yesterday was our pastry practical. of all of the practical exams we've had thus far, this one was possibly one of the more stressful. our written exam was far more science focused ("what is the role of salt in yeast breads?") and less winging it with a bit of fire and speed. one of the major components of the practical exam was rolling a disc of pate sucree and correctly filling a tart pan with it. this has never been one of my strong suits. i'm impatient. haphazard. my first pie at the beginning of the module left a lot to be desired.
my tart shell on yesterday's practical, however, scored perfect points.
so, how do you roll a perfect crust? pay close attention to your rolling technique. lightly dust your surface with flour. consider your pan. for each inch of the final size of your tart, add one ounce, plus two more at the end. for example, for a 10-inch crust, use 12 oz of dough. roll with firm, even strokes, taking care to lift the dough and give it a quarter-turn every few strokes so you can ensure a nice circle is formed. check your tart pan against your dough. once the dough is about 1 1/2 inches wider than your pan, lift the dough and lay over the pan. feed the dough into the pan so it forms sides and then fold along the inner rim to create a sharp delineation between bottom and sides of crust. feed the dough down into the pan and scrape away from your body using a bench scraper. when you inspect the final product, the walls should form a 90 degree angle with the bottom and be an even thickness all the way around.
early summer and spring blueberries pair particularly well with this tart. when they're bright and barely sweet, faintly acidic. they're a great contrast with the sweet vanilla filling and that crumbly, sugared crust.
tart shell (pate sucree)
1 1/2 lbs all purpose flour
8 oz sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. using your hands or the lowest speed of your mixer with paddle, slowly massage in the butter to the dry mixture (this is called 'sablaging' or the sandy method as the final result will feel like damp sand. i find using your hands works best.) until all is incorporated. take care to not allow the mixture to warm up much.
beat eggs in a bowl until fluid. stir in your flour+butter mixture until dough forms a rough ball. form into a 3-inch thick disc. wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (1 hour).
preheat oven to 350 degrees. fill your crust with baking beans (this is to weigh the bottom down so it cooks in the shape desired. otherwise, this dough will puff unevenly). bake for 35 minutes or until crust is dry and golden brown. rotate at least once and watch for hotspots! allow to cool fully before filling.
vanilla pastry cream
1 pint milk
2 oz cornstarch
4 oz sugar
1 egg + 4 yolks
4 oz butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1/4 fl oz vanilla extract)
add milk, vanilla bean, and half of the cornstarch to a saucepan and bring to a simmer. add remaining half of cornstarch to sugar. in a mixing bowl, beat eggs until fluid. add sugar and fully incorporate.
once milk is at a simmer, remove from heat and, while whisking, add 1/4 of the milk to the egg/sugar mixture. do this gently and be sure to constantly whisk to ensure that the eggs temper and do not scramble. add another 1/4 of the milk and repeat. continue until egg mixture is at the same temperature as remaining milk. return entire mixture to saucepan over heat. stir constantly (i prefer using a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom) until one bubble is released. remove from heat. strain.
spread on a silpat or parchment paper and press plastic wrap over to prevent a film from forming on top. chill for one hour. once crust is fully cooled, fill a pastry bag with cream and cut the tip off. pipe cream evenly into crust.
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/4 cup apricot nappage (1/4 cup apricot jam diluted with 2 tbsp water)
press berries in a circular formation into pie filling. warm the nappage until liquid in a saucepan. using a brush (preferably silicone), gently wash the top of the tart with the mixture and allow to set.