My grandma Teté hates everyday cooking. She can't stand making quick weeknight dinners and has no interest in whipping up simple meals. Teté prefers to keep things fabulous, which is probably why she used to cater weddings and events. (It's also probably why she wears a purple leather jacket and piles on loads of crazy jewelry--I know, she's awesome.)
Despite a lack of formal training, everything she made looked and tasted absolutely professional. Classic French cuisine has always been her specialty, and even now, she maintains her signature flair for the elaborate. Back then in Argentina, at events it was considered fashionable to have long tables overflowing with ornate dishes and desserts, flower arrangements, and decorations, like the ones she made for my parents' wedding. These days, she enters centerpiece and tablescape design competitions (and is undefeated).
In addition to catering, Teté also gave cooking lessons. Each recipe she taught, she later typed up with her typewriter, systematically labeling each one with the date, course level, and lesson number. Given her style, it's surprising how pared down these recipes are. They have short ingredient lists consisting mostly of pantry and fridge staples, like eggs, flour, salt, etc. She also consistently finds ways to simplify methods, like reworking béchamel to avoid making a roux, and a perfect, 2-step meringue recipe that is just as good as your complicated French, or Italian but easier to make and harder to mess up.
These unpretentious workhouse recipes are the backbones of her fancy party fare, and it's always surprising to see them come together to form an elegant and impressive dish. Simplifying the ingredients and the methods creates space to do more. More decoration, more personalization, or honestly, just more time to do actually do your hair before your party guests arrive.
This sweet shortcrust pastry is one of my absolute favorites that Teté wrote. Less fussy than regular pie dough, it's got more flavor and is so forgiving and versatile. No frantically chilling all of your equipment/ingredients or nail-biting blind baking attempts. Just throw everything in your food processor until it forms a ball, wrap it up in plastic wrap, chill it for a couple minutes, and you're ready to go. Fill it with lemon curd, pastry cream, frangipane, jam... the possibilities are endless. It looks very impressive, but no one will realize it came together so fast and with so little effort.
This makes enough for one 10 inch tart, or one 9 inch tart, plus one or two mini tarts if you want to use the scraps.
200 g flour
2 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
zest of 1 lemon
100 g butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest. Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture is the texture of breadcrumbs. Drop in the eggs and yolk, and process until the dough comes together in a ball.
When it comes to rolling out the dough, trust your intuition here. The dough should feel soft and tender but if it's very sticky, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 5 minutes. Remember, this is different from regular pie dough! It should not be hard like a rock with visible pieces of butter, but smooth, uniform, and malleable.
Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and gently roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Lightly roll over a metal pie tin and trim to leave about an inch of overhang. Tuck the overhang in and crimp the edge.
To blind bake: Line the inside with wax paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges start to lightly brown. Remove the weights and return the shortcrust to the oven until the bottom springs back when pressed, another 3-5 minutes. Remove, let cool, and fill.