Friday, September 4, 2009

Alpha Baker


This summer my daughter, Sarah, and I took a class together at Sur La Table. Her confidence with pies was low and I still didn't know how to roll out a pie crust into a round, so we were excited to take the Summer Baking: Pies and Tarts class. Our instructor was Rachael Coyle, a pastry chef, and she was super. She gave very clear instruction, showing each step of the way, giving pointers as she demonstrated. Then the class was divided into groups and each group got to try their hand at making the pies and tarts.

I jotted down some of the information that was new to me.

~ In her pie crust recipes, Rachael doesn't give a measurement for water. It should be added a tablespoon at a time and worked in by hand so that you'll know when it feels right, rather than just dumping in the amount a recipe calls for and ending up with a gloopy mess. Because the amount of moisture the flour can absorb is very weather dependent, this step should always be done by hand.

~ When working in the water, as bits become moistened, pull them out of the bowl and set them aside. You avoid overworking the dough that way and are only adding moisture to the dry bits.

~ You can use a food processor to cut in the chilled butter, but add the water by hand. If you continue to use the food processor, you'll continue chopping up the butter, and won't end up with the pea-sized pieces needed to give a flaky pie crust.

~ If you make a double batch of pie dough, you can wrap 1/2 of it in a double layer of plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. It will keep for up to 1 month.


Rachael also gave very specific instructions on how to achieve a circle of pie dough.

~ Generously flour your work surface. Not just a dusting. You want enough flour so that the dough won't stick and you can move it easily.

~ Move the rolling pin back and forth straight away from your body and straight back in. Then turn the dough 45 degrees and repeat. Turn and repeat. Turn and repeat. Never try to push the rolling pin at an angle, as you'll get uneven force on the pin and the dough will be uneven in thickness.

~ Feel the edges to make sure it's even. Then just roll over the thick bits to even it out.

~ Use a dry pastry brush to brush the excess flour off the top of the crust. As you lift the crust, either draped over the rolling pin or folded, brush the underside with the pastry brush to remove the excess flour.


Then as we broke into groups, I learned a few other things. I learned that I'm an Alpha in the kitchen and it's really hard for me to sit and watch someone else do it wrong.

I saw a woman blithely rolling out her pie crust in precisely the way the instructor had just said NOT to do it, rolling back and forth at angles. I watched another woman manhandle her dough into a homogenous mass. And the pair at the KitchenAid were throwing ingredients in without regard to recipe or instructions. Sarah said it was really funny watching my face; she knew exactly what I was thinking as I bit my tongue to keep from shrieking, "Why are you here? Why did you pay $69 for the class if you weren't going to listen to the instructor? If you know everything already, why did you think your pies and tarts needed improving?"

Whew, deep breaths, deep breaths. Control regained.


When I got home from the class I was eager to put what I'd learned into practice. I made the Summer Berry Tart and wow, was it delicious! So, rounding out my week of blueberries, here's the tart recipe with pointers. But of course, if you already know all about making tarts, be sure to do it your way. Just don't tell me about it. It would stress me.


Summer Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream


Pate Sucrée
- enough for one 8-9-inch tart

7 oz. all-purpose flour
2 oz. granulated sugar
pinch of salt
4 oz (1 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp heavy cream, plus more as needed

(To cut the stick of butter, cut the stick lengthwise with a long knife, turn the stick a quarter turn and slice lengthwise again. Then chop slices off the end.)

Either by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cut the butter into the flour, sugar, and salt until the butter is very fine; the mixture should look like course sand. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolk and heavy cream. Add the liquid to the flour mixture and just mix until combined (just turn the mixer on for a second and then off); add more heavy cream if the dough seems dry. Gently, with minimal handling, press the dough into a flat circle, about 1-inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.



for the tart:


3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
1 cup mascarpone cheese at room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 pints assorted berries
confectioner's sugar for dusting

1- On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled pastry out into a circle just under 1/4 inch thick. Fit the pastry into a lightly greased tart tin (with a removable bottom) and press dough into the corners to that it lies flat with no air pockets. Trim excess pastry from the edges. Chill shaped tart shell for at least one hour.

2- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Blind bake the tart shell: fit the chilled pastry with a round of parchment paper and fill the parchment with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes; remove the parchment and the weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until the pastry shell is cooked through and golden brown. Let it cool completely.

3- Whip the cream with the sugar and Grand Marnier to medium peaks. Chill.

4- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, beat the mascarpone with the vanilla bean or extract until smooth with no lumps. Gently fold the whipped creaminto the mascarpone until just mixed.

5- Fill the cooled tart shell with the mascarpone cream and spread into an even layer. Arrange fresh fruit over the top. Dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

27 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

Fun class experiences and tidbits :)

And a great pie!! Wonderful dessert for the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Trish said...

Wow....what a beautiful pie and great shots! Yum. I am soooo impressed!

Dolce said...

Thank you, now I know I am Alpha too!

As for the dough, my mother taught me to do it by hand from scratch to finish, so you can indeed feel it better. And just as Rachel, neither my mother nor I can give a set amount of water to add, it's always "au pif" (eyeballed roughly, as we French say)

Palidor said...

Your tart looks delicious!

Grace said...

rockin' action shot, lynn. the tart's pretty nice too. :)

Daydreamer said...

Thank you for sharing with us. I agree with Grace, that action shot is awesome, great job!

Fallon said...

What a beautiful looking tart!

I never knew Sur La Table had cooking classes?

Katrina said...

Fabulous looking tart!
I just took a cooking demo class at our local natural foods store and our chef showed us how to make a "pie crust" as well and she said the same thing about adding the water a little at a time and working it in with your hands. She stressed never doing it in the food processor (although I often do, shh, and it usually works for me--just pulse and NOT TOO MUCH!)

Sounds like fun at the class! I love that kind of thing.

Anh said...

Such a wonderful tart! And I like the tips you got from the class. :D

Aimée said...

I want to make this, Lynn. I could use the kind of therapy making a pie can bring these days.

I doubt I would have held my tongue at the class, but *sigh* that is one of my faults.

Mama JJ said...

The picture of the snowing sugar is beautiful!

Lucky you, taking a class.

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

I too have been taught by my mom to eyeball the water, as required!
The tart looks great, I lovee how the filling sounds!

And great action pic!

eatme_delicious said...

Haha I would totally be thinking the same thing about people doing things wrong in the kitchen after just being told how to do it. I'm still a bit scared of making and rolling out pie/tart dough. Thanks for the tips! Love the photo where you're sifting icing sugar on top.

Anonymous said...

What beautiful photos. Looks delicious--can't wait to try it!

Elle said...

Know what you mean about people going to class and ignoring what was taught...try two and a half years of graphic arts classes...another place where you produce a product showing you listened...and many did not. You just want to shake 'em.
The photo with the powdered sugar falling down over the high and beautiful tart is amazing! Bet there weren't any leftovers.

thecoffeesnob said...

That pie is just gorgeous.

Your class sounds like so much fun! Thanks for sharing the tips, Lynn :)

Elle said...

Dear Lynn, this week of blueberry posts is a perfect example of why I have awarded you the Kreative Blogger award. Not sure how to do a link in comments, so you'll have to come over to my blog to get the details and pick up your badge.

Ugur Samsa - RecipesTR said...

Photos are so nice, also pie. Thanks for recipe.

Peabody said...

Well, that is about as perfect as you can get...minus the part that can kill me. Are you trying to kill me my friend with all these blueberries? :)

Bellini Valli said...

This is my kind of tart Lynn with the mascarpone and seasonal berries....is that me licking my lips at this hour of the morning.

Debbie said...

Wow, does that tart look delicious. Thanks for the rolling tip on how to get a circle. I always have that problem....

Abby said...

A) I ADORE that final picture. B) The 45-degree thing? Genius. I've always struggled to get my dough round, too. and C) I've never had a pastry brush bc I didn't think I needed one. Guess I do! (Would silicon work?)

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

So funny!
I would be annoyed too. What a fun class, I wish they had things like that here.
Such a gorgeous tart.

Baking Soda said...

So funny! I had that same daughter experience last weekend watching my mom do the alpha thing in a very polite way... and getting brushed off. I just knew what she was thinking. :Giggles:

Dee Light said...

Sounds like a great class:) I love makeing pies. The tip about the food processor is great. I've never been that happy with a crust from the food processor, but I,ve never known why (now I do). I also found the part about removing bits of dough as it becomes moist, so that it isn't overworked to be fantastic advice! I'm going to have to make a crust today and try your tips. Thanks for sharing some truely usefull advice.

Sprouted Kitchen said...

fresh berries add such a gorgeous color to desserts. love your pictures! looks delicious

Allie said...

That's an amazing picture with the powdered sugar cascading down!!