Flour and fat for dessert tart crust

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Joined Sep 8, 2004
Hello,
I've been experimenting with tarts lately, and notice that all the recipes I encounter call for all-purpose flour. Strangely, James Peterson's preface to his recipe mentions that the French have it easier because they have lower protein flours, but then he goes ahead and recommends all purpose. Wouldn't cake flour or pastry flour give a more tender crust? What about a blend? It seems if cake flour gave you too crumbly a crust, would it make sense to try, say, 3/4 cake flour and 1/4 all purpose, or something like that?

I'm also curious about the effect of using a bit of lard or shortening instead of all butter.

Does anyone have experience with making succulent crusts with techniques like these? is there a great, authoritative book on making pastries like these?

Thank you!
Paul
 
3,853
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Joined May 26, 2001
Hi. Paul. I moved your question here from Cooking because this is where the baking experts all hang out! Bet you'll have some good responses in no virtually time.
 

kuan

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I asked a similiar question a while back. Here are a coupla replies. I think the trick is in the amount of water at the end as Richard Olney points out in d's quote.
 
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Thanks for the reply. I'm looking for a crumbly, melt-in-your mouth texture, but not one that's so delicate that it falls apart when you cut it and plate it. I've also had crusts like this that have a SLIGHT flakiness to them ... not as much as pie crust or puff pastry, but enough to give a sense of flakes delaminating before the crust melts in your mouth.

In the past (working from julia child's recipe, which includes all purpose flour, fat that's about 2/3 butter and 1/3 shortening, and a touch of sugar, but no egg), I've gotten results that are a bit on the tough side. I'm sure my hamfisted handling of the dough plays a major part, though I'd like the right recipe as a starting point before spending time practicing the technique.

My real question is if it makes sense to use a lower protein flour like pastry flour, or to use a combination of all purpose and cake flours (both of which i have around) in order to make things more delicate. Everyone mentions that lower protein flours are beneficial, but every recipe i see calls for all purpose.
 
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Joined Jul 28, 2001
Hi Paul,
1-2-3 is really all you need to start.
My personal opinion is to keep the protien at bay. In other words, work the flour as little as possible. Protien %'s vary. If you're using small amounts give a hollar to Kyle and ask him for a source of the company he uses. Their %'s usually are pretty much on track.I believe I remember there was some very useful info on flours.
I use a 10-11%. Any liquids are as cold as you can get them without freezing.
I'm not real sure if your going for a tart or pie shell.
HTH
Jeff
Just wanted to add that mt %'s are for our tart shells not pie. We go lower for pies
 
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Joined Jul 1, 2001
This is based on a Julia Child recipe. 75% all-purpose flour, 25% cake flour. It works great. Per cup of flour I use 5-6 tablespoons butter & 2 tablespoons shortening. This gives me the tender, flakey crust that I want for most uses. If I'm doing a rustic tart, I need a sturdier crust and will use 100% all-purpose flour.

Becca
 
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Thanks, Becca. what exactly is a rustic tart? is this as opposed to a pie or as opposed to other kinds of tarts?
(not sure if my tarts are rustic ...)
 
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Joined Jul 1, 2001
Paul,

A rustic tart is a free form tart or galette. It isn't baked in a pie pan, but rather on a baking sheet (preferrably lined with parchment in case it leaks). The dough needs to be slightly sturdier as it is required to hold form over filling without the benefit of pan support for the sides. Jacques Pepin does a very nice rustic tart, filled with apples, in "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home."

Becca
 
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Even though you may not have pastry flour on hand, I highly recommend obtaining some. Because they're made from the same soft wheat, pastry flour and cake flour have very similar levels of protein. The extra processing of the cake flour changes the playing field tremendously from a perspective of flavor. Pastry flour tastes/smells about a thousand times better than cake flour. I would recommend that you smell/taste both of them side by side but since you only have cake flour, try this. Pastry and all purpose have a similar flavor profile. Smell/taste your ap flour next to your cake flour. If, after that, you still think cake flour is up to snuff flavor wise, go for it. I find it an abomination. It's essence, it's soul, it's wheatiness has been eradicated.

The only time I would utilize cake flour would be in an application where I need the end result to be pure white. All other times I grab the pastry flour.

Pastry flour is the perfect flour for crusts. Although you still can't manhandle/stretch the dough, it gives you a LOT more leeway when it comes to unwanted gluten formation. And although there is a danger of making too tender of a crust, that has never happened to me. Just the act of rolling out the crust forms enough gluten to provide a solid structure.

Shortening melts at a temperature above body temp, so the mouthfeel of shortening based crusts can be a little waxy. Because it is pure fat, it's easier to work with and produces flakier crusts. The flavor you get from butter makes it definitely worth the effort, though. Lard is excellent in crusts although the slight pork flavor you get may not go with every filling. Just make sure it's fresh and don't forget to taste it before you bake with it.
 
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Joined Sep 8, 2004
Thanks for all the suggestions, Becky and Scott. I'll look for some pastry flour and try all your ideas.

If you had recommend a book on the topic, what would it be?
 
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Joined Dec 23, 2003
Better living through science is my motto :)

A good knowledge of how gluten works will go a long way in crust making. Although she leans pretty heavily on bread/cakes, I think Shirley Corriher is a good resource.
 
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Great book by Joe, The Bakers Manual.

I like to use a pasta frolla for my tarts and short breads. the nice thing is it has baking powder and egg so it seals the tart keeping crispy and is super buttery.

I got the recipe from a gentelman who worked with Litia, check out her books in the italian kitchen.

Best,
m
 
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