On pâte sucrée (and my favourite lemon meringue tart)

lemon-meringue-tart

I intended for today’s post to be short – almost-wordless short. Really, it was just meant to be a recipe that I developped for a nut-free pâte sucrée.
And that what it is, in essence. With a few notes around it.

In France – or at least at the pâtisseries where I worked, and in books and magazines – pâte sucrée will always call for ground almonds (or some other kind of ground nuts, depending on the finished tart). This gives the dough a short, crumbly texture, and a wonderful roasted aroma. No questions asked.
But here in Sweden, I’ve found that many people have food allergies, so I’ve had to improvise. And after many trials, I’ve finally worked out a nut-free recipe that I’m happy with, and that stands against the pâte sucrée I grew up making.

Now, I could tell you a few stories about chefs that I worked with in London and their relationships with customers who have allergies or dietary requirements. But I think it would be 1) too mind-your-French kinda stories and 2) too long to tell them all.
I must, however, share my favourite of all. Picture a couple of vegetarians asking about options in a very meaty menu. All I heard in response went along the lines of: “Do I go in a *insert swear-word of your choice* vegetarian restaurant and ask for a *insert swear-word of your choice* rib-eye?”.
Of course, a beautiful vegetarian tasting menu was promptly made, but this sentence somehow stuck with me, and I love to remember it fondly every now and then, and of course, to tell it to anyone who cares enough (or not) to listen.

The recipes

Pierre Hermé

This is the recipe that I started with. It’s absolutely beautiful – a given when it comes to Pierre Hermé, really.
However, over the years, I’ve come to adapt it into an easier-to-work with dough; which to this day remains my standard and usual recipe.

Pierre Hermé’s pâte sucrée

300 g unsalted butter
190 g icing sugar
60 g ground almonds
1 tsp sea salt
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
100 g eggs
500 g plain flour


My favourite

This recipe, which I think stems from a combination of Pierre Hermé’s, Valrhona and a few tweaks here and there, is as its name reveals without a hint of suspense, my favourite.
It’s one I can make with my eyes and my recipe notebook closed.

Of course, I always make a much bigger batch, somewhere along x5.5, which gives me enough to dough to roll fourteen 28.5x45cm sheets (a format, rather than being practical, obeys the rule of the baking paper that we have in kitchens: 45x57cm, which religiously gets cut in half in the morning, forming large piles that fit into gastros and baking trays, and lasts us through the day).
For those of you wondering about regularity of thickness between sheets, read further down to Notes, where you’ll find the answer.

Fanny’s favourite pâte sucrée

255 g unsalted butter
190 g icing sugar
70 g ground almonds
1 tsp sea salt
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
100 g eggs
510 g plain flour


A nut free alternative

When I realised many people here had food allergies, it made me question everything I had learn, heard or done in the past.
In France, at least, back when I was living there, very few pâtisseries catered to dietary requirements; yes, [to be said with a French accent] eat the tart or don’t. It was not something I’ve ever seen anyone – chefs or customers – think about, let alone be concerned.

In Sweden, it’s on the literal opposite of the spectrum, so much, that I always make sure to have at least three or four gluten-free options, two dairy-free alternatives, a couple of nut-free pastries, and a lactose-free crème brûlée (flavoured with tonka bean at the moment, because I think tonka and winter were always meant).
And this is why I had to give up my favourite pâte sucrée. I started working on a recipe, with mixed results – from my perspective only judging by how quick the lemon tarts sell out every time I put them in the display.

But after a few batches, I found the one that I’ve now been using for the past few months. A crisp, golden-brown crust that stays so.

Fanny’s nut-free pâte sucrée

280 g unsalted butter
180 g icing sugar
1 tsp sea salt
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
100 g eggs
40 g egg yolks
545 g plain flour

The process

If you’ve never made pâte sucrée before, I can only recommend you to head over to my old blog foodbeam, where you’ll find a detailed step-by-step.

