A note on pastry

Recently strawberries have been popping up at the market in Cape Town, and whilst I was under the impression they are more of an end of the year thing, they’re apparently not out of season. Whatever ‘in season’ is still supposed to mean.

However, because its the start of the season, it would be silly to turn them into sorbet or coulis or even macerate them, so the quintessential strawberry tarlet it is. As I’ve written about before, I enjoy doing finer pastries because these are seldom seen outside ‘posh’ restaurants that employ highly skilled pastry chefs. I was taught french pastry making the traditional way- from the whole butter parcel thing with puff pastry to smacking the dough on the table top surface for what seemed like an hour to make brioche.

Needless to say I now buy good puff pastry most of the time, and make perfectly alright brioche in a mixer. However with sweet pastry, when I only need to make a small amount, I leave the food processor (which makes big batches perfectly) and get into rubbing in the butter gently, and a nearly forgotten french technique, fraisage.

Fraisage involves placing the crumbly dough mix on a work surface and then pushing parts of it away from you by smearing it on the surface with the heel of your hand. If youv’e done this with the entire mix, the butter should have been worked into the pastry sufficiently and can be gathered together witha dough scraper and rested until you need it for rolling and baking. I prefer this technique because it’s pretty hard to overwork the pastry, and produces a great short or sweetcrust product. Try it (when you realy don’t have anything else to do, I suppose)!

The finished tartlet!
The pastry ‘smeared’ across the work surface

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