May 24, 2009
Hooray for the lo-fi fruit tart, with pastry rolled out by a gin bottle and no need for tart pans or pie dishes. Because almost all my kitchen equipment is in storage, I made this pastry with nothing more complicated than a cheese grater. And the result is such a simple marriage of taste: sweet strawberries, buttery pastry. Like all fruit pies, it's best eaten hot with something creamy and cold.
I look back at the time when I never made my own pie and tart crusts because I thought you needed a food processor to do it, and think sadly of everything I missed out on. One day, yes, I'll buy a food processor (one day when I stop moving every 7 or 8 months, which will be very soon), but won't it be nice to know I can do all this by hand if I want to? I do recommend a rolling pin over a gin bottle, however, even when it's a beautiful brown Hendrick's one (alas, empty of gin). I know I can manage thinner pastry and neater edges than these, but at the same time, the point of a free-form pie is to look artless and comfy.
I make pastry by freezing the butter, still in stick form, and then grating it while frozen on the larger round holes of a cheese grater. Lately I've been using the pâte brisée recipe on Simply Recipes; I've re-written it here only to give instructions for making it by hand. To use a food processor, follow the link to the recipe on Elise's site.
For the strawberry filling:
adapted from here
1 punnet strawberries (4-5 oz)
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
a squeeze of lemon juice
For the pastry (from Simply Recipes):
1 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour, plus extra for rolling
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen (in the freezer for at least half an hour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 to 5 tbsp ice water, very cold
Also: a little extra sugar, and a little butter
To make the pastry: grate the butter on the larger round holes of a cheese grater. Return the grated butter to the freezer for 20 minutes or so, to chill again.
In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add frozen, grated buter and work into the dry ingredients very briefly with your hands. Some of the flakes of butter should stay large, and others will be incorporated into the flour; you want it to reach the texture of oatmeal, and pieces of butter should still be visible in the finished pastry (that's what makes it so flaky when cooked).
Add the ice water one tablespoon at a time, mixing very briefly between tablespoons. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again. You may not need to use all 4 tablespoons of water.
Remove dough from bowl and place on a clean surface. Carefully shape into a disc. Don't over-knead; it just needs to come together enough to hold a circular shape. Sprinkle the disc with a little flour on all sides. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Macerate the strawberries: remove the leaves from the strawberries, then slice. Place them in a bowl with the sugar and cornflour, squeeze over a little lemon juice, and stir everything together. Leave for half an hour to an hour, until the strawberries are sitting in lots of pink, sugary juice.
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line a baking tray/cookie tin with baking paper.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until it's easy to roll out. On a clean, floured surface, roll the pastry into a rough circle, about 1/8 inch thick (about 3 mm). (If, like me, you're making 2 small pies, divide the pastry in 2 and roll separately.) I found it easiest to transfer the rolled out pastry onto the baking tray at this point. Put the strawberries in a pile in the middle of the pastry circle, bringing as little of their juice with them as possible*, and leaving a border of about 3 inches around the edges for a large pie, or 1.5 inches for 2 smaller ones. Fold the pastry up around the strawberries, pleating as you go, so that a central area of fruit remains uncovered. Press down on the pastry folds to stop them from separating in the oven. Sprinkle the pastry with a little sugar, and dot the top of the strawberries with a little butter, no more than half a tablespoon.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or thick cream. The juice will have bubbled up and run down the sides the sides of the galette, so be careful when lifting and serving.
* The strawberries will produce lots of juice while baking, so don't put any extra into the pie. I stirred the leftover juice into Greek yoghurt.