I’ve never been good at making pie dough. Well, actually, let me clarify. I can make the dough without any problems. It’s the rolling out the dough where I have trouble. I might start with a nice disk of chilled pie dough, but after some rolling, I end up with a jagged-edged, no-longer-circular piece of uneven pie dough. I have a tendency to work the dough a little too much when rolling. So I try my hardest to compensate for my weakness in the rolling arena by doing all the little "tricks" people do when trying to achieve a flaky crust.
After cutting my butter into cubes, I put the butter cubes in the freezer for about 15 minutes. I also place the mixer bowl containing my already measured flour, sugar and salt in the freezer too. The cold ingredients keep the butter from melting and absorbing into the flour while mixing. I wanted the butter to stay intact in large, flat pieces because it’s these flat pieces of butter that help create the flaky layers in the crust. If the butter melts and absorbs into the flour, the solid mass results in a less flaky crust. I also add some vinegar and sugar to the dough. The acidity of the vinegar inhibits some of the gluten formation and makes the dough less elastic. Less elasticity means easier rolling and less shrinkage. Sugar tenderizes the dough and helps the crust brown.
"shaggy" dough is okay as long as it holds together when squeezed
In addition to letting the dough rest for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator after making the dough, I allow the dough to rest again (for 15 to 30 minutes) after rolling and fitting it into my pan. This second resting period is optional but I like giving the dough a chance to recover from the rolling. The resting period allows the strands of gluten to relax before baking. Too much gluten makes the finished crust tough. Doing all these little things may have taken a bit more time, but I was hoping that it would combat my heavy handed rolling. And I have to say that it was totally worth the effort. The crust was super flaky.
I usually blog about sweet things and sometimes about my cat (who is definitely a sweet thing), but I’m taking a little detour down savory lane for "Hay Hay it’s Donna Day #5 - Savory Tarts" hosted by Tami, winner of HHDD #4. One of the best things I’ve learned from reading food blogs is the existence of Donna Hay, an Australian food stylist, magazine publisher and cookbook author. So in honor of Ms. Hay and her day, I’m making a savory tart with my flaky pie dough.
The recipe for the savory filling is adapted from Ina Garten’s goat cheese tart. I’ve always loved the combination of goat cheese with beets and walnuts in a salad, so I wanted to do the same flavors in the form of a tart. I added some chopped toasted walnuts and sliced roasted beets to the goat cheese custard. Ina’s recipe calls for basil, but the basil in my garden had already flowered and so it had turned quite bitter. I have lots of lemon thyme so I used that instead.
Goat Cheese, Roasted Beet and Walnut Tart
2 small beets
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh thyme
8 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 recipe Flaky Pie Dough, in a 9-inch tart pan and blind baked (see recipe below)
To roast beets:
Preheat oven to 375F. Wash the beets and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Wrap beets in foil and place in baking dish. Bake until beets are tender, about 1 hour. Let beets cool then peel and slice. Set beets aside. (Beets can stain so be careful!)
To make tart:
Preheat oven to 375F. Melt butter in a fry pan and sauté shallots over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
Set prebaked tart shell (still in tart pan) on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the sliced beets and shallots in the tart shell. Pour custard carefully over the beets and shallots. Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Bake for 35-45 minutes until set. Let tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.
super flaky crust
Flaky Pie Dough
(makes enough dough for 2 9-inch tarts/pies)
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar (use 2 Tbsp for sweet pies/tarts)
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup ice water (or as needed)
1/2 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
Cut the butter into tiny cubes and place in freezer for 15 minutes. Sift flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer. Place in freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove butter and mixer bowl with flour from freezer. Add the butter to the flour mixture and mix on low for 2-3 minutes until the butter is the size of peas. Combine ice water and vinegar and add to dough. Mix until dough just comes together, about 20 seconds.
Gather dough and divide into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour (and up to 3 days).
Roll out the chilled dough to 1/8 inch thick and 2-3 inches larger than the tart pan. Transfer dough carefully to pan. Let rest in refrigerator for 15-30 minutes before baking.
Blind bake the tart shell by lining with parchment or buttered foil. Fill the parchment/foil lined shell with pie weights.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375F. Remove parchment and pie weights. Continue baking for 10 minutes more until light golden.
And I guess this wouldn’t be a proper post without something sweet. So I’ll leave you with friands (topped with Black Mission figs) from Donna Hay Modern Classics Book 2. Enjoy!