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Archive for November, 2010

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Simona said:

This month, I am inviting you to make crostata (tart), an Italian dessert. The base of a crostata is pasta frolla (or pastafrolla), sweet short crust pastry (or sweet tart dough) made of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. Pasta frolla is versatile: it provides the base to make crostata with fruit preserves, pastry cream, fresh fruit, ricotta, and other ingredients, and, by itself, it makes very nice cookies.”

Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I started this project on the 27th, ie the date upon which it was due. My mother would be kind and say “well, you have a lot on at the moment”, which is true but realistically I would have left it to the last minute even if I had not been otherwise occupied. Which is a shame really, because this is a fantastic, easy