Food writer and recipe tester Linda Avery reviews cookbooks.
The title says it all. Pastry: A Master Class for Everyone – if you’ve always wanted to try making pastry but invariably find yourself in the refrigerated dough section of your grocery store, or if you’re pretty good at it but need to tweak a particular skill, take a class under the tutelage of Richard Bertinet.
Bertinet, like so many French chefs, began his craft at age 14 and has more than 20 years experience beginning in Brittany and moving to the UK in the 1980’s. The UK has definitely infiltrated his pores because he says things like “if you’re not using all of the pastry straightaway…”
His teaching style is clear, straight-forward and he covers all of the bases – what, how, why (sometimes why not), and if he has a trick, he’ll let you know that too. For example, “Pastry that has been frozen for about 3 months can discolor a little. If you don’t want this to happen, add a drop of lemon juice or vinegar to the water before mixing it into the dough. You won’t taste it in the pastry, but it will be enough to keep the dough fresh looking.”
He defines pastry as sweet and salted, i.e., savory. The first 70-ish pages of the book are devoted to step-by-step photos and explanation of how to make pastry and although he prefers to use his hands, he also explains how to make dough with a stand mixer or food processor.
Then the recipes which begin with savory tarts and tartlets, Cornish pasties, and duck pie. Sweet pastry recipes include fruit tartlets, lemon meringue, mascarpone cheesecakes, and amandine. Then he nods to Brittany with Breton biscuits and langues de chat among the cookies.
The man is a realist and hopes you “enjoy making your own puff pastry, but if you don’t (have the time), choose a good ready-made all-butter one”. If that didn’t make you love him, how about step-by-step photos of how swans are made with choux?
The bonus last pages show how you can present fruit tarts so that they look like they came directly from a pâtisserie window. The book is a winner. And although we can't deny that autumn is around the corner, we can make it more palatable by embracing butternut squash!
The spelt pastry recipe makes 15 ounces of dough necessary for the eight 4-inch tarts (3/4 inch deep) in this recipe. It is also sufficient for 24 tartlets made in 12-hole tartlet pans or 1 large tart made in a 10 1/4-inch removable-bottomed pan or ring (1 1/2 inches deep). If you like, you can blind bake the pastry crusts 2-3 days in advance and keep them in an airtight container until you arc ready to fill and bake them. Don't throw away the squash seeds, as you can toast them and then use them to decorate the tarts, or you can eat them as a snack, sprinkled with sea salt. Just spread them out on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for the last 8-10 minutes of the roasting time for the squash, until they are lightly toasted. Makes eight 4-inch tarts
For the spelt pastry
4.5 ounces all-purpose flour
4.4 ounces whole-grain spelt flour (if using white spelt flour, use it for all flours, i.e., 8.9 ounces)
1 teaspoon sea salt
4.4 ounces of butter, straight from the refrigerator
1.2 ounces cold water
For the tarts
1 recipe spelt pastry
2 butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 eggs, plus 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt, for sealing the pastry
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Rest the pastry in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, preferably several, or, better still, overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. Cut the squash lengthwise into quarters. Remove the seeds, but don't throw them away (see headnote). Place the squash quarters on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until the flesh is soft.
4. Lower the heat to 375°C. Lightly grease eight 4-inch removable-bottomed pans, about 3/4-inch deep.
5. Dust your work surface with flour, roll out the pastry 1/16-1/8 inch thick, and line the pans. Line with parchment paper and ceramic baking weights. Place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.
6. Remove the pans from the refrigerator, place on baking sheets, and bake for 15 minutes. Lift out the parchment and weights, brush the pastry with the beaten egg, then bake for another 8 minutes. Set aside.
7. Lower the heat to 350°F.
8. Mix the 3 eggs and the ricotta together in a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan and sage.
9. When the butternut squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin into a bowl and mash it with a masher or fork. Stir it into the cheese mixture and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the pastry crusts, put back onto the baking sheets, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until the filling is just set and the pastry is golden brown. Remove and eat warm, or allow to cool and put in the refrigerator to eat cold.