pâte briséePosted: August 21, 2011
Pâte brisée is the name of the crust generally used for quiches and pies. There are countless recipes out there for the stuff, some involving things like shortening or even vodka, but it really comes down to a very simple list of ingredients: flour, water, butter, salt, sometimes a bit of sugar. Making a pie crust from scratch may seem like a time-consuming pain, but the results will be so vastly superior to any pre-made crust you can buy (plus it won’t be filled with any weird extra stuff that you wouldn’t normally stock in your own pantry). The process is broken up into several steps with some down time in between, and the more you make it, the faster you will become at the process.
Since I’m adding this crust recipe to complement yesterday’s mushroom quiche recipe, I’m including parbaking instructions at the end. Crusts for quiches are, as far as I am aware, always parbaked. For some cold custard dessert tarts, the crust is baked all the way before any filling is added, while for warm fruit pies, the whole pie is assembled first, before baking. This crust can be used in any of those preparations, in any recipe that calls for a pie or quiche crust – just make the dough, and then follow the instructions in your recipe for baking the crust.
This recipe makes enough for one quiche or tart. If you are planning to bake a pie that includes a top crust, you can just double it. There are several ways to incorporate the butter into the flour – in the food processor, with a pastry cutter, with your fingers. Various sources I’ve looked at recommend not using a food processor, as it’s very easy to over-blend and thus break up the clumps of butter too much. You want there to be visible bits of butter in the dough, as those are what makes the crust flaky in the end. I generally use a pastry cutter, but it’s also quite easy to blend with your fingers (and doesn’t require any fancy equipment!).
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
8 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and chilled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4-6 tablespoons ice water
In a large bowl, measure flour, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine. Add butter and blend with a pastry cutter until the butter is evenly distributed and broken up into small pea-sized pieces. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use your fingers: use just your fingertips and rub the flour and butter between your fingers quickly, until the butter is evenly distributed and broken into pea-sized pieces. You only use fingertips here because the rest of your hands are too warm and will melt the butter too much (so says Julia Child).
Once the butter is blended well enough, add 4 tablespoons of the ice water (not including any ice, of course). Stir the dough (or mix with your hands) into as much of a ball as you are able. If there is still a lot of extra flour, you can add in an extra tablespoon or two of water (I don’t think I generally have to do this).
Once the dough is starting to come together, dump it out onto a lightly-floured surface. This next step is called the fraisage, where you blend the butter and flour once more before refrigerating the dough for a bit. Form the dough into a ball, then, with just the heel of your hand (again, your palms are too warm), and starting on the side of the dough that is farthest away from you, push small clumps of the dough away from you in a firm, quick smear. Repeat until all of the dough has been smeared into the new pile. Gather the dough together again and knead it very briefly into a ball. Wrap it in wax paper (plastic wrap will also work), and refrigerate for at least an hour, or up to 3 days.
Once your dough has chilled, it’s time to roll it out. Flour the surface on which you plan to roll the dough. Place the dough on the counter and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top, then roll it into a 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. If any part of the dough gets stuck, lift it gently with a metal spatula or bench scraper (a very useful tool if you have one), flour the surface underneath again, then go back to rolling.
When I make quiche, I use a removable-bottom pan. There are plenty of other kinds of tart and pie pans out there that can be used as well. Before putting the dough into the pan, butter the bottom and sides of the pan. If you are using a removable bottom pan, I recommend wrapping the bottom with aluminum foil – otherwise butter tends to seep out and make your oven smoky. To move the dough to the pan, you can either fold it in half, place the folded side down the middle of your pan, and then unfold the dough, or you can roll the dough around your rolling pin and then unroll it over the pan. Carefully push the dough down into the bottom and sides of the pan, and work any dough that is still hanging over the sides of the pan down into the sides, so that the sides of your crust are a bit thicker than the bottom. Poke the bottom of the crust with a fork in 1-inch intervals, to prevent rising.
To parbake a crust, heat your oven to 400 F. You’ll need to weigh down your crust so that it doesn’t shrink. You can buy fancy pie weights for this, or you can just use some dried beans (I bought a bag the first time I made crust, and I’ve reused them every time since). Once your crust is molded in the pan, press a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil down into the pan and up the sides. Pour the weights or beans into the foil. Be sure to press the foil into the sides of the crust to ensure that it will hold up while baking. Bake for 8-9 minutes. Take out the crust and remove the foil and beans. Return crust to the oven for another 2-3 minutes. The crust should be just beginning to set and brown around the edges. Remove from oven, and the crust is ready to be filled.