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.
250g unsalted butter, cubed
100g castor (berry) sugar
1 room temperature egg, beaten
360g plain flour, sifted
Chocolate Creme Patisserie (pastry cream)
1/4 cup & 1/4 Tbsp of cornstarch (cornflour in Australia)
3/4 cup sugar (divided use)
2 cups of whole milk (divided use)
4 large egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup of dark, semi-sweet chocolate chips
A pinch of salt
15-20 medium strawberries of similar size, washed & hulled
Special equipment: 8-inch fluted tart pan with removable base, blind baking mix like ceramic beads, dried beans or rice, baking paper
- Make the pastry cream. Combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of milk. Blend the egg yolks into the cornstarch mixture while stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is completely smooth.
- Combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and salt in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then remove from heat.
- Gradually pour the milk mixture into the cornstarch/egg mixture while constantly whisking.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and continue cooking over a medium heat while vigorously stirring with a whisk. Make sure you stir into the corners of the pan as this is where the cream can catch and burn.
- Keep stirring for about 5-6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and the whisk leaves a trail of cream.
- Remove pan from heat immediately and stir in the chocolate until combined and smooth.
- Transfer the pastry cream to a storage container and cover surface of the cream with plastic cling wrap or parchment paper. This will prevent a skin from forming.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate until needed.
- Use your clean hands or a mixer to cream the butter together with the castor sugar until it is smooth.
- Add the beaten egg and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
- Place sifted flour on a clean bench. Make a well in the middle and add the butter.
- Use your fingers to gently fold the flour in. Don't squash the mixture or use your palms. Just use your fingertips with a very light tough to bring the dough together.
- Roll dough into a large log and wrap with plastic wrap. Rest in fridge for 20 minutes.
- After this time, pre-heat the oven to 200C. Lightly grease the tart tin.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap it. Place it on piece of plastic wrap (cling film). Place another piece of plastic wrap on top of it and then roll in all directions with even, steady pressure to make a large circle about 1cm (1/2") thick. Make sure you roll the dough about 8cm (4") wider that the base of the tart pan.
- Gently transfer the dough to the tart pan. This can be done by loosely folding the dough over the rolling pin then positioning it over the tart tin and slowly unfolding it.
- Ease the dough into the corners of the pan and use your fingertips to gently press the dough against the sides to fill in the fluting.
- To trim the overhang, just run your rolling pin over the top of the tin.
- If there are any holes in the dough, simply take a small piece from the overhang trimmings, moisten it lightly with water and position it over the hole. Press it gently into place.
- Use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the pastry. This is called "docking" and helps prevent the pastry from puffing up as it bakes.
- Line the pastry with baking paper or foil and add enough pie weights (uncooked rice or beans) to fill the pan.
- Bake the pastry for 12-15 minutes or until the edges pull away from the tin. Remove from oven and remove weights and baking paper. The centre of the tart may still appear moist but this is alright. Set aside to cool.
- Once cooled, fill tart base with pastry cream. Spread in an even layer. Arrange the strawberries over the surface of the cream -- they should fill the entire surface so that no pastry cream is visible.
- Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours.