Tag Archives: pastry

pastry for an apprentice pâtissière

25 Oct

Things I have learned as an apprentice pâtissière:

  • how to cut onions without crying blue makeup tears: peel them, put them in the freezer for five minutes, then slice
  • how to make a rose out of almond paste
  • how to beat a flan into submission with only minimal injuries


  • to shake hands with bakers to say hello and good-bye, none of that fancy-pants kissing
  • how to win a free croissant/pear-praline tart: say mmm, that looks delicious, though you will quickly long for a plain apple
  • only knead your pastry three times

Proper tart pastry: the first thing they taught us at pastry school, aptly enough. (It still annoys me how much prettier “pâtisserie” sounds in French than the bland all-purpose pastry or bakery in English.) Just gently rub the butter and flour between your palms. Knead it three times only. Chill before rolling. Carefully lift into the tart ring. Press firmly around the edges so that you could tip it upside down (our grumpy teacher tested a few unlucky students whose pastry collapsed onto the counter).

Now fill with whatever takes your fancy, and bake. Apple slices with a shiny glaze brushed on afterwards? Frangipan with blueberry? Walnuts and dried apricots with a maple-brown sugar-butter syrup?

Simple tart pastry (pâte a foncer)

250g flour

15g icing sugar

125g butter

1 egg

30g water

pinch of salt

Sieve flour and sugar together onto worktop. Cube the butter and start rubbing into flour mix with fingertips until mostly broken up. Then rub between palms with minimum pressure, letting it fall back down again. When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (so the butter is more or less evenly distributed, but don’t be too fussy) stop and make a big well in the middle.

Whisk the egg, water and salt so the salt dissolves then tip into well. Mix in with thumb and two forefingers. When the mxiture ressembles a loose ball, knead it three times. Flatten into a neat square, 1 cm thick, clingfilm and chill.

Roll it out on a floury surface, applying even pressure. Keep shifting the pastry, flouring underneath if necessary, to avoid sticking. Roll up around rolling pin and lift into (pre-buttered) tart pan, gently press around the sides.

Prebake it for a ganache filling. For a classic apple tart or tarte amandine, add your almond cream or apples before baking.

sunburnt red pepper tart

9 Apr

Hello, trite simile. Welcome, the winner of the most banal food poetry prize:

My dinner looks like a sunset.

An oversized scalloped sun, coloured a glorious orange – more than orange, a saffron-stained red. Seriously. It didn’t matter if I ate it or not, I could just admire it. I couldn’t draw it, the colour was too intense.

Once I did finally taste it though, the flavour matched the colour perfectly. The deep red, the charred sweetness of roasted peppers was just slightly muted by the sour creamy bite of creme fraiche. The flecks of basil and nutmeg added a little intrigue. The pastry stayed crisp and perky in its scalloped pan. But most of all, the smooth custard filling – like quiche, but better – tasted of enhanced roasted peppers and of distilled colour.

Make it just for the visual effect – one giant sunny tart next to a bowl of green leaves, a mess of grated carrot salad, a nutty brown crust of bread.

sunburnt red pepper tart
(adapted from Roast chicken and other stories by Simon Hopkinson)

serves 3-4 people as a light supper

110g plain flour
50g butter, cold, cubed
1 egg yolk
some water

4 large red peppers
150ml creme fraiche
2 eggs and 1 egg white
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
dash of dried basil

Make the pastry: rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and several spoonfuls of water and stir roughly with a knife until the doughs starts to come together. Push it into a ball with your hands – adding more water if necessary. (This can be done in a food processor, of course.) Try to handle it as little as possible. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for half an hour.

Now roast the peppers: place the whole peppers on a lightly oiled baking tray, to prevent sticking, and bake in a very hot oven (250C) for half an hour or so. They should be just starting to collapse with a few black spots. Then put them in a large bowl and cover tightly with clingfilm. The steam will make it easier to skin the peppers. Gently prise each pepper in half with a knife and your fingers, and pull out the stalk with the seeds attached. If you can be bothered, you can also skin the peppers.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry dough to fit a 20cm tart pan. Without a rolling pin, I like to roll the pastry between two sheets of baking paper with an empty wine bottle. Arrange in the tart dish, prick the bottom and bake for about 20 minutes at 180C until just golden-brown.

Drain any liquid from the roasted peppers then blend them with the remaining eggs and egg white and the creme fraiche until smooth. Add the nutmeg, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the pepper filling into the prebaked tart shell and put back in the oven for 30 minutes. (There will be some filling left over which you can bake separately in a little dish sans crust.)

When the tart is firm to the touch and just starting to crack, remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes or so. Serve with something green for colour contrast.

Notes: The original recipe – which looked much richer – used 6 egg yolks instead of 2 eggs and 1 white and double cream instead of creme fraiche. I also forgot the clove of garlic which was supposed to be blended into the filling.

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