This pie shell is a great recipe to have on hold. You can prepare the dough in advance and keep it tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to a couple of months. It's sweet, buttery and goes well with traditional custard based and fruit tarts.
Take note of the special instructions with regards to refrigerating it. Since you will work the dough with your hands, you will need to let it cool and rest for a while before baking it so that it maintains its shape. This recipe is from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1".
NOTE: Julia Child recommends that the recipe be scaled as follows, depending on the size of the shell you will be preparing - 8 to 9 inches, use proportions for 1 and 1/2 cup flour; 10 to 11 inches, use proportions for 2 cups flour.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons chilled butter
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoon chilled vegetable shortening
- 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
- Tart shell with removable bottom (preferred)
- Pastry blender
- Rolling pin
- Wax and parchment paper
- Pie weights: I use (and reuse) beans
In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and vegetable shortening and mix it in with the pastry blender. Mix it until it ressembles a pile of flakes.
Add a bit of the water and incorporate with one of your hands. Take care that you only use your fingers, and not the palm, since you want to make sure that you do not transmit too much heat onto the mixture. You will end up with a smooth ball of dough. Place the dough in a counter with a couple of tablespoons of flour.
The next step is called the fraisage. It consists of using the heel of your hand to push through some of the flour on the surface, and ensure an even mixture of all the components. Once again, only use the heel of your hand so that you do not warm the mixture too much. Below is a picture of what this operation looks like.
Grab a couple of sheets of wax or parchment paper and your rolling pin, and make a circle with the dough. Since the dough will get sticky at this point, I roll it between the sheets to make sure I get the proper circle. It should be an inch or two larger in diameter than that of your tart pan.
Place the dough in the refrigerator for an hour. Butter your tart pan, and place the rolled out dough inside the pan, moulding it with your fingers to make sure that it reached all the edges. Using the rolling pin, cut off the extra dough that falls off the sides. You should chill it for another 30 minutes in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap, before baking it.
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Take the pan out of the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap. Place a sheet of parchment paper over it and fill with the weights (I use beans). Make sure that the weights cover all the edges of the pan.
Place the pan over a baking sheet in the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 8 minutes or until the edges start to colour. Remove from the oven, carefully take off the parchment paper with the weights (they will be very hot). Take a form and pierce the bottom and sides of the pastry shell (don't be shy, just go for it) and place back in the oven.
For a partially cooked shell: Bake for 3 more minutes, or until the sides begin to shrink from the mould. Your recipe will call for this when you are expected to fill the shell and place it back in the oven.
For a fully cooked shell: Bake for 7 to 10 minutes more, or until it develops a light golden brown colour. Your recipe will call for this in most recipes where no further baking is needed.
In this case, I made the fully baked version.
Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool completely. When using a pan with a removable bottom, the sides should slide off easily, and you can use a thin spatula to remove the bottom. It is much easier to remove it once it has completely cooled, since the shell with slightly contract.
However, only remove the sides and bottom when you are ready to plate the dessert. The sides are usually fragile and it is best not to rush this step.