The Pastry School Diaries: Crust is a Must

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Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences! 

This was an especially production-heavy week, as we made five different doughs and about 20 filled tarts, pies and shells. What I'm learning--and loving--about the more rustic desserts is that they're supposed to be imperfect. The filling itself is more of a trial and error process than a science. For example, we made a delicious plum galette, despite the fact that plums aren't in season. To remedy this problem, we sliced the plums very thin and roasted them with lots of delicious flavor additions, like ginger and lemon zest.

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As you can see, the crust is also a beautiful thing of imperfection. By definition, a galette is a flat, round, freeform tart. They can be sweet, savory and filled with just about anything you can think of, so long as it's not too liquid-y. Galette crust is designed to hold up to the filling: it's flaky, slightly sweet, a bit crunchy and just thick enough that it's acceptable to eat it sans knife and fork.

When utensils are required, however, a sturdy crust that's also complimentary to the filling is just as important as the filling itself. In making all of these pies and tarts, I learned that a few simple alterations to the crust can make a world of a difference in the finished product. For example, for our fruit tarts, we used a less sweet dough that has large pockets of butter scattered throughout. This creates a crunchier dough that breaks apart nicely with a fork.

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For our blueberry crumb pie, we used a sweeter, sour cream-based dough, which adds a tangy flavor that offsets the sweetness of the filling.

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For our chocolate pecan pie, we used a sweet, butter-based dough, which browns beautifully, flakes nicely and holds up to the custard and nut filling.

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Who knew there were so many types of pie dough? Do you have a favorite kind?

Check back next week for more sweet stories!