar doing so), or you can just pick up a bag of pinto beans for one dollar.

But don't the beans get ruined when you bake them in the oven?

Probably. But remember: you can use the same beans over and over again. If they were dry before, now they are really dry. Put them in a bag and store them wherever you please. At this point they will keep forever. You can even pass them down to your grandchildren if you are worried about wasting.

OK, the dough recipe (I am copying this from Julia Child's book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." This recipe makes enough for two, eight inch pies):

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 pinches of sugar (I exclude the sugar for savory pies)
1/4 pound chilled butter cut into 1/2 inch bits (1/4 pound = one stick)
3 Tb vegetable shortening (I used butter because I didn't have shortening)

Forming the dough is fairly easy, but in the meantime, here's the cooking video (we'll get to the forming later):

Making the dough (again, quoted from Julia):

"Place flour, salt, sugar, butter, and vegetable shortening in a big mixing bowl. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later.

Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together and slightly cupped, as you rapidly gather the dough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon more water by droplets over any unmassed remains and add them to the main body of the dough. Then press the dough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pliable, but not be damp and sticky.

Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board [your counter top is just fine]. With the heel of one hand, not the palm which is too warm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches. This constitutes the final blending of fat and flour, or fraisage."

Uses for the dough:

Pot pies, pies, tarts, and quiches. I suppose there are some others, but I can't think of them. Honestly, I am only interested in pot pies right now. Perhaps in the future I will do a pot pie post. Not tomorrow, not next week, but in the future.



White Falcon said...

Thank you, that was great. I searched for Par baking Pie crust so my pot pie wasn't soggy, and there you were, good work.

Jono Tosch said...

Thanks white falcon.