After the super nerdy post of Tuesday, I found appropriate to conclude the week with a feeling-good recipe. So, I prepared some shortcrust pastry to make one of my favorite comfort food: occhi di bue (literally translated as beef's eyes). Before freaking out, you should know occhi di bue are typical Italian pastries, made of shortcrust pastry and jam. One pastry is made with two discs of pastry (one of them has a hole in the center, resembling an eye) filled with jam. A simple recipe that requires excellent ingredients (e.g. a good shortcrust pastry) for a great outcome.
There are various recipes for shortcrust pastry, and it took me a while to find my favorite. The one I consider the ultimate shortcrust recipe is that of Alain Ducasse, which I mentioned here. Actually, Ducasse's recipe is more a pâte sucreè, namely a shortcrust richer in butter. It remains, however, a beautiful recipe and a wonderful base for sweet pastries. I usually prepare a large amount of shortcrust pastry, then I split it in single portions and freeze it.
Shortcrust pastry requires a weak flour, with a low content of proteins. With a strong flour, the pastry remains too elastic (you understand now all the tips: "do not overwork the shortcrust and do it with cold hands...we must limit the formation of the gluten net!) I weakened my all purpose flour (about 13.3% protein content) with some corn starch to achieve about 10% of protein content. Of course, if you have already a weak flour you can use 500 g of that one with no corrections needed.
Ready with the rolling pins? Let's start :)
Occhi di bue (jam-filled shortcrust pastries, for 10 persons)
For the shortcrust pastry of Ducasse
- 376 g of all purpose flour
- 124 g of corn starch
- 200 g of sugar
- 300 g of butter
- 2 eggs
- one tea spoon of vanilla extract
For the filling
- 250 g of jam (I have used a strawberries one, but you can pick your favorite flavor)
Mix the flour with the corn starch. Make the shortcrust: if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, place all the ingredients in the bowl and mix them with the leaf-shaped hook at low speed. Otherwise, place the flour on a surface and give it a volcano shape. Place all the other ingredients in the center of a volcano and knead the pastry with cold hands. Do not overwork the pastry. If you think the amount of shortcrust is too much, split the pastry in two and freeze one portion. Do not cut the doses in half, as I can't guarantee you will obtain the same result. Spread the pastry with a rolling pin (max 0.5 cm of thickness) and cut 20 discs with the aid of a large glass. With a small glass (e.g. that used for liquor), cut a small disc from the center of 10 discs. Put a tea spoon of jam on the whole disc and spread it a bit on the surface. Cover that with the o-shaped disc and seal the two discs by gently pressing the edges. Place the pastries on an oven pan covered with parchment paper and bake them at 180 ˚C, until the shortcrust turns golden-brown. Serve the pastries at room temperature.
Frederic Robert, Il Grande Libro di Cucina di Alain Ducasse Dessert, 442-443, Ed. Giunti