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November 2009

24 November 2009

Strawberry Tart


Week four into the pastry module and I am well and truly on a butter high. Not exactly great for the cholesterol but I’ve only got two weeks left until the end of term.

One of our recent lessons included making sweet paste, also known as “pate sucree”. 

Sweet paste is used for tart bases or shortbread cookies. There are several methods in which to make it with the ‘creaming’ or ‘rub in’ method resulting in a lighter and crumblier end product. 

There are a few important points to remember when making sweet paste, especially if it’s for a tart base.
First, when mixing or kneading the dough, do so with a light, gentle touch. Overworking the dough develops the gluten strands and results in a tough and often dry crumb.

Secondly, when the recipe says ‘rest the dough’ – rest the dough. No shortcuts or shaving off a few minutes here or there.

Resting pate sucree means wrapping it in plastic cling wrap and allowing it to sit in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you don’t let it rest, the dough will be too soft to handle and shrink if you try to bake it.  A dismal thing if it’s ever happened to you but it's something that can be avoided by just being patient. 

This strawberry tart took me a lot of time and patience to make. It's a scorching summer here in Sydney and soaring temperatures don't exactly make for perfect pastry-making conditions. Handling buttery pastry can be a difficult thing in the heat but I did it.

The tart was filled with a luscious dark chocolate crème patisserie and topped with fresh strawberries.

It was a funny moment when I'd finished taking photos of the tart. It was so lovely to look at. I stared at it for a while and realized with a slight twinge of disappointment that all there was to do now was to eat it.

I have found this attachment occurring throughout my pastry-making. And I'm not the only one. My classmates suffer from the same parental urges. We all hover protectively over our own danishes in class.

Ultimately, the eating always beats the looking.

Continue reading "Strawberry Tart" »

02 November 2009

Berry & Ricotta Danishes


There’s something magical and fascinating about puff pastry and the way the buttery dough rises up to form crisp, golden layers of which there are anywhere between 513 up to 1459.

This week I’ll be learning for a second time in my life how to make puff pastry from scratch.

I first made it at the Pacific Culinary Institute in Vancouver. It was time-consuming work requiring what seemed like endless rolling combined with deft handling of the dough. And, then there was the butter. Oh so much of it, carefully and methodically rolled in between each layer.

It is thought that early puff pastry found its origins in Rome but was then re-introduced and perfected in the 17th Century by legendary French chef Marie Antoine Carême.

Carême, who likened the art of pastry to architecture, is credited with developing the ‘six turn’ method that resulted in unparalleled layers of light, flaky pastry.

Well that’s all well and good if you’re a master pastry chef. I’m most certainly am not. Yet. 

For now I'll just stick to the store-bought kind, which for my purposes, is fantastic. While I’m not creating the kind of otherworldly delights found in Paris’ Poilane, I am winning friends nonetheless thanks to Careme pastry

Unlike other ready-made pastry Careme is actually handmade using natural ingredients. Based in South Australia's Barossa Valley, Careme sells four types of artisan pastry including sour cream shortcrust and all-butter puff pastry which I used to make these berry and ricotta danishes. 

Continue reading "Berry & Ricotta Danishes" »

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