Thursday, August 03, 2006
I've been taking a pastry class at the Institute of Culinary Education which has inspired a lot of weekend pastry making. Pastry is the one major hole in my dessert repertoire; I can do cookies, cakes and cupcakes without issue but I've never mastered the art of pastry making so this is my chance. During the first session we learned two basic doughs which offer endless possibilities: pâte brisée, (a flaky dough), and pâte sucrée, a sweet and slightly dense pastry dough. The former is a little tricky for a few reasons: 1) it requires quick work to keep the dough from becoming warm, melting the butter and losing its eventual flakiness 2) it needs to be kneeded without overworking it lest it become tough and 3) it can’t be patched well and needs to be rolled out only once.
There is so much gorgeous fruit in farmers markets now I was inspired to try a fig tart with beautiful fresh figs. I used my class dough recipe and some simple instructions for making a fig tart adapted from one of my favorite seasonal cookbooks.
For the dough (makes 1 1-crust pie)
1 ¼ cups (about 5 ½ ounces) all-purpose unbleached flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water (put ice cubes in glass of cold water to chill)
For the filling
6 tablespoons sugar or less if fruit is quite ripe
1/5 lbs fresh figs
To make the dough
Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Pour mixture onto a clean, smooth surface such as a stainless steel table. Cut butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and add to dry ingredients. Toss once or twice to coat pieces of butter. Use your hands to rub the butter into the dry ingredients by breaking it into tiny pieces, continuously pinching and squeezing it into the dry ingredients. Be careful to keep the mixture uniform by occasionally reaching down to the bottom of the mixture and mixing all the ingredients evenly together. Continue rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces of butter are dime/nickel-sized. Create a well in the center of the dough, spoon 2 tablespoons of the water into the hole, and mix gently with your fingertips, gradually working the water into the dry ingredients. The mixture will crumbly in the beginning but should begin to come together into a ball. If the mixture still appears crumbly after working it, add the remaining water (plus more if needed after mixing together), 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough holds together easily. (Note: too little water makes a flaky crust that will crack during rolling; too much water makes an elastic, bread-like crust that lacks flakiness. Do not over-work the dough or it will become tough.) When finished, you should have a ball of dough with small pieces of butter still visible in the mixture. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and press it into a 6 inch disk. Refrigerate until firm, or until you are ready to use it, at least 1 hour.
To make the tart
Clean and dry work surface. Dust lightly with flour. Wipe rolling pin clean. Dust lightly with flour. Pound dough with rolling pin in two directions so it begins to spread out then roll dough into a ~9 inch disk by rolling in one direction (away from you), turning dough 90 degrees and rolling away from you again. Repeat process until you have a 1/8 inch think disc, dusting more flour under dough and on rolling pin if it sticks.
Trace a ~9 inch circle in dough using the bottom of a tart pan as a guide. Quarter figs through the stem or, if large, cut them in sixths. Set aside in a bowl. Just before you are ready to assemble galettes, sprinkle figs with 6 tablespoons of sugar and toss gently to distribute. Transfer dough to a heavy baking sheet. Arrange figs attractively on dough, leaving a 1 ½ inch edge all the way around. Fold the edge over to create a border making sure there are no cracks in the dough or the fruit juices will seep out during baking. Patch, if necessary, with bits of trimmed dough lightly moistened with cold water.
Brush border with a little egg wash (1 yolk lightly beaten with a pinch of salt), then sprinkle the border generously with sugar. Bake at 425 degrees until crust is golden and fruit is bubbly, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool slightly before serving.
Make several individual tarts instead of one large tart