Julia Child’s methods lost on me
If you caught a glimpse of today’s Google Doodle, then you are aware that famous chef Julia Child would have turned 100 years old today. The woman who made French cooking accessible to the masses changed the way we cook and the way we eat.
My knowledge about Julia Child is limited to what I learned about her from the book-turned-movie Julie & Julia. Being able to relate more to Julie Powell, the blogger who cooked her way through Child’s 524 recipes in “Master the Art of French Cooking” in one year’s time, I began to admire Julia Child by association.
After reading the book and subsequently seeing the movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams in 2010, I marched to my local library and checked out its copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” And all I can say is: Julie Powell was nuts.
The book weighed as much as a full rib roast and contained countless foods and methods I didn’t know existed. As someone who is fairly confident in my kitchen abilities, I was at a loss. After hours of flipping through pages and now terrified by the idea of cooking lobster thermidor ever in my life, I decided to attempt Julia’s Quiche Lorraine for two reasons:
1. I’d actually heard of Quiche Lorraine.
2. It was one of the simplest recipes I could find with ingredients I actually recognized.
As I began to put together my grocery list, I realized this recipe was going to require me to make a pastry shell (or a pie crust, for the less refined among us). And as I begrudgingly added cake flour, unsalted butter and vegetable shortening to the list, I couldn’t help but mumble to myself “I bet the pre-made Pillsbury version would work just fine, Julia.”
So I shuffled off to the grocery store and returned ready to take on the challenge I had set for myself. As I began throwing flour and butter into the food processor, I knew this was going to end in disaster. I’ve never been very good with pastries or anything pastry-like. And I was right. The dough was supposed to end up in lumps that would stick together. Nope. My dough was a dry, crumbly mess, even after adding in the water “as needed.”
After much pulsing, kneading and pleading with the kitchen gods, the dough began to resemble what I assumed Julia would be looking for. And after refrigerating it for the required 30 minutes, I was ready to move on to the next step. Until I read the next part.
“Cut the chilled dough in half and reserve one piece, refrigerated, for another use.”
All that work and I’m only going to use HALF? After a minute or two of sulking, I reluctantly cut the dough in half and put the remaining part in the fridge. Actually, I threw it in the fridge out of anger.
The next step required me to roll out the dough. I knew this was going to be a problem. I’ve never been good with rolling pins. The dough always seems to stick, no matter how much extra flour I use to prevent it from happening. And this time was no exception. And the “circular shape” I was supposed to make more resembled a dilapidated triangle.
But I soldiered on and managed to get the dough into the buttered pan without major incident.
Now it was time to bake. Luckily for me, I used a pie dish with sloped edges rather than the suggested pastry tin, which has vertical sides. Why was this a good thing? Because with a pastry tin, Julia suggests you fill it with dry beans to keep the pastry’s sides from falling in. I don’t keep a bag of dry beans around my kitchen. Sorry, Julia.
This part also required me to place a buttered sheet of foil on the crust. Have you ever tried to butter a piece of foil? If not, let me give you a piece of advice: Don’t use an overly serrated knife. The results will not be pretty.
The rest of the recipe was fairly simple. Combining the filling ingredients and pouring it into the shell appeared to be something I could handle. Score one for me.
Thirty minutes and 375 degrees later, I removed my creation from the oven. And it was surprisingly good: a little bit runnier than was probably intended, but overall, a solid first effort. I think Julia would have been proud.
Oh, and I never did use the remaining pastry dough.
(From Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
For the dough:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks chilled, unsalted butter, diced, plus additional for coating the pan
- 4 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup ice water, plus more as needed
For the filling:
- 6 strips crisply cooked bacon
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Nutmeg, to taste
Heat oven to 450 degrees shortly before you remove the shaped pastry shell from the refrigerator (see below).
Dough: In a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, salt and butter. Pulse 5 to 6 times in 1/2-second bursts to break up the butter.
Add the shortening, then immediately add the ice water while pulsing 2 or 3 times. (The dough should resemble a mass of small lumps that hold together when pressed. If the dough is too dry, pulse in additional water, a few droplets at a time.)
When the dough is ready, transfer it to the counter.
With the heel of your hand, rapidly and roughly push egg-size blobs out in front of you in 6-inch smears. Gather the dough in a relatively smooth cake, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. It also can be frozen (well-wrapped) for several months.
Shape: When ready to bake, use butter to coat a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.
Cut the chilled dough in half and reserve one piece, refrigerated, for another use.
On a lightly floured counter, rapidly roll the remaining piece of dough into a circular shape about 1/8-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches larger than the tart pan.
Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll onto the pan. Lightly press the dough into place. To make sturdy sides, fold the excess dough into the pan against the sides, smoothing the top edge as you go.
Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork.
Cover with plastic wrap, then chill for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Bake: When the tart shell has chilled, use butter to coat the shiny side of a sheet of foil several inches larger than the tart shell. Lightly press the foil, buttered side down, into the chilled tart shell along the sides and bottom.
To prevent the bottom from rising and the sides from falling, fill the shell with beans, rice or pie weights.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the tart shell is set but still soft. Remove the foil and beans, prick the bottom again with a fork, then bake for another 2 minutes.
Remove the tart shell from the oven and set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Fill: Break the bacon into pieces and scatter them in the tart shell.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Pour the mixture into the tart shell, filling to within 1/8-inch of the rim.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until puffed and browned.
Presentation: Unmold onto a platter and serve warm or room temperature.