Your Way With Pâte
Little tartelettes don't have to be an exercise in logistics. In fact, they're the easiest things in the world once you have laid claim to your crust. I don't mean once you have decided on a recipe, I mean once you have pinched together cold butter and flour enough times that it is one of the tasks you consider as basic as chopping a couple of onions. Part of your way in the kitchen.
A couple of years ago, I found a little book on one of the riverside booksellers' tables. It was from the 1960s, full of your average French housewife's recipes for basic tarte crusts, cakes and home made creations. I wanted a glimpse into what the average French person 50 years ago put together on their kitchen tables. These recipes were not the ones that we have gotten used to these days, you know, the ones that strutt their stuff, expanding the technique and ingredient list to include every possible variation, noting every movement of the cook, adding skimming and sifting and doing things in clockwork fashion, not to clarify or instruct, but to stress, in a kind of patronizing way that yes, you really do need this recipe, you need to buy this book. I admit I never had much patience for these enormously self important kinds of recipes.
This little paperback handbook claiming on the back to have "really, we mean really, every pastry recipe you will ever need" that cost me a 50 centime piece was in my hands, and I was flipping through it, looking at a different kind of recipe style. A nice easy fast feulletage came out of that one, and a wealth of knowledge. First of all, something that struck me, while I read through these very simple recipes, was that for the crusts, they were all variations on one basic formula: flour, butter, salt, water. Second, the ratios were quite varied. You mean, there isn't just one way to make a tarte crust?
Here is the method that is currently my way in the kitchen for making a shell for a tarte, quiche, tartelette, etc. Start with impeccably clean hands and take a smallish piece of good butter from the refrigerator and weigh it, put it into a bowl. Add twice the butter's weight amount in flour and a sprinkling of salt. Use a fork to mash it together until you have little lumps. Get an ice cube and hold it in your hands, until it starts to melt. Then work the melting cold water lightly into the dough with your fingers just until you can pat it into a rough ball. Little lumps of butter are ok. If you're making more than you can comfortably melt ice in your hand for, go ahead and use ice water. Let your ball of dough rest in the refrigerator. Don't ever knead it, it will get tough that way. When you're ready, you can roll it out and use it. Voila. 1:2 butter:flour, plus a pinch of salt, add cold water. Once you have that down, you have just added a lot of options for apero, appetizer at the table, main course, and dessert. Especially useful when you haven't planned anything in particular and you have bits and scraps of vegetables, meats, cheeses, and fruits you need to use up.
Labels: Printemps 2010