Friday, November 2, 2012

Pate Brisee: Pie dough

I make a lot of pies and tarts because they are delicious and easy. Most people think they are complicated, but I believe this is because they don't really know how to make pie dough. There are many different kinds, and I will probably end up posting more later on, but this is the most basic. I got this recipe from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts. I like it the most out of any recipe I've tried. I've used Julia Child's recipe, but it doesn't hold its shape well enough. This is my favorite!

Pate brisee can be used in sweet or savory pies and tarts. If you are making a savory tart just omit the sugar. You could even add finely minced herbs, garlic, or pepper to your dough. The same goes for sweet tarts, you can add finely grated lemon zest, nutmeg, cinnamon, and even things like maple syrup or honey.

Below is a basic pate brisee recipe with some sugar. I have taken a picture of my mise en place.


2 sticks of very cold butter cut into small cubes.
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (you can use pastry flour or a combination, you can even use a tad of whole wheat which is really good with pumpkin or pecan pies)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Ice cold water

1. Blend all of the dry ingredients. You can do this in a bowl or in a food processor.

2. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until they are processed to about the size of peas. You can do the same thing with the tips of your fingers or a hand held pastry blender, just work quickly. It is good for the pieces to not be uniform. The larger pieces, when rolled out, will create little sheets of butter in your crust. These little sheets are what make the dough flaky. The bits of butter that get processed really fine and cling to the flour are what make a crust tender. If you find that your dough is not flaky enough, leave bigger pieces. If you find that is is really hard, try adding a tablespoon of vegetable shortening.

This is what the crumbs should look like. Notice the flour is still dry. That is good; it means that the butter hasn't melted into it.

3. Next we dribble in water and pulse the processor sparingly. If you're using liquid sweeteners add them now instead of to the dry ingredients. The key with pastry dough is to add as little water as possible. I usually add a little more water to my tartlet dough in order to make it easier to work with and stronger after it bakes. Adding water activates the gluten, or rubbery quality, in the dough.

Here is what my tartlet dough looks like after I add water. You could get away with a little bit less. Grab the dough and squish it together. If it holds it shape it has enough liquid. This could take two tablespoons or a half cup depending on the humidity of your ingredients and your kitchen.

4. Remove the dough and form it into a puck shape. You can wrap and freeze it, or chill it for thirty minutes and then use it. This recipe makes enough for one double crust pie, or two bottom crust pies.

This recipe takes me about 5 minutes to make. Once you become good at making this pate brisee, all of the pies and tarts you love become really easy to make!

A Tip:

The key to making pie crust or pie dough is speed and temperature. This is one case where living in Alaska is a gift. Since it is so cold here I very rarely have problems with my butter melting. If you live in a warm or hot climate just know that if your butter gets smushy you can always stop and put everything in the fridge or freezer. If you put things in the freezer to cool quickly just make sure you don't forget about it! Rock solid butter isn't good for the blades of a food processor. Another way to limit problems if you live in a furnace is to freeze your dry ingredients and the bowl and blade of your processor, or your pastry blender and bowl, before beginning.

Pizza: A simple food

I grew up eating something that we called focaccia. It wasn't really the squeaky, olive oil filled, inch and a half high, slack dough that real focaccia is. What I had was little margarita pizzas. The are delicious! Even now the combination of fresh mozzarella, garlic, tomatoes, and basil reminds me of happy times when I was little. My mom would make one for every person. I loved to watch them bake, but even more that that, I loved to make my own.

I've found that pizza dough freezes beautifully. Wrap it tightly and freeze it after its rise, then you can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. I unwrap it immediately shape it, top it , and bake it. It come out wonderfully.

If you have dough sitting in the freezer, pizza making becomes an easy dinner. Just put anything you have on it. For this pizza I began by rubbing oil, salt, and crushed garlic into the crust. Then I laid whole basil leaves over the entire bottom. I sprinkled caramelized onions, pieces of bacon, halved cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzerella, and little dots of chevre. I put some pepper on top and baked it in a 450F oven, on a pizza stone, until it was done.

Here is an excellent crust recipe that I found on Simply Recipes:

1 1/2 C warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
around 3 1/2 cups of bread flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix the yeast in the water and let it bloom. It will either bubble or become creamy. Make sure your yeast is fresh. Add some of the flour to make a paste. Let it rest for about five minutes. This will allow the gluten and starch in the flour to absorb the water. It is called autolysis.

Beat it in a circle (one direction) in order to develop the gluten. When you see that it has become stringy add the olive oil salt and sugar. Salt and oil inhibit gluten development, and adding the sugar to the yeast too early can develop an overly yeasty flavor. We want a nutty flavor from the flour.

After everything is mixed, add flour in small amounts until you have formed a shaggy mass of dough. Remove it from your bowl and knead it, adding small amounts of flour, until you have a soft and pliable dough which is no longer sticky.

Tip: If you don't mind taking a little more time, it is sometimes good to let the dough rest for about five minutes before you think it has enough flour. The rest usually does the trick and the dough is no longer sticky. If you put too much flour in your dough you will get a really dense crust which is more like normal bread. If you keep the dough moist it will take on large bubbles and a chewy texture. That is what pizza should be like!

This dough will make two pizzas. I divide it in two, wrap it, and freeze it.


Ballotine of Chicken, Polenta, and Mushroom Cream Sauce

I love Jacques Pepin. He's wonderful. After watching an inspiring episode of Essential Pepin, I decided to try his recipe for a Ballotine of Chicken. Here's what it is:

Basically it is a whole chicken whose bones I completely removed. After that I made a stuffing with spinach, garlic, olive oil, bread, and feta (I didn't have any gruyere at home). Then you stuff the bird, tie it with  a succession of half-hitch nots to keep it together, and roast it slowly. I'm not going to post Jacques Pepin's recipe, or show you how to bone out a chicken. I'm not an expert. Here is a link to the original:

If you click at the top where it says Episode: Fowl Play, you can watch the video where he shows how to prepare the chicken. I find watching is much more useful than reading when it comes to technique.

The point of my trying this was to learn how to take all of the bones out of a chicken. It is supposed to be one of the daunting kitchen tasks. I found it to be very simple. The only problem I found was that I wasn't always strong enough to rip the meat from the carcass. Oh well! I managed. Don't ever be afraid to try something in the kitchen. If it hadn't worked we would have still had delicious chicken for dinner. I just would have roasted pieces instead.

The verdict: my sweetie, Adam, and his friend loved it! They couldn't compliment the dinner enough. I, on the other hand, was not crazy about it. I don't really like eating chicken skin. I know! Someone who loves food as much as I do! It probably has to do with not eating it early in life; I never developed the taste. I think it is a beautiful presentation, but if I'm only cooking for myself I'll stick to stuffing chicken breasts. I can remove the skin more easily that way. 


Here is out little friend, boneless, tied up, and ready to roast!

My mom gave me a bag of polenta that she wasn't using, and I thought it would go great with the chicken. Polenta is basically Italian grits, for those of you who might not know. Polenta is a coarse corn meal. It is usually made with stock, herbs, butter, and sometimes cheese. It is really easy, just follow the liquid requirements for whatever brand you buy. Depending on the size of grain the liquid might be different. I made mine with homemade chicken stock, thyme, and butter. 

I realized at the last moment that I needed a sauce. I had some mushrooms in the fridge, so I cooked them with some sauteed onions, added some white wine, salt, pepper, and finished it off with some cream. It worked perfectly with the meal!

Oh! A final tip: don't throw away the bones. Save them for stock. I boned out the chicken the night before and used some of the stock on my polenta!