Monday, April 30, 2012

Yeast; Taking You Places

Specifically, Flemish Yeast Dough is taking me back to Leefdaal, the small town in Belgium where I spent half my childhood.  Leefdaal had one main street running through it, Dorpstraat.  Everything you need could be found off that street, including three bakeries.  Michotte was our favorite.  My parents would send my siblings and me down on a Saturday morning to pick up pastries and we'd stare at the display cases, fascinated by the cream horns, the eclairs, and the beautiful fruit tarts.

Photo source
Truth be told, it took me a long time to come around to these tarts.  I thought they were very good, but there was something not quite right about them.  They looked like pies, but they weren't pies.  They didn't have that flaky, buttery shell that I expected.  Instead, they were made with a yeasty, sweet, bread-like crust, and once I started to accept them for what they were, I found them utterly delicious.

I love working with yeast.  This crust in particular brings back memories of my childhood and thoughts of another country, but anytime I make a yeast dough I am transported.  It's something in the sweet tangy smell as the dough rises, the promise of great flavor once baked.  It's the limited amount of control we have over the process, and the necessary waiting as the yeast does its natural thing.  Even while I am making it in my modern kitchen, I can imagine bakers from generations past all over the world doing the same thing.

Flemish Yeast Dough for Pie Crusts adapted from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek

This crust is fairly straightforward, perfect for someone who is not too familiar with working with yeast.  It's the base of many Belgian tarts, one of which is my Z-post.


1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup of milk, warmed to 100 degrees F
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour, plus more if needed
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, melted

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over milk.  Let it sit until it gets foamy, about 5 minutes.  Stir.

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.  Add sugar and salt and then whisk to combine.  Make a well in the middle, and pour in the egg, butter, and yeast mixture.  Using your fingertips, slowly work the flour into the liquids until you have a smooth dough.  Gradually add a little more flour if needed to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers; no more than 1/2 cup.  Make sure you don't overwork or knead the dough, or your crust will be tough and chewy.

Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, around 1 hour.

To roll the dough:

Butter and flour a tart pan (preferably one with a removable bottom)

Punch down the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough into a disc, somewhere between 1/4 or 1/8 an inch thick, depending on the recipe for the tart and personal preference.

Transfer the disc of dough to your tart pan.  Trim and crimp the edges.  With a fork, prick holes all over the bottom the tart.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 20 to 30 minutes before filling and baking.


  1. There is NOTHING like the smell and taste of yeast dough!

  2. I'm interested in using yeast in this manner, Janna. Sounds very delicious. Thank you for the recipe. :)