Pate Brisee (pronounced paht bree-ZAY)
a rich and buttery flavor and a crisp and crumbly texture. It is ideal for both
sweet and savory pies, tarts, and quiches. Once made, wrap in plastic wrap and
it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for about a
month. If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator for several hours, or even
overnight before using.
Pate Brisee contains just five
ingredients, flour, salt, a little sugar, butter, and water. It
has a high ratio of butter to flour which gives the pastry its crumbly texture
and buttery flavor. While it can be made by hand, a food processor
makes quick work of blending the pastry. Always have the butter and water cold,
and try to use a high quality unsalted butter. To
start, the flour, salt, and sugar are combined in your food processor. Then cold
butter, that has been cut into small pieces, is added. Use the pulse button to
process the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. (Do not worry
if you have a few large pieces of butter in the flour.) This will only take
about 15 seconds. Two problems can occur here. If you over
process the butter into the flour, it
will cause the butter to coat the flour, which means it will not absorb enough
water, causing a fragile dough that breaks apart. On the other hand, if you
under process the butter into
the flour enough, too much water is needed to bind the ingredients together,
which results in a tough pastry because too much gluten was formed. Next, the
water is added. About 1/4 - 1/2 cup (60 - 120 ml) of ice water is needed to bind
the ingredients together. Add the water gradually through the feed tube of your
food processor, processing just until the pastry starts to come
together in clumps. You do not want it to be a solid ball of dough.
It is processed just enough that when you press a little of the pastry between
your thumb and index finger and it holds together. Then place the pastry on your
counter, gather it into a ball, divide in half, and pat each half into about a
5-6 inch (12-15 cm) circle. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until
firm, for at least an hour, or even overnight. This allows the gluten in the
flour to relax so the pastry will be easy to roll out, and the butter to firm up
which reduces sticking and gives us that lovely crisp and crumbly texture. The
pastry can also be frozen for about a month. Defrost frozen pastry in
the refrigerator for several hours, or even overnight.
Once the Pate Brisee has been chilled until firm, remove one half from the
refrigerator, and place it on a lightly floured counter. Now, the tricky part is
rolling out the pastry. In order for it to roll out smoothly, without it
sticking to the counter or tearing, it has to be at the right temperature. Too
cold (it will tear), too warm (it will stick). This "feel" for the dough will
come with practice, so don't get discouraged if you have some trouble at first.
If the rolled out pastry tears a little, don't worry, just patch it back
together as best as you can. Lightly flour your rolling pin and always roll the
pastry from the center outwards, turning the pastry every so often, to ensure
the pastry is of even thickness. Once it is the desired size, roll the round of
pastry loosely around your rolling pin and then unroll it on top of your pie or
tart pan. Gently press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of your pan.
Trim the edges. It is now ready to use.