This week I chose to make Tarte aux poireaux facile, or Easy leek tart.
A pastry type for every occasion
Having translated a few tart recipes so far, I’m pretty familiar with French pastry types by now. But I thought it would be useful to delve a little deeper into this. Actually, I’ve never made puff pastry myself, maybe it’s time to give it a try – or at least, the quick and easy version.
I found two treasure troves of pastry information, one about different types of pastry in French, and the other an explanation of pastry types from the BBC, in English.
Here are some of the main types:
pâte brisée = shortcrust pastry. The easiest type to make, and can incorporate other flavourings, used for savoury and sweet fillings.
pâte sablée = sweet shortcrust pastry. Shortcrust pastry which has sugar added to it.
pâte sucrée = pâte sucrée / French sweet shortcrust pastry. Like sweet shortcrust but includes egg for richness, a greater amount of sugar, and sometimes includes ground almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios or similar.
pâte feuilletée = puff pastry. By rolling and folding layers of butter into the pastry in a certain way, this creates a pastry with lots of fine layers, which puff up once baked.
pâte feuilletée rapide = flaky pastry / ‘rough puff’. I’ve watched enough Great British Bake Off to know about rough puff – basically, it’s a quicker and easier version of puff pastry. But I wasn’t sure if such a term existed in French. It seems that it’s simply referred to as fast puff pastry, as in this recipe, and this recipe from Mercotte, the Mary Berry of France’s version of GBBO, le meilleur pâtissier.
The need for recipes to be user-friendly
Although this recipe was far from long and complicated, there were some elements which meant it wasn’t particularly easy to use. The order of instructions and ingredients can make a big difference. Beginning a recipe with ‘pre-heat the oven to xx’ is more helpful than listing towards the end ‘Bake in a pre-heated oven…’
Some recipes include complicated or lengthy preparation processes mid-way through the cooking process which can also be frustrating, when they could have been prepared in
advance. As I mention below, quantities were a little lacking in this recipe as well.
Little aspects like this combine to create recipes which are difficult to use. I think we should expect, or demand, more from recipes these days. They should both inspire and explain, rather than frustrate. That said, this recipe is freely available and uploaded by a member of the public, so how much can we really expect? Maybe, with so much information available for us to use free of charge, our standards have dropped accordingly. Then again, there is a wealth of quality printed cookbooks available, and I heard recently that sales are on the rise. So perhaps more is expected of the cookbooks we purchase, since they need to compete with what is accessible free of charge. They are the premium option, compared to the run-of-the-mill everyday.
My recipe called for pre-made shortcrust, but I decided to make my own. I used a recipe with mainly wholemeal flour. The resulting pastry was incredibly crumbly, and I ended up squishing it into the dish and patching up holes here and there. I also decided to blind bake it, although the recipe didn’t say to do so. In theory, this should have resulted in a nice crispy pastry case. In practice, my filling was too liquid-y and I ended up with the dreaded soggy bottom.
Part of the problem was that I should have squeezed more liquid out of the vegetables after they were boiled. The ingredient list and instructions were especially vague which didn’t help matters. After straining the vegetables, I was to return them to the saucepan, sprinkling with flour, pepper, and nutmeg. There was no indication of how much flour should be used. Similarly, I was then instructed to add 500ml and ‘some’ butter – no indication of how much. All of this meant that the filling was a little too watery.
I also felt that the filling itself was a little dull, so I added mustard to the mix. I should have added more butter. This was a French recipe after all.
Next week’s recipe is a sweet festive treat.