Friday, January 18, 2008

Flamiche aux maroilles et poireaux (Leek tart from northern France)

Flamiche is the Flemish word for cake. This dish comes from northern France where Belgium meets Northern France. A flamiche is similar to a quiche but originally used bread dough instead of pastry. Now, it refers to a pie crust filled with a custard containing cheese or vegetables (classically it contains leeks) or both. A flamiche can be made without a top crust, like a pizza.

map from Wikipedia

In this recipe, the pastry is pâte brisée (paht bree-ZAY), which is a French short crust and generally used for savory preparations (although puff pastry can be substituted as well). There are many definitions of what constitutes a pâte brisée:

* 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water
* 3 parts flour to 1 part fat with a little salt and liquid
* half fat to flour
* 5 parts flour to 4 parts fat (butter)

The final result should be tender, crunchy, and buttery.

One of the difficulties in making pastry is flour because the characteristics and quality of a specific flour (such as all-purpose) differs according to geographic region. That means that flour in the United States with similar specifications as flour in France may act very differently when used. Experimentation is the key. That is the only way to get a good result.

Another technique you’ll hear when talking about pastry is fraisage. This is a French technique of pushing out the dough with the heel of the hand. This thoroughly blends the flour and butter.


* Handle the dough as little as possible to make it easier to work with and tender.

* Weigh the ingredients for accuracy.

* Always sift the flour.

* Ensure you rest the dough for about 30 minutes. If you don’t, the pastry won’t have enough stretch and will keep breaking when it’s rolled.

* To cool your countertop, set a bowl of ice water on it for a few minutes. In Julia Child’s book Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, she suggests keeping a marble slab in the refrigerator and bringing it out to use when making pastry. (This sounds like such a good idea that I may just have to go shopping!)

* After blind baking the shell for awhile, remove the pie weights and brush the shell with an egg glaze to make it resistant to liquid. Return it to the oven to continue cooking. (However, if your pastry cracks on the bottom, as mine did, your filling will escape so make sure your pastry fills the shell well!)

Recipe for Pâte Brisée

9 inch fluted, removable-bottomed tart pan

200 g (1 cup) flour (half all-purpose and half cake and pastry flour)
5 g (¾ teaspoon) salt
1 egg
100 g (6 tablespoons) butter
15-30 mL (1-2 tablespoons) water

Measure the flour into a large mound on the counter. Make a well and add the salt, egg, and butter. Mix the ingredients in the well with your fingertips. Rub it in with your fingertips or pastry scraper until well blended. (The butter should not be too cold because then it will be too hard to rub in. However, it should not be too warm or soft because then it will make the pastry tough.) Add only enough water to bring the dough together. Knead the pastry very lightly (by pushing bits of dough away from you, which is called fraisage, or final blending). Wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough and chill it again. Blind bake the crust by heating the oven to 425°F. Prick the base of the dough (called docking). Line the shell with parchment paper, foil, or even plastic wrap (which is the most flexible and doesn't melt in the oven). Fill with pie weights. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375°F and continue baking until pastry is a light golden color. Remove the lining and pie weights. Continue baking if you're completely cooking the pie shell for about 8-12 minutes until browned. Cool.

Recipe for Flamiche adapted from Le Cordon Bleu At Home

3 pounds leeks (before trimming), trimmed and sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
¼ cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper

Procedure for the Leek part of the Flamiche

Slice the white parts of the leek about ¼-inch thick. Rinse them well in cold water to remove any sand and then drain. In a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks. Cover and cook, stirring frequently. Cook them slowly for about 20 minutes until they are soft.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and cream. Stir in the leeks and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roll out the remaining dough into a 10-inch round, ⅛ inch thick. Pour the leek mixture into the pre-baked pastry shell. Brush the rim of the shell with the reserved egg glaze and cover the pie with the dough round. To seal the top crust and sides, press gently around the edges. Trim off any excess.

Decorate the top. With the egg glaze, brush the top of the pie. Cut a small hole in the center for the steam to escape. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Unmold, transfer to a platter. Serve warm.

Tasting Notes

The delicate crunch of the pastry with the soft, tender leeks is nice. It's a mellow side dish and would complement a rich main, such as roast beef.

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $75.87 + $1.68 (pâte brisée) + $10.13 (Flamiche) = $87.68

Butter used so far: 31 tablespoons (~1 pound)


tytty said...

Hi Shari,

I really appreciate the history and technical aspects you include in your recipes.

Just curious about what does chilling the dough twice contribute? And how would the pastry be if we used melted butter instead?

Shari said...

Hi tytty - Great question! The point of chilling the dough is to keep the butter cold. As the butter melts during baking, steam forms and puffs the layers apart making the pastry flaky. According to Shirley O. Corriher in "Cookwise", "the fat must remain unmelted during the whole folding operation. If the butter gets warm and starts to melt and soak into the dough, there goes the flakiness!" I highly recommend the book "Cookwise" for answers to questions like these. Hope that helps.

Linda Collison said...

Being a francophile, burgunian-o-file, and a new convert to things Belgian, I was thrilled to find your thorough treatment of how to make a flamiche, as well as the background.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure where you get your info from, but this isn't a flamiche. Leeks are at best an option, cooked onions are more traditional, but what makes a Flamiche is the cheese, which you seem to have completely omitted. The Maroilles in the title refers to a brine washed cheese which whilst having a pungent aroma has a delightful mild flavour. The pastry as you mention can be bread based but more commonly was a form of brioche. This pastry has the advantage of being able to draw in the extra grease or oils released by the cheese during the cooking.
I'm sure your tart is quite lovely, but it is in no way a flamiche, sorry.

Shari said...

Hi Mat

Thanks for your feedback. However, I have the ingredient list from my Le Cordon Bleu Basic Cuisine course for this recipe, and it includes leeks (not onions).

Also, the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook doesn't list the Maroilles cheese. However, the ingredient list from my class notes includes 150 g Maroilles cheese.

Finally, the class notes included pate a foncer (pie dough) as does the version in Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook.

I guess we can agree to disagree on what a flamiche is.


Unknown said...

I noticed that this blog is a little old, but As a Belgian (Flemish)with a great interest in Medieval food i need to make a comment or two; First Flamiche is not a Flemish word for cake. it is not even a Flemish word, it's Old French which was spoken in the whole of medieval Flanders which then reached down to Calais and Lille. Flemish was only spoken by the common people (the lower class) and was nearly never written. The nearest in flemish would be 'koek' but more correct 'taart'.
Flamiche refers to 'Flame' as in flammekuche from the Alsatian region. it was baked in an open flame wood oven.
And yes flamiche has cheese unlike the thick quiche (egg yokes) and the thin flammekuche (onions).
But one nice thing about cooking : nobody makes mistakes, that's how new dishes are invented.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Thanks for your comments and corrections, Michel! I love to learn. :)