pate brisee

Pate brisee

For years this has been the recipe I reach for whenever a savoury pastry shell is called for. 

Pate brisee (broken pastry) gives a slightly flaky crust without a strong individual taste, which makes it perfect for savoury flans, pies and quiches.  

These quantities make enough for one 25cm diameter quiche, or 20 tartlet moulds, each 5 cm in diameter and 1cm deep

100g chilled butter
225g plain flour
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon oil
Pinch of salt

Cut the chilled butter into small pieces and put the butter into a mixing bowl with the flour and the salt. Using a fork, or two knives, work the butter into the flour until the mixture has the texture of oatmeal.

Beat the egg yolk with the cold water and add the oil. Make a well in the centre of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the oil. Mix with a fork, then use your hands to form the dough into a ball.

If using a food processor, place the flour and salt into the bowl and add butter cut into small pieces. Using the metal blade, process until the mixture has the texture of oatmeal.

Beat egg yolk with the cold water, and add the oil. With the processor switched on, add the egg mixture through the feed tube, processing until the mixture forms a ball around the blade. Switch off immediately.

Wrap the pastry in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm…at least 20 minutes. This mixture will keep for weeks in the freezer.

If recipe specifies that a pastry shell be ‘blind baked’ before filling, follow the instructions in ‘Blind Baking a Pastry Tart Shell’ in this section.

Pastry – a what’s what

I was sitting down having a cup of coffee and discussing recipes with Elly Hartland recently, when she asked me if I had made Philip Johnson’s goat’s cheese and leek pie. I asked her what was so special about it. “The pastry,” she said, “is so different. It isn’t a shortcrust pastry. It is an olive oil pastry. It’s flaky.”

“Pate brisee,” I thought, my heart dropping to my shoes, “uses olive oil.” I use it all the time and have always called it shortcrust pastry. But of course, it isn’t really shortcrust pastry at all! All those recipes are wrong!

Well, as it turned out, the goat’s cheese pie pastry isn’t even pate brisee; it is made entirely with olive oil and I don’t care for it much at all. But I was left with the fact that pate brisee is not shortcrust pastry.

Way back when you were all in kindergarten or pre-school, Simone Beck came to Brisbane for a series of cooking demonstrations and to promote her book ‘Simca’s Cuisine’. Simone Beck is best known, not for ‘Simca’s Cuisine’, but for co-authoring that two volume bible ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. We were all very aware of her legendary importance in the world of haute cuisine and were suitably riveted. She made mushroom tartlets (Quichettes aux champignons).  They were delicious and became my stand-by recipe for many years, as you can see if you look at the state of p232 of ‘Simca’s Cuisine’. Pate brisee “A”, she grandly informed us, and Pate brisee “B”, are to be used for ALL savoury dishes. Obediently, I complied. Pate brisee “A” was fine by me; I have never tried “B”, which substitutes white wine for the water and a whole egg for the egg yolk. Perhaps I should.  She says the wine creates an interesting saveur.

Naturally, I then abandoned Nanya’s sweet shortcrust pastry for Simone Beck’s Pate sucree.

The funny thing about that day is that I swear Elly was with me. Obviously I was more impressed than she was!

Well, I have altered all those recipes, or I think I have.  Fortunately dessert tarts weren’t affected. Where, in savoury tarts, pies or quiches it once said ‘Shortcrust pastry’, it now should read ‘Pate brisee, shortcrust pastry or sour cream pastry’. I apologise.

Elly still doesn’t know that she ruined my day.