Or simply follow this process:
1. In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cold butter (see note n°1 below), icing sugar, ground almonds (if using), salt, and vanilla, until just smooth.
2. Add the eggs (and yolk for the nut-free recipe) one at a time, mixing well after each addition, a minute or so. If making a larger batch, the eggs can be added a couple at a time.
3. Mix in the flour (read note n°2 below if making a larger batch) and work on low speed until just combined.
4. Divide the dough into three pâtons, roughly 350-360g each. Flatten each onto a feuille guitare (cf note n°3) using the palm of your hand and top with another feuille. Roll, always from the centre upwards, giving the dough a quarter turn every time, into a large disk, around 3-4mm thick. Place the dough onto a baking tray and set aside. Repeat with the other two pâtons; and either freeze for up to two months, or chill in the fridge for at least two hours or for up to a week.
If making a bigger batch, please refer to note n°4.
5. Line your tart ring and chill or freeze for an hour or two. Blind bake (see ressources below for a link to one of my posts “A few notes on blind-baking”).

Notes

N°1. The butter does not need to be at room temperature as many recipes might suggest. Yes, it makes for an easier mixing (especially by hand, which I suspect this rather obsolete step comes from) but it also makes the water contained in the butter more available to bind with the flour proteins, hence developing gluten more than cold butter would.
The quick mixing of the cold butter with the sugar acts as a mechanical (as opposed to physical) softener. And before you know it, you’ll have a smooth paste, ready to receive the eggs.

N°2. If making a large batch – larger than 5 kilograms in total weight – I’d recommend adding around 10% of the flour to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and working on low speed until incorporated; and then adding the remaining flour and mixing until just combined. Never overwork the dough as it would make the tart shell tough instead of crisp and crumbly.

N°3. Feuille guitare, litterally guitar-leaf, is a transparent polyethylene/acetate film that is somewhat rigid. Although it can be replaced by baking paper, I would – if given the choice – always use it to roll dough. It prevents the formation of creases in the dough (which could later results in cracks during baking) and yes, it looks neat.
They are also amazing for chocolate décors, which i could show you if you’re interested (let me know!).

N°4. When I make a x5.5 batch, I divide the dough into 14 pieces, around 450g each. And then roll them into 28.5x45cm sheets, making sure to trim the edges into a neat rectangle. This way, I can store my dough in the freezer in an airtight plastic gastro, and take out sheets when I’m making a tart shell mise-en-place.
By weighing each pâtons and rolling to the exact same size every time, I ensure an even thickness throughout the batch. This produces a dough that bakes uniformly, making sure all the tartelettes on one baking tray will be ready at the same time.

N°5. My absolute favourite rings when it comes to tarts are not the traditional tart rings that have rolled edges. I like simple entremet rings from Matfer. They’re 35mm-high and are completely smooth, with no welding mark.
I find that with 35mm-high rings, I get more use out of them. If I want to make a 2cm-high tart, then I simply cut a 2cm strip of dough that will become the edges of the tart. However, if I’d like to make a deeper tart, perhaps chocolate or pecan, then I simply line the ring up to its rim.
I know DeBuyer has recently come up with perforated rings in collaboration with Valrhona; and although I’ve tried them a couple of times, with great results in term on crumb texture and even baking, I don’t really like the marks they leave on the outer edge of the tart case.

N°6. I always bake my tarts onto Silpain – a variation oriented for bread bakers of the now-famous Silpat. I find that it gives the quickest and most even baking.

La cerise Le citron sur le gâteau [The cherry lemon on top]

Just like I did in Paris Pastry Club (almost its two-year birthday!!), I can’t resist to share the lemon tart recipe that has followed me for years – despite the MANY other lemon curds that I’ve tried to like. Of course, it’s from Pierre Hermé. And really, trust me, it’s the best you could, and will, ever make.

The recipe will leave you with some extra lemon curd – that always tend to disappear on top of ice-cream if my mum and sister are around. Or you could also, divide what’s left in piping bags, tie them tighly and freeze for up to 2 months.

Tarte au citron meringuée

Makes one 24cm tart, serving 12-16.

one 24cm blind-baked tart shell, using the pâte sucrée of your choice (or as I do in my book a lemon shortbread topped with a lemon sponge).

for the lemon curd
240 g caster sugar
zest from 3 lemons
200 g eggs
140 g lemon juice
(around 3 large lemons)
300 g butter, cubed, at room temperature

Place the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl, and rub the zest in the sugar for a minute or two. This step, although optional, diffuses the fragrant lemon oils into the sugar, resulting in a deeply flavoured and more complex lemon curd.
Whisk in the eggs (I like to handblend the eggs before adding them to the sugar as I find it gives the smoothest texture) and the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook the lemon curd until it reaches 81°C, stirring every minute or so.
remove the bowl from the bain-marie and allow to cool down to 55-60°C. Then whisk in the butter, one cube at a time. Handblend the curd for 6 minutes then pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a plastic container.
Clingfilm to the touch and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or better yet, overnight.

When ready to assemble the tart, make the Italian meringue.

for the Italian meringue
100 g egg whites
1/2 tsp sea salt
200 g caster sugar
60 g water

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place the sugar and water in a small pan, and bring to the boil over medium heat.
When the syrup reaches the boil, start whisking the egg whites on medium speed.
Cook the syrup to 118°C and pour over the soft peaks egg whites, making sure to run the syrup along the sides of the bowl to avoid it from splashing around the bowl.
Increase the speed slightly and keep on whisking until the meringue feels barely warm.

In the meantime, pipe a generous layer of lemon curd into your blind-baked tart shell using a piping bag fitted with a 12mm nozzle.
Pipe the meringue on top into a pattern, or simply pile it on and swirl. Burn using a blowtorch, making sure to rotate the tart to get every nook and cranny.

Ressources

– The way I roll pâte sucrée.
– Where to buy feuilles guitare? They deliver in the north-north of Sweden, so I assume the rest of the world is ok!
– A few notes on blind-baking tart shells.
– My absolute favourite not-for-tarts-tart-rings: Matfer entremet rings (24cm for 14-16 portions or 8cm for indivdual tartelettes). For comparison: traditional tart rings. The DeBuyer/Valrhona perforated rings.

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Something only we know – Our favourite cinnamon shortbreads

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It’s still very much winter here in Skellefteå. In fact, we’ve had a blizzard over the weekend; snow, at times twirling around with the winds; and at other times, falling almost horizontally. A western under the snow. Not unlike the Dyonisos album that lullabied my teenage years.

Oh love me, Oh kiss me,
I’m lying on western under the snow
You’re the sky of my heart
So come to me and take off your clouds

But there’s been something different in the air. It might have started on a Monday, almost a month ago.

There are the birds. And a sun warmer and brighter than it’s been for months. There are the morning walks by the river. And the temperatures that have risen from -26°C to -10°C.

Today, we opened our windows as the sun rose – the crisp air filled our flat while we were safely nested under the duvet. A make-believe spring of some kind. Something only we know; or perhaps, something only we make up.

Not much has happened in our kitchen. Dinners made of glass noodle salad with barely-warm roasted salmon. A few nights made of crispy rice and red wine. And Kalle’s wonderful breakfasts; the latest edition involving tomato sauce with plenty of onion and garlic, golden-brown bacon, eggs – with a yolk runny as it should be, perhaps some beans too. But most importantly, the råg or vete-kakor [soft polar bread] that he cuts into four and fry in the rendered bacon fat until almost burnt.
You’d also find a glass-jarful of biscuits on the counter. Sometimes, drömmar or syltkakor; but mostly our favourite cinnamon shortbreads.

And just like we were in love with a crispy cinnamon biscuit recipe last year (which you should try too as they’re on the opposite spectrum of the shortbreads I’m showing you today), 2016 has been about kanelkakor.

best cinnamon shortbread

Our favourite cinnamon shortbreads
Adapted from Leila Lindholm’s A Piece of Cake.

In Swedish, these shortbreads are called spröda kanelkakor; literally brittle cinnamon biscuits. And they are just that. Crisp and golden. With cinnamon just so. And when bitten, they’ll crumble into tiny morsels.

I like to bake them until golden-brown, which would be considered an offense by any Swedish mormor [grand-mother]. Yes, here, most biscuits are likely to be baked into the palest shade of gold; when the base just starts to brown around the edge.
But no matter how far north I now live, you can’t take the French in me away from deep-caramel tones.

The original recipe calls for a tablespoon of water, which I of course replaced with vanilla extract. Yes, vanilla never is a bad idea. And yes, you can forever-quote me on that.

The dough itself comes together in a minute or so. And perhaps, that’s why we’ve baked these shortbreads more than any other over the winter.
And although the recipe rightfully suggests to leave the dough wrapped in clingfilm in the fridge for at least an hour before baking, I haven’t found it necessary when I used cold butter. However, if your kitchen temperature exceeds 18°C, I’d recommend going ahead with this step to make sure your shortbreads won’t spread too much.

best cinnamon shortbread

Our favourite cinnamon shortbreads

Makes 12 larges biscuits or 16 smaller ones.

For the dough
225 g plain flour
75 g icing sugar
60 g potato starch
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
225 g cold butter
, cut into 0.5cm cubes

For the eggwash
one egg, beaten

For the cinnamon sugar
Combine:
100 g granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Line two baking trays with baking paper and preheat the oven to 175°C (165°C for a fan-assisted oven).

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until it forms a dough.

Roll the dough into a log and cut it into either 12 or 16 even slices, depending on the size you want your shortbreads to be.

Roll each slice into a ball, then flatten it onto the prepared baking tray. Repeat with the remaining slices.
Press a fork into each shortbread, then brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 24 minutes, or until golden-brown. Allow to cool down completely before placing them into an airtight box. These will keep for at least a week; although they’ve never lasted this long in our home.

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A brioche study, recipe: the “generic” brioche (control)

Analysing the impact of the egg-to-milk ratio in brioche formulas

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The formula

The recipe shown below will make two 500g loaves. I chose, however, to make half a batch, yielding to a single loaf, which is something I’ll carry on doing over the next experiments, as the kneading time of a half-recipe takes longer when done in a stand-mixer; more on that to come in part two: the method (ingredient list, pastry chef tips and techniques on brioche).

Brioche #1: Control formula

quantity ingredientBAKERS %
1038gtotal weight
500gflour100%
70gcaster sugar14%
15gyeast3%
8gsalt2%
150gmilk30%
150gegg30%
145gbutter29%

Notes

I haven’t finished writing about the method and techniques associated with rich doughs, so in the meantime, please refer to this article for detailed instructions on how to make brioche.

I ended up making the control brioche twice: after I baked brioche 2, I was amazed by the differences in between the two batches. So much in fact, that I thought something had gone wrong with the control brioche (I mostly suspected slow yeast or underproofing). So I went ahead and made the control brioche again, only to find out the differences were the result of the formula substitutions; and in no way related to the other ingredients or the method.

The difference in crumb colour on the pictures above is due to lighting (natural versus halogen) as I’ve just gotten an industrial halogen lamp so I would be able to take pictures at night – also known as 2pm here, hehe – and I’m still trying to figure it out.

Results

The oven-spring isn’t tremendous.

The crust is very thin and soft. As the loaf cools down, it wrinkles.

The crumb is light and soft, with a slight moistness to it. It’s has a beautiful texture and a lovely chew, almost reminiscent of a doughnut.

This “generic” brioche turned out amazing. I fell in love with its crumb and soft crust. The loaf stayed beautifully soft on the second day too; as we topped it with a thick layer of hjortronsylt [cloudberry jam].
I’ll definitely be making it again and again.

More on a brioche study

A brioche study, part one: the approach
A brioche study, part two: the method (ingredient list, pastry chef tips and techniques on brioche)
A brioche study, recipe: brioche #1, the control
A brioche study, recipe: brioche #2, the almost Chavot-brioche
A brioche study, recipe: brioche #3, the pain au lait
A brioche study, recipe: brioches #4 and #5
A brioche study, part three: impact of the egg-to-milk ratio in rich doughs.
A brioche study, ressources: Brioche in literature.

Explore the feature: A brioche study and follow our discoveries on instagram: #BRIOCHESTUDY.

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