Monday, August 24, 2009

A Tart Pie

The weather seems to be warming up already so I'm making the most of the last few dreary days of winter with rhubarb and custard-filled pies. It's my first attempt so I consult baking expert Shirley O. Corriher on the whys and how-to mumbo jumbo of making pie crusts and borrow a vanilla pastry cream recipe from the very famous Adriano Zumbo.
According to Shirley, sugar prohibits the formation of gluten and, in the case of pie doughs and shortcrust, proves to be functional in addition to acting as a sweetener. I choose butter over lard as the source of fat for my pie crust as it contains diacetyl - the source of buttery flavour which is commonly added to margarine and oil-based shortenings. Oh how I love diacetyl!
The actual process of making these pies isn't as difficult as it is time-consuming. I only have four little fluted tart tins so making a whole batch is somewhat of a pain in the butt with the hour of refrigerated resting time in between shaping and baking. I fill half of the pies with a rhubarb and currant mixture and the remaining half with a slurry of date and lime. I've somehow managed to lose my recipe for the date and lime mixture but fortunately it's easy to remember - pitted, chopped dates cooked with a little orange juice, a little water and tiny pinch of salt until mushy then sloshed with fresh lime juice.
I originally plan to fill the pies with fruit filling, pastry cream and then bake them but for some reason the pastry cream breaks down during the baking process and leaves me with a curdled mess. So I change methods and half-fill the pies with fruit filling, popping the lids on and baking them then piping the pastry cream in to fill the remaining cavity afterwards.
The combination of deliciously tart rhubarb with lusciously smooth pastry cream is a soft and sensual experience aided by the occassional burst of sweet currants and feels just right with the crunchy, flaky crust that envelops it.
Pie Crust

600 g flour
450 g unsalted butter
170 g icing sugar
2 g salt
85 g cold water

55 g buttermilk
1 egg white
Sift together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
Rub the butter into the flour and stir in water and buttermilk.
Press dough together until it forms a ball.
Flatten, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour.
Rhubarb Filling

310 g rhubarb
320 g water
2 g salt
50 g cane sugar
40 g castor sugar

25 g currants
Peel rhubarb by scraping a small knife along the cut ends of the stalks. This will lift up the long fibers and allow you to pull them away without removing the skin pigments.
Slice rhubarb and simmer with water, salt, sugar and currants for 20 minutes or until almost dry.
Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool.
Pastry Cream
a recipe from Adriano Zumbo

520 g milk
2 g salt
110 g egg yolks
132 g castor sugar
32 g potato starch
65 g unsalted butter, chopped
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Bring milk, salt and vanilla bean to the boil.
Remove from heat and allow to infuse for 20 minutes.
Whisk egg yolks, sugar and starch until pale.
Bring milk to a simmer and temper by slowly adding to eggs, whisking continuously.
Return to the pot and bring it back to the boil to thicken, stirring contunuously.
Remove from the heat and stir over a bowl of cold water until it reaches 55ºC.
Add the butter and stir until fully incorporated.
Cover with plastic wrap (prevents a from skin forming) and refrigerate until cool.
Roll out the dough to 2 1/2 - 3mm thickness.
Using a fluted tart pan 11cm x 2 1/2 cm (4 1/4" x 1") as a guideline, cut out a circle a little over 1" larger in diameter. This will be the base.
Turn the pan upside down and press into the dough to cut out a fluted round. This will be the lid.
Continue cutting out an equal number of bases and lids until there is no more dough.
Press the bases into the tart pans and trim off the excess (keep leftover dough wrapped and refrigerated).
Half-fill with cold rhubarb mixture and place the lid on top.
Press the edge of the lid into the flutes with the left index finger while pinching from the outside with the right thumb and forefinger to seal.
Whisk the remaining egg white and brush over the top to glaze.
Use a small paring knife to cut slits into the middle of the lid to allow steam to escape.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 190ºC.
Bake pies for 25-30 minutes until golden.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing.
Place pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a small flat decorative piping nozzle.
Insert the nozzle into a slit and fill the cavity with pastry cream.

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