Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sweet Pastry Project

One of the things I wanted to do different this year in blogging was to step more out of my comfort zone and try my skills at things that are more challenging.  Pastry is one of those things.

In making this recipe, I learned quite a bit.  Even though this creation is not perfect, with time it will become easier.  I am sure I will get more practice since I am committed not to buy any more pre-made pastry dough at the grocers!

Below is all the details on this project.

Sweet Pastry
adapted from Desserts by Nancy Silverton

Equipment-1 flan pan, 10 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep

1 1/4 plus 2 tbs flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tbs heavy cream
4 oz or one stick of cold butter, cut into cubes

Sift the flour into a medium bowl and then stir in the sugar.  Toss the butter cubes into the mixture, coating all sides.  Then using your fingertips, mash each cube into pieces and let drop back into the dry ingredients and toss.  Continue with this process until the consistency is like coarse crumbs.

In another bowl, scramble the yolk with the cream.  Then pour into batter and mix with clean hands until the dough can form a ball.  You may have to add some cream to reach the correct consistency.

Then take a sheet of wax paper and place on a flat surface.  Dust lightly with flour and place ball of dough in the middle.  Also, dust the inside of your hands with flour. Using the heel of your hand, press on the dough and smear outward.  Continue with this process until all of dough has been smeared flat on the wax paper.  This is a french process for working in the butter.

Gather the dough back into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.  Place in fridge to chill for 2 hours.

Then take dough out of fridge, place it back on the wax paper and cut into fourths.  Then pound each piece with rolling pin to flatten.  Then use your fingertips to work the dough into a pliable but not sticky ball.

At this time, brush melted butter on the inside base and ring of your flan pan.

Roll your dough out on the wax paper, using a little flour to keep it from sticking.  Begin rolling from the center, turning pin clockwise.  Also, use short strokes because you do not want the outer edges to get too thin.  Lift and turn the dough every so often to make sure it is not sticking.  The final size of the dough should be 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 of an inch thick.

To get the dough into the pan, you can fold it into quarters and put point in center and unfold or you can roll dough over rolling pin and unroll over flan pan.  Then use the knuckle of your index finger (dusted with flour) and go all around the pan putting some pressure to get the dough to adhere to the pan and even out.  Use your fingertips to do the same on the sides of the pan.

As a final step, use a paring knife to cut off the top excess even with the top of the pan.  After that , chill the dough in the fridge for one hour.  During this time, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Remove pan and line the dough with parchment paper, covering all the bottom and sides.  Then fill the pan with metal pie weights or beans.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Remove pan and let cool completely.  Then spoon off beans or remove pie weights.  Take out parchment lining.  If crust looks underdone in places, preheat oven again to 325 and place back in oven for a few minutes to finish baking.  Let cool and then fill as desired.

Pitfalls to watch out for:

-uneven thickness in crust will cause uneven baking
-using too much flour will cause the dough to be dry and crumbly
-overworking the dough can cause it to be tough
-not having a 90 degree angle of even thickness where the side of the dough meets the bottom will cause shrinkage of dough when baked.
-this dough is not forgiving if you have to patch it, it has a tendency to split on patched edges when baked.

 Things that I think help:

-I did not wait for the crust to cool before removing pie weights, beans or parchment paper.  My determination of crust doneness was in a hot state so I could pop it back in the oven if needed.  You have to be careful when removing the hot items out of the pan!

-I am toying with the ideal of laying a perfectly sized dough disk in the bottom of the pan and cutting a strip of dough to go around the sides to keep the 90 degree edge.  I will have to work on making sure the edges meet and are sealed well though.

-a rolling pin with measurement rings is a great way to insure that you get your dough an even height.  This type of pin comes in handy when making cut out cookies too!

-another type of paper liner you can use is coffee filters (the flat ones). Along with laying them on the bottom, the sides can be covered with filters and overlap the pan.  I made the mistake of thinking that the parchment paper had to fit tightly against the dough on the sides.