Julia Child's birthday is today - August 15. It would have been her 96th birthday. A year ago, I wrote a little paean to her and included her pie crust recipe, the recipe that I use nearly every time I make a pastry crust. Julia's been on my mind recently; I've been fondling her cookbooks in their new home, and Champaign Taste had announced the third annual Julia Child birthday extravaganza (which you should go check out).
I first learned to make Julia's pie crust using my mother's hardcover copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking. The ingredients in that book are listed as follows:
Proportions for 1 cup flour
1 cup flour
1 T. sugar (optional, depending on the filling)
1/8 t. salt
4 T. butter
1 1/2 T. shortening
2 1/2-3 T cold water
And she tells you that for an 8-9" shell, you'll need proportions for 1 1/2 cups of flour, and for a 10-11" shell, you'll need proportions for 2 cups of flour. (Yes, you have to do some math.)
Okay then. Some number of years ago, when I was a semi-grownup with my own kitchen, my mother gave me a paperback set of both volumes of Mastering, complete with slipcase. Here's the curious thing: in that edition of Mastering, the pie crust recipe is given with all the same measures of ingredients - except the flour! The flour is given as 2/3 of a cup. So all of the notes about "proportions for one cup of flour" make no sense. Furthermore, to my taste anyway, that means far too much fat for the amount of flour. I marked up that copy of the book, which my sister now has, because I found the two volumes in hardcover at a used bookstore and needed to have them. (But they're not a matched set; one's taller than the other. Go figure.)
It's my standard crust recipe. Rarely do I try something else, because why tinker with what works. These days, I almost always use lard in place of shortening, and I usually make the two cup variant - it's just the right amount for a double-crust or lattice-top pie. If I'm only doing a quiche or other single crust dish, I use the remaining dough to line a 7" tart shell. That goes into the freezer in a ziploc bag, to be resurrected when whim strikes. (If you do that, remember to mark whether or not there's sugar in the crust - without sugar can be used for anything, with sugar really only works for dessert.)
One of those little tart shells was in the freezer a couple of days ago, screaming "Eat me!". There were nectarines from the CSA begging to be used. So I made Julia's peach tart. Or, more accurately, I adapted Julia's peach tart.
Nectarine Tart (adapted from Julia Child)
1 7" tart shell, partially baked
1/2 cup demerara sugar
2 T. butter
Scald the nectarines in boiling water for 10-15 seconds (this helps the peels slip right off). Peel and slice. Sprinkle about 3 T. of sugar in the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the fruit in the shell. Sprinkle the rest of the sugar over the top, and dot with pea-sized lumps of butter. Bake at 375° F for 30-40 minutes, until juices are syrupy and fruit is slightly browned.
The demerara sugar gives a slight brown sugar flavor to the tart. Next time, though, I might add a bit of flour or cornstarch to help the juices coagulate. The tart was delectable, but runny.
Note: The reason for that whole digression into the fat/flour ratio is because I googled for the tart recipe, so I wouldn't have to retype it, and found both flour measures given in different places. If your copy of Mastering has 2/3 of a cup of flour on page 633, use 1 cup instead.