Pastry dough (2 crusts)
- In the bowl of a food processor, place flour and salt. Pulse for a few second just to blend.
- Add the butter and shortening. Pulse for a few seconds until the mixture is coarse and grainy.
- Add 60 ml (¼ cup) ice water. Pulse and add a little water if necessary until a ball starts to form. Remove the dough. Form a ball with your hands. Dust the dough with flour and cover in plastic wrap. Let rest for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.
- With the rack in the lowest position, preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
- In a 20-cm (8-inch) ovenproof skillet, caramelized the pears on all sides in the butter and brown sugar. The more you cook the pears, the more fragile they will be. Add the pecans and stir to combine. Place the pears rounded side down. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Roll out half the dough in a circle slightly larger than the diameter of the skillet. Freeze the remaining dough for another use. Place the dough over the pears. Tuck the dough between the pears and the rim of the skillet. Bake for about 30 minutes.
- Let rest for 5 minutes. Unmould by flipping it onto a serving plate. Serve immediately. Excellent with homemade caramel sauce.
The ABC’s of a crust
The pastry crust contains only four ingredients: flour, salt, fat and water. Salt is added to the flour, even for a sweet dough, to enhance its taste. If you mix together flour and water, you get a tasteless glue, once cooked, it becomes hard enough to cement bricks. It's the fat that makes the difference for a successful pastry.
For flavor and lightness, I use butter. You may also use other fat such as lard or shortening. My mother kept the fat from pork roasts and bacon to make meat pies. The taste of that crust was incomparable. In this recipe you’ll notice that we use a little vegetable shortening to add elasticity to the dough.
When you make a pastry crust, the fat must be very cold (put it in the freezer for a few minutes before proceeding), cut into pieces and cut gently into the flour to make tiny pieces of hard butter into the flour. The flour particles are then separated from each other by bits of fat, which will allow for a supple dough.
Do not overwork the dough. While baking, the butter particles melt and leave tiny air pockets in the dough and, in turn, prevent the flour to form a hard mass. Water in contact with the heat evaporates. The dough then rises and becomes flaky. That is why you must refrain from overworking the dough with your hands, which would melt the butter before baking it. Also, in order not to melt the butter, the water used must be ice cold, you can even add ice to the water before measuring.
Preparing the dough in a food processor is a breeze. Pulse the flour and salt in the processor for a second. Add the bits of frozen fat and pulse a few seconds at a time, until the mixture is the size of small peas. Add the ice cold water until the dough forms.
Why do we recommend letting the dough rest in refrigerator? To allow the gluten in the flour to relax. Without this step, the dough will be tougher.