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Saturday, June 27, 2015

10 Pastry Recipes Everyone Should Know

Traditional Apricot Tart in a Sucree Shell

10 Pastry Recipes Everyone Should Know

Let's start at the very beginning... 

In any discipline, there are always some basic concepts that must be mastered before you can tackle the advanced stuff. You don't get on a Harley when you still have training wheels on your bike. But over time, those basics become part of your DNA... and once they are, you can finally let loose and really have some fun.

Now seemed to be the perfect time to step back and cover what I think are the top 10 recipes that are at the foundation of pastry. 

Over the next few weeks, I will cover each of the following in detail, starting with Pate Brisee and Pate Sucree -- flakey and sweet pastry dough for all! Once all of these are nailed down, the skies the limit in terms of the recipes that will follow.

Pate Brisee

1. Pate Brisee

Pate Brisee (pronounced paht bree-ZAY) is a simple dough that produces a tender, moderately flaky crust. It is frequently used for pies and tarts, both savory and sweet. Made with just a few ingredients (flour, butter, water and salt), it's a logical starting point for any pastry cook.

Pate Sucree

2. Pate Sucree

Pate Sucree (pronounced paht soo-KRAY) is the sweet cousin of Pate Brisee. Producing a crust that is similar to shortbread in taste and texture, Pate Sucree is a richer dough due to the addition of eggs and sugar. While typically used only for sweeter tarts, it is still part of the Pastry Canon.

Pate a Choux Swans (Cygnes)

3. Pate a Choux

Pate a Choux (pronounced paht a shoo) is one of those pieces of kitchen magic. It is used to make an array of puffy pastries such as Eclairs and Profiteroles. A unique, double-cooked dough, Pate a Choux inflates to tremendous proportions when baked in a high temperature oven given the high ratio of eggs to flour. Surprisingly simple to execute, this recipe is worth knowing, if only for the "Wow" factor.

Yeast Bread: Brioche Nanterre

4. Basic Yeast Dough

Make a mixture of flour with water and bake it the oven. What do you get?  Probably a dense, brittle slab that's the worst cracker you've ever tasted. Add some yeast to that mixture, and suddenly you're entering a world of tremendous taste and texture thanks to the labored breathing of millions of little fungi.

At first, yeast breads can be intimidating. It takes many steps (and usually several hours) to transform  a few basic ingredients into a tender loaf. And beyond the recipe, certain environmental factors like temperature and humidity can greatly affect the process. As a result, a baker has to learn when and how to adapt. Yes, that means there will be some failed loaves. But baking your own bread at home (ohh.. that smell alone!) is worth some heartbreak.

Laminated Dough: Poires en Cage

5. Laminated Dough

Laminated dough is used in everything from puff pastry to croissants and danish. More of a technique than an actual dough, laminated dough is the combination of a basic dough ("Detrempe") and a slab of butter ("Beurrage") that form a layered package ("Paton"). The dough and butter are layered through a series of "folds and turns". Depending on the desired final product, a laminated dough can have well over a thousand layers. When baked, the fat in the butter melts and the water content evaporates. This forms an empty pocket that expands to create distinct layers of crisp pastry.

Curds: Lemon Tart

6. Creme Anglaise

A simple and sweet sauce, Creme Anglaise is a stirred custard made from milk, egg yolks and sugar. When heated gently over a double boiler, the egg yolks thicken the sauce to produce a rich, creamy texture. The recipe for Creme Anglaise can easily be modified and adapted to create many products. Add lemon juice, and you can make a lemon curd. Fold a Creme Anglaise with some melted chocolate, and you have a rich chocolate sauce. This versatility makes Creme Anglaise another essential recipe to master and a logical starting point for sauces.

Pastry Cream Ingredients

7. Pastry Cream

Pastry Cream is another extremely versatile and adaptable product that features heavily in many desserts. When mixed with whipped cream, it is the filling for Eclairs. Mixed with Almond Cream, it becomes Frangipane. Fold Pastry Cream with whipped egg whites and baked in a ramekin, and you can make a sweet souffl√©.

The basic ingredients closely mirror those for a Creme Anglaise: milk, eggs and sugar. However, a starch (e.g. corn starch, flour, pastry cream powder) is added to make for a thicker final product. As such, Pastry Cream is considered a starch bound custard.

Meringue Based Raspberry Souffle

8. Meringue (French)

French... Italian... Swiss...! Is it roll call at the United Nations, or is this a litany of different techniques for whipping eggs whites with sugar?

The recipe for Meringue could not be simpler: beat one part egg whites with one part sugar. That's it! And yet, the process is so technique driven, even skilled pastry chefs have failed batches from time to time. It's another instance where practice is critical and a few failures only help to perfect the technique.

Chocolate Coated Caramel Candies

9. Caramel

Caramel? It may seem oddly specific to include in a list of basic recipes that everyone should know. And yet, understanding how to make a caramel (and perhaps more importantly, becoming comfortable working with molten sugar and the ever-present risk of severe burns) is critical for many desserts... not to discount how delicious caramel is on its own.

Making a caramel involves heating sugar to extreme temperatures, evaporating what little water content exists, and altering the sugar's molecular structure to unlock rich flavors out of thin air!

Chocolate Ganache Tart

10. Ganache

Chocolate Ganache is little more than chocolate melted with warm cream and stirred perfectly smooth. Depending on the proportion of cream used in the recipe, a ganache can be used as a glaze, sauce, icing, or filling. Another instance where creativity comes heavily into play, various flavors can be incorporated into any basic recipe. The cream can be infused with spices. Or flavored liquors can be stirred into the mixture. 

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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