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~ Making Pate Brisee: Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~

PICT0392Here in Melanie's Central Pennsylvania Kitchen it's the height of the berry season.  In our backyard, it's been a great year for sweet strawberries, Joe's sour-pie-cherry tree yielded 38 pounds of gorgeous cherries, and, his plump, juicy blueberries will be taking over my kitchen by the end of this week.  So, before posting my recipes for some great berry pies and rustic fruit galettes, I thought it best to begin by posting my favorite recipe for pie pastry.

PICT5314 Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, here in our house there is always some sort of fruit or vegetable, cheese or protein that can be turned into a delicious pie dessert or hearty pie meal (a quiche).  As I just mentioned, my husband's fruit trees and vegetable garden, from apples to zucchini, almost continuously challenge me weekly to bake a sweet or savory pie of some sort.

Creamy Crabmeat Quiche (Just Out of Oven) #1 My family also loves quiche, so it is not unusual for me to occasionally serve one of these savory main-dish pies for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Do I ever use a boxed pie pastry for pie or quiche? I'm not going to lie:  of course I do, but for some reason I'm more inclined to "cheat" when making quiche... perhaps it is because when eating a hot, savory pie, you don't seem to miss the flaky pastry quite as much.

PICT0435 When faced head-on with "pie or no pie based upon having the time to make a crust from scratch", my vote will always be, "buy the crust and make the pie", but I always try to arrange for or figure out a way to make the time, because nothing compares to a great, homemade, flaky pie pastry.  In reference to time, pie pastry takes almost no time to prepare, less than 5 minutes by hand and about 1 minute in the food processor, but to do it properly, it needs at least 2 hours to chill followed by about 15 minutes to unchill before it can be rolled.  Here is a time-saving tip: even if you need only one pie crust, always make two, which takes the same amount of time, then freeze the extra pastry.

PICT0364 Is making pie pastry really "as easy as pie?"  Yes and no.  While pie pastry itself is a pretty straight-forward combination of a few simple ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, fat and liquid), the ratio of these ingredients, and the time-honored method of how they are combined, determines the quality of the pastry produced. The more fat (butter, shortening, lard), the richer and flakier the crust, which also makes it more delicate to work with, meaning:  if it rolls like a dream, sticks to nothing and doesn't start to get soft and bit melty by the time you're done putting it in the pie dish, it's probably not going to be a rich and flaky pie crust.  The more pies you bake and the more you experience various pie/pie pastry recipes, you'll notice a few fancy words for different types of crusts and terms for methods to bake them. The following should answer any questions: 

Pate (pronounced paht), without an accent over the "e", is the French word for "dough", "paste", "batter" or "pastry". Pate brisee (pronounced paht bree-ZAY) is a rich, all-purpose pie dough or short pastry used for both sweet and savory crusts (like pies, tarts and quiches) that can be served hot or cold.  The flaky brisee is prepared using butter, shortening and just a hint of sugar. Pate sucree, (pronounced paht soo-KRAY) a variation of pate brisee, is a rich, sweetened short pastry, used exclusively for desserts such as pies, tarts and filled cookies.  The sucree (which will be a separate post here on Kitchen Encounters) is prepared using butter only and quite a bit more sugar.  Pate sucree is sometimes mistakenly referred to and confused with pate sablee (pronounced paht sa-BLEE).  While both sucree and sablee pastry are sweetened and prepared identically, the sucree is prepared using granulated sugar while the sablee is prepared using superfine sugar (or caster sugar as it is known in Britain).  

In the case of brisee, sucree and sablee, all three are chilled prior to rolling, baking or blind-baking.  Blind-bake or bake blind is the English term for baking a pie shell before it is filled.  For full instructions, you can read my post ~ How to: Blind Bake a Pastry Shell ~, by clicking into Categories 6 or 15.  Also, in the case of all three, they are quite quick and easy to prepare, especially if you have a food processor, and today I'm going to show you just how quick and easy it truly is... less than 1 minute using a food processor.  Chill  in pie terminology means just what the American slang term does:  relax.  Chilling your pie pastry for 2 hours or overnight allows the fat to re-solidify, the gluten in the flour to relax and results a really flaky, tasty pie crust.

A few final words of wisdom:  if you've been intimidated by making pie crust from scratch in the past, hopefully you won't be after today.  That being said, relax and do your best.  If while following my directions your pastry does not look exactly the same as mine, just come as close as you can without overworking your dough (which results in a tough crust).  Why did I just tell you this?  Because no two pie crusts EVER process exactly the same way -- not even for me.  

PICT0303~ Step 1.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, measure and place:

2 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon sugar

1  teaspoon salt

Using a series of 6-8 rapid on-off pulses, pulse to thoroughly combine these dry ingredients.

~ Step 2.PICT0310  It is important to keep the following ingredients very cold, so prep them just before you are ready to process your pie pastry:

6-8  tablespoons ice water + 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, or, 6-8  tablespoons plain water

several ice cubes (added to above water)

Note:  I use vanilla extract when making a sweet dessert and omit it when making a savory quiche.

12  tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

4  tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening, plain or butter-flavored

PICT0316 ~ Step 3.  Add the butter pieces and shortening to the flour mixture in the food processor.  

PICT0322 Using a series of 16-18 rapid on-off pulses, process until the mixture looks light and dry and resembles tiny, irregular flakes and crumbs.

PICT0324 Add 4 tablespoons ice water and process again in 3-4 rapid on-off pulses.  Add 2 more tablespoons water and process in 3-4 rapid on-off pulses.  Stop and feel the pastry, taking care not to touch the blade.  It should be just damp enough to mass together but will not have formed a ball in the processor.  If necessary, add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time, processing for an instant, 1-2 pulses, after each addition.  Gather the dough up (taking care not to touch the sharp steel blade).  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide dough in half and form into two balls, about 12 ounces each.  

PICT0342 ~ Step 4.  Place each ball of dough on a piece of plastic wrap.  Using the heel of your hand and your fingertips, pat press and flatten each ball to form a disc, about 1/2" thick and 7" round.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours, or overnight, prior to rolling and forming a pie crust (or freezing).

Note:  Technically, if you have not overworked your dough, you can roll it out without chilling it, but chilling will definitely produce a more flaky, flavorful crust.  Here's why: Chilling re-solidifies the fat (whatever kind is used), keeping it in the flaky state, as well as relaxes the gluten in the flour, which will help to keep the crust from shrinking as it bakes.

PICT0350~ Step 5.  It's almost time to start rolling.  You'll need two tools:  a pastry-board and a rolling pin. There are a lot of fancy boards and mats available, as well as a variety of rolling pins.  It's too bad one can't test drive them before purchasing, because I've had some less-than-desirable results, especially with roll-up plastic mats, although I do like the silicon ones. 

I'll be using my favorite Vermont maple pastry board that has a "lip" across the front which keeps it from sliding around while rolling  pastry.  I use it exclusively for bread, pasta and pastry, meaning:  I've never left any meats or vegetables touch its surface.  If you don't have a designated pastry board, place a dampened kitchen towel or paper towel underneath whatever you do have to keep the board from sliding as you roll.  Next, you'll need a rolling pin.  There are several different types and any type you have on hand or feel comfortable with will work just fine.

PICT0361 ~ Step 6.  Remove the pie pastry from the refrigerator and set it aside to soften until it is soft and pliable, but still somewhat chilled.  If you've formed the pastry like I did, about 12-14 minutes is just perfect. Unwrap the pastry and place it on the pastry board, on top of a piece of wax paper that has been lightly sprinkled with some bench flour. Lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry as well.

PICT0370 ~ Step 7.  It is time to roll out the pastry and my tool of choice is a very small rolling pin that allows me to roll from the "center out", which is the Golden Rule of rolling out pie pastry.  It also allows me to apply just the right amount of pressure wherever it is needed to insure a pie crust that will be even in thickness.

Note:  If the pastry cracks in spots around the edges, just pinch and pat the crack closed before it gets too large and continue rolling.

This nifty little rolling pin rolls from the "center out" in all directions until the pastry is approximately 2" larger than the size of my pie dish (or any other size or shape I need it to be).

PICT0379 Note:  This is a 9" quiche-type dish, which I adore baking pies in. This pastry, if rolled just a bit more will easily fit a 10" dish as well.






~ Step 8.  Lift the pastry up (on the wax paper). With conviction, gently but firmly flip the pastry upside down into the pie/quiche dish. Remove the wax paper.  Do NOT worry one little bit if it tears or rips. In fact, if you've prepared your pastry correctly, it probably will. Pat/press it into the dish and repair any rips.  Using kitchen shears, trim the pastry to within 1/2" of the dish's perimeter and form a basic border.

Using one knuckle and two fingertips, form a decorative border around the perimeter of the dish (as pictured below).  Place the dish/unbaked pie shell in the refrigerator to chill while preparing the pie filling.

PICT0393 Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry:  Recipe yields 2, 9"-10" pie pastries.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 1-cup measuring container; small cutting board; paring knife; plastic wrap; pastry board; wax paper; rolling pin; 9" or 10" pie or quiche dish; kitchen shears

PICT0520 Cook's Note:  After pie pastries have been pre-formed, wrapped in plastic and refrigerated , they can be stacked and frozen for up to 6 months.  In preparation for "pie holidays" like Thanksgiving or July 4th, I take an hour from any given day to make and freeze 6-8 of them several weeks ahead of time. When the holiday arrives, all I do is thaw them in the refrigerator, roll, form, fill and bake.  How easy is that... you can thank me later.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)


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