Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pâte Brisée and Crème Pâtissière

I am now a baker for Wink Cupcakes here in Seattle. With a new job and unemployment payments finally kicking in, I am feeling the financial noose finally beginning to slacken. As a reward I splurged and purchased a new book I have been eyeing at Barnes and Nobles for quite some time. "Pastry: Savory & Sweet" by Michel Roux is mostly a listing of recipes with a smattering of information on technique and ingredient selection. But, oh, the recipes. Everything from the simple apple tart to rabbit pate en croute (a rabbit pate wrapped in a raised pastry dough) to croissant baguette with pesto. I am not sure who this guy is, apart from the knowledge that he is French, apprenticed at age 14 in a French bakery, has held a 3 star Michelin rating at his restaurant in England for 23 years, and has written a couples of books, one on eggs and one on sauces. Whoever he is, his recipes seem, to me, a cut above the normal fair you get from Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, et. al.
With this afternoon off I figured I would take some recipes for a test drive(with adaptations in consideration of a certain vegetarian I know and love). So here is what I came up with:

I started with the pate brisee (pat bree zay) recipe (there are supposed to be accents but for some reason I cannot cut and paste from the bit map into the composition field, so I apologize in advance to all perfectionists out there reading this. Haha, like anyone is reading this!) This is the first recipe I made on the first day in the bakeshop at school. I think I will always love it for that. Below is Chef Roux's version:

Pate Brisee (adapted from Pastry: Sweet & Savory by Michel Roux):

1 3/4 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (150g) butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
1 tsp (6g) fine salt
pinch of superfine sugar
1 medium egg
1 tbsp (15ml) cold milk - I needed a splash more

"Heap the flour on a counter and make a well. Put in the butter, salt, sugar, and egg [btw, you do want your butter softened a bit, I didn't and it was a pain!]. Using your fingertips, mix and cream these ingredients together.

Little by little, draw in the flour, working the dough delicately until it has a grainy texture.

Add the milk and incorporate gently with your fingertips until the dough begins to hold together.

Using the palm of your hand, work the dough by pushing it away from you 4 to 5 times until smooth. Roll it into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until ready to use."

There is a recipe in the book for Cornish Pasties. It calls for chuck steak, potatoes, rutabaga, and onion in a clamshellesque pate brisee shell. I substituted Quorn "Chik'n Tenders" for the chuck steak and peas for the rutabaga and added curry and cumin in an attempted samosa-type filling. The result? Not bad!

I had some extra pate brisee and some fruit, so I decided to practice creme patissiere (pastry cream) with the recipe in Chef Roux's book:

Creme Patissiere (Adapted from Pastry ; Savory & Sweet)
makes about 1lb. 10oz (750g)

  • 6 medium egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp (125g) superfine sugar [take table sugar for a ride in the
    food processor]
  • generous 1/4 cup (40g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (500ml) milk -- [this is 1 pint or 1 lb of milk btw]
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise [I just added the imitation stuff after the
    final boil]
  • a little confectioners' sugar or butter [you won't need this btw, unless you
    really want to follow the recipe letter for letter]

"Whisk the egg yolks and one-third of the sugar together in a bowl to a light ribbon consistency [er..kind of hard to describe this. Basically whisk it until it turns a pale yellow, thickens, and starts to "pile" on itself in a ribbon pattern when you pour it.] Whisk in the flour thoroughly. [btw, at school we use corn starch in place of flour. It thickens much faster, but I actually enjoyed the flavor of this recipe far more].

In a pan, heat the milk with the rest of the sugar and the vanilla bean. As soon as it comes to a boil, pour it onto the egg yolk mixture, stirring as you go. [If you are using the vanilla bean, I would remove it, scape the seeds, and return them to the milk before pouring it on the egg yolk
mixture. Oh, and pour the milk into the yolk mixture slowly. You don't want to cook the eggs.] Mix well, then return the mixture to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously with the whisk. [Seriously, stir the bejesus out of it or it will burn. Make sure your pot is large enough for vigorous stirring and make sure to get into the corners. I want to try this in a saucier to see if it helps..] Let bubble for 2 minutes, then pour into a bowl.

Dust the creme patissiere with a veil of confectioners' sugar to prevent a skin forming as it cools, or dot small flakes of butter all over the surface. [Or skip this entirely and just put plastic wrap right against the surface... its much easier] Once cool, it can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days. Remove the vanilla bean before using."

With this creme patissiere, the left over pate brisee and some fruit, I was able to make some dessert for Sarah and I. They were very tasty if I do say so myself.

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