The most common form of strudel in North America is puff pastry filled with sticky jam or compote, the final product very similar to a turnover or a chausson.
The original strudel, the Viennese strudel, is a different beast entirely.
Austrian strudel is made with a simple dough consisting of flour, salt, water, and vegetable oil. High protein flour is used, and the dough is mixed extensively so that there is intensive gluten development. This allows the baker to stretch the dough until it is so thin it is almost transparent. The expression in Austrian kitchens is that the dough should be thin enough that you could hold the dough over a newspaper and read the text through the dough. … Continue reading.
One of the greatest French bistro desserts is tarte au citron, or lemon tart: a rich, tangy curd set in a buttery French tart shell. In furtherance to ending the tyranny of the lemon in our fair city, I’ve been experimenting with substituting citrus with our local sour cherries.
Background: Classic Fruit Curds
In pastry books there are usually two fruit curd recipes: one for lemon and lime, and another that can be used for almost any other kind of fruit.
Lemon has two traits that let it have its own style of curd: a yellow colour and a very intense acidity. If you cook lemon juice with enough egg yolks and butter that it sets as a curd … Continue reading.
Another example of how to use the custards I’ve been talking about.
Come to think of it, most of the posts this advent have been short, simple introductions to basic pastry preparations: whipped cream, for instance, and ganache. Now we can start combining some of those building blocks to make more elaborate preparations.
Take éclairs. Éclairs are long choux pastries filled with whipped cream or pastry cream, glazed with chocolate.
We discussed choux pastry here, whipped cream here, pastry cream in this post, and ganache in this one. Several birds, one stone.
I ate my fair share of éclairs growing up. My dad often brought them home on Saturday mornings from the doughnut shop in the … Continue reading.
Some detailed notes on a North American staple.
The Dough. I take for granted that you already know how to make a superlative, flaky pie dough. If you don’t, this pie dough is a good start, but you should probably add a handful of sugar to the mix.
The Filling. The first important consideration for the filling is the variety of apple to be used. High acidity and firm, crisp texture are key. Of the common commercial varieties, Granny Smith is probably the best, but there are lots of varieties growing within the Edmonton city limits that make good pie. Sweetness, of course, is also desirable, but we can balance the tartness of the apples with sugar. Look … Continue reading.
When it comes to pies and crumbles, I’m usually a purist: I prefer to use only one type of fruit. Saskatoon pie and crumble, however, pose two problems. First, the berries are relatively low-moisture, with pronounced pips and skins. When you cook them down with sugar they don’t ooze moisture like most other fruits, so they don’t produce cohesive pastry fillings without the addition of water, which simply dilutes the flavour of the berries. Second, they are low-acid when ripe, and on their own don’t make well-balanced fillings.
Rhubarb solves both of these problems. When cooked down, most rhubarb varieties are fluid, and help make saskatoons into a cohesive pastry filling. Rhubarb is also crazy tart, balancing the sweetness of … Continue reading.
Some quick notes on a springtime specialty.
The most difficult part about using rhubarb as a pastry filling is that once it’s cooked it has almost no structure. Actually it’s entirely liquid. For this reason rhubarb is often mixed with other fruit like strawberries or apples. Right now I have lots of rhubarb, hardly any fruit in the freezer, and berries and apples are still months off. In other words I have to set my rhubarb filling with gelatin or cornstarch.
We like rhubarb because it is tart, but oftentimes it is too tart. To make sure the acidity isn’t overpowering, I make rhubarb pie in a shallow, French tart pan instead of a classic North American pie pan; this … Continue reading.
I just nailed down a solid ratio of ingredients for a classic crumble. If you’re not from around here, let me tell you about crumbles.
A crumble is a casserole filled with some manner of stewed or baked fruit, topped with a crispy layer made from flour, sugar, and butter, usually with the addition of other grains or nuts. It is baked in a casserole, and often served with ice cream.
Crumble and crisp are two words for the same thing, though crumble seems to be the more common term in the UK, while crisp is more common in North America. As usual, Canadians comfortably elide the British and American vernaculars.
Crumble should not to be confused with cobbler, which … Continue reading.
Possibly my favourite application for rhubarb. Almost any tart fruit can be used, but the sour flavour of rhubarb marries beautifully with the nutty character of the brown butter.
Every time I brown butter I ask myself why I don’t do it more often. It’s quick, more or less foolproof, and one of the great, complex flavours of the kitchen. Simply put butter in a heavy pot over medium high heat, then remove once the moisture has boiled off and the milk solids have browned. If you need more guidance, you can think of browning butter like making syrup: as more and more water evaporates, the boiling point of the liquid rises. Use a candy thermometer and pull the brown … Continue reading.
Tourtière is made differently in every home, and can incite intense feelings of loyalty to ones mother. I will proceed cautiously with a definition, but I warn you: there are lots of qualifiers in this post.
Tourtière is meat pie. It is often based on pork, though veal and game are also common. If anyone tells you that it was traditionally made with pigeon, you can politely dismiss their story as folklore. A false etymology has developed because of the similarity between the words for the pie tourtière and the Quebecois word for the now-extinct passenger pigeon, tourte. Certainly many a pigeon has been baked into pie, but the similarity between the two words is entirely coincidental. Tourte also … Continue reading.
In North America, this style of dough is called tart dough, or possibly short dough. In France it’s known as pâte brisée.
Pie dough has clumps of butter that separate the sheets of flour and water, creating a tender, flaky crust. Tart dough is not flaky. It has a very fine, even texture, and a delicate crispiness. Actually it’s kind of like a thin shortbread cookie. The butter is incorporated as tiny uniform pieces, instead of the irregular chunks in pie dough. The cook also has to be careful not to develop too much gluten, otherwise the cooked tart will be tough.
Besides being the base for classic tarts, this dough could also be used for custard-type … Continue reading.