Can't-fail Parisian piecrust
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Remember T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "My sister (or parents, grandma, best friend, whoever) went to Paris and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"? But sometimes a T-shirt is just what you need; it might not be lavish, but it is a gift.
A gift means that someone was thinking of you while he was far away, thinking of you enough to buy a little something even with a bad exchange rate, thinking of you enough to stash it into a suitcase when every ounce of luggage matters. It might be just a T-shirt, but it is also a way to share a bit of the trip with you.
I thought about this because I just went to Paris, and I've brought you back a gift. You can't wear it. It took up no space whatsoever in my suitcase. But it's so wonderful, I can hardly wait to give it to you - in fact, I'm giving it to you right now because of the delicious onslaught of summery goodness that is in markets and gardens at this very minute. You'll probably want to keep it close through autumn, winter and spring, too.
My gift is the recipe for a pastry crust. It's delicious, easy, totally unthreatening. It's a crust you can whip up without thinking, a crust that will never let you down.
With such a great crust under your belt, so to speak, you can face summer with a smile, thinking of berries, peaches, nectarines and figs. Then you're ready for autumn, when persimmons, grapes, cranberries and pomegranates come into their own. You'll face the holiday baking season with confidence, with its cornucopia of pumpkin, apples, pears and nuts.
In winter, when all is gray, you'll have a delicate, buttery crust for showcasing oranges, limes and irresistible Meyer lemons. Then, it's spring, with that first pink rhubarb that's always a challenge to use. Take my advice: Make a tart.
I learned to make the crust from Paule Caillat, owner and operator of Promenades Gourmandes, which offers cooking classes and food walking tours in Paris. (For information, go to promenadesgourmandes.com.)
The Caillat crust is utterly and endlessly forgiving. It will not let you down. You can't overwork it - any bits that get scraggly can just be tossed back into the mixture.
No worries about chilling the dough or keeping your hands cool, and no worries about rolling the dough on a cool surface, because you don't roll it out at all - you just press it into a pan and bake it. You don't even need to add beans or baking weights - just prick it a bit. It obediently sets itself down, ready for the luscious fruit of any season.
The Sweet Caillat Crust
Makes one 9-inch single layer tart crust
* 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 3 tablespoons water
* -- Pinch salt
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 4 tablespoons sugar
Instructions: Preheat over to 400°. Place the butter, oil, water and salt in a small saucepan and heat on high just until the butter melts and bubbles form around the edge; a slight browning will result in a slightly nutty flavor, which is delicious. You can also heat the mixture in a microwave. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.
With an electric mixer or wooden spoon, add 1 cup of the flour and all the sugar to the butter mixture; beat together, slowly adding more flour until the mixture forms a ball, then add more flour until the mixture doesn't stick to the sides of bowl or pan.
Turn dough out into a 9-inch pie pan or tart pan with a removable bottom, and press it into an even layer over the bottom and sides.
To bake completely, bake for 10-15 minutes, or until crust is golden; watch the edges so that they do not burn.
To par-bake (for accompanying tart recipe), bake 5-8 minutes, or until crust is just firm.
Remove from oven and cool, then fill as desired.
The Tart that Takes You Through the Year
You can use almost any fruit - stone fruit, berries, figs, grapes, persimmons, apples, pears, citrus, and so on. Watch the juiciness of the fruit, and adjust accordingly. The amount of sugar also depends on the sweetness of the fruit, but the more sugar the juicier the fruit will become. Also keep an eye on the tart as it bakes; tent it if it starts to overbrown.
* 1 par-baked Sweet Calliat Crust (see recipe)
* 1 cup ground almonds or hazelnuts
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3 cups sliced nectarines and blackberries, or other fruit (see above)
* -- About 2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces
* -- About 1 tablespoon almond extract, Amaretto, lemon juice, framboise or anisette
* 3 tablespoons jam
* 1 tablespoon water or lemon juice
Instructions: Place the par-baked crust, still in its pan, on the counter. Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine ground almonds and 1/4 cup sugar and sprinkle into the bottom of the tart crust. Arrange the nectarines and berries in the tart shell. Sprinkle with another 1/4 cup or so sugar, or to taste. Dot the top with butter, and sprinkle with almond extract or other moistener. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until edges of crust are golden light brown and fruit is tender; watch carefully.
Combine jam and water or lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat through. Brush over top of baked tart. Let cool, then cut into wedges to serve.
Per serving: 309 calories, 3 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 16 g fat (6 g saturated), 25 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
Wine pairing: Ground almonds provide a nuttiness that complements the fruit. To match, try a botrytized white dessert wine.
Marlena Spieler is a freelance food writer and cookbook author. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to her Web site, marlenaspieler.com.
This article appeared on page K - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/21/FDJS1990BM.DTL#recipe2#ixzz0PjS8y14u