Let's start the new year off right, shall we? With lots and lots of fresh, colourful, tasty fruit arranged in concentric circles and sprinkled with almonds to conceal layers of cream and chocolate atop a sweet pastry.
If that's not healthy eating, then send me back to 2012!
Week 11 brought with it four hours of Pâte Sucrée - the French term for a sweet short crust pastry used to make tarts. You may also know it as sweet dough or tart dough, but not to be confused with pie dough. It's made with flour, salt, sugar, egg, and butter and is closely related to pâte brisée and pâte sablée.
Prepared correctly, it has the texture similar to that of sable cookies and can taste like shortbread.
Although fairly easy to make, there are a few tips to keep in mind when making this cookie-like dough:
- Keep cool and plan ahead. We made our dough the class prior to allow it to chill and not cut into the the time needed for the instructional portion of class. If you are making the same day, allow the dough to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours after mixing and an additional hour after the dough has been pressed into the tart pan.
- Warm/hot hands are your enemy. Until this class, we were encouraged to use our hands in the preparation of most of the recipes throughout the course - you have more control and it ensures ingredients are not over-mixed. Because it is important to keep things cool for this type of pastry, a mixer or food processor is recommended, with very little hand contact at the end.
- Avoid over-mixing. It's the difference between a tough crust and a light, buttery, crumbly texture. Over mixing will cause the gluten to develop, which may be good for bread, but bad for pâte sucrée.
- Keep it uniformed. A thin, uniformly rolled dough prevents cracks and allows for the pasty to bake and cool evenly.
- Shrinkage. This brings to mind an episode of Seinfeld that involved George and cold water. :) Allow for shrinkage while the dough is chilling by leaving a bit of an overhang on the edges that will be trimmed before baking.
With the base baked and cooled, the chocolate melted, the cream cooled, and fruits prepared, it was time to bring it all together.
I brushed a thin layer of melted callebaut chocolate over the bottom of the shell to prevent it from becoming soggy. Then using a palette knife, I smoothed generous amounts of vanilla cream (custard) over the chocolate before adding the fruit. One was topped with strawberry and the other with a mixture of kiwi, peach and strawberry and then brushed lightly with apricot glaze.
The recipes we use in class tend to be high yielding, so I would generally cut them down when recreating at home. In the case of this recipe, however, I make the full amount, as the dough can be frozen for up to three months. Just cut into quarters, flatten into disks and wrap in layers of plastic before freezing. It is great to keep some on hand for those impromptu gatherings. Simply defrost in the refrigerator and make tarts or flans of the sweet and savoury variety. It is also perfect for making sable cookies - just roll out the chilled dough and use a cookie cutter in a shape of your choosing.
I'd say this was one of my favourite of the recipes we made in class. It is not overly sweet and the combined textures and flavours of the fruit, cream, chocolate and pastry are a perfect complement. You can play around with the basic recipe by adding different flavourings and maybe cocoa powder for a chocolate version.
I'll be sharing weeks 10, 12 and a re-cap with you in the coming weeks. Until then, here is the recipe.