My culinary skills instructor, Chef P., was the son of a Parisian bakery owner — multiple bakeries, actually. He told us stories of working in the bakery as a child — how the master bakers stood outside the back door, cigarettes in hand, feeling the early morning air before returning inside to mix the day’s bread doughs according to the current temperature and humidity.
Although he was eventually drawn to the culinary side of things, Chef P. still had a lot to say about the pastry arts. Once a week, at the end of the night, he would whip up a little dessert for us to all share. He would demonstrate a technique or two, present us with classics like grapefruit sabayon, kirsch-doused genoise, and crepes suzette, then send us home smacking sweet syrup from our lips.
Don’t get me wrong — he wasn’t sweet all the time — au contraire. Most of the time he was a slightly ornery French Chef with a tendency to yell (in a thick accent) “Stop it! What are you doing?” at random intervals, to no one in particular. The desserts were his way of showing us his kind side.
I developed this short crust recipe by combining Chef P.’s originals. His savoury crust contained no sugar, while his dessert crust contained about double what I have listed in my version. My slightly sweetened version adeptly swings either way — that kind of flexibility is welcome anytime, anywhere, as far as I’m concerned.
(Click on the link below for a printable version of the recipe.)
: A multi-purpose crust for sweet or savoury fillings that is substantial enough to hold up outside of the pan, but tender enough to yield easily under your fork.
Yield: (1) 11” Crust or (2) 8” Crusts
- All-Purpose Flour – 2 Cups
- Sugar (optional) 1 Tble
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Unsalted Butter, in ½” cubes – ½ Cup
- Egg Yolk – 1
- Ice Water – ¼ Cup
- Stir together the flour,sugar (if making a sweet crust) and salt in a large bowl. Rub the cubed butter into the flour with your fingertips, until the butter is reduced to small pea-sized lumps, and the flour is the colour of cornmeal.
- Whisk the yolk together with the ice water, then add it to the bowl and use your fingertips to bring the dough together into a “shaggy ball” — add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary. The goal is to add just enough water to hold the dough together – it should not be too soft.
- Place the dough ball on the counter, pour any loose flour left in the bowl onto the dough. Lightly knead the remaining flour into the dough to form the dough into 1 or 2 smooth-surfaced discs, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least ½ hour.
- To par-bake the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 375˚.
- Lightly dust the counter with flour. Roll the short crust dough out to an 11-12” disc about ⅜” thick, loosening and turning the dough occasionally. Roll the dough lightly over the rolling pin and transfer to a 9-10” tart pan. Lightly press the dough into the pan and trim the crust to a ¼” above the top of the pan.
- Fold the excess dough over, toward the pan, and press the dough into the side of the pan, so that it sits approx ¼” above the top of the pan (see notes). Prick holes all over the bottom of the crust with a fork.
- Line the crust with parchment paper and fill the pan with pie weights or uncooked dry beans. Par bake the crust for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment and return the crust to the oven for 10 more minutes, until dry and lightly coloured. Cool slightly on a rack.
- It takes most 2 or 3 attempts at this crust to learn how much water is needed to just hold the dough together. Too much water will result in a tough crust.
- If you refrigerate the dough for more than ½ hour, you may have to rest it for a few minutes at room temperature before it will be soft enough to roll out.
Preparation time: 45 minute(s)
Cooking time: 20 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
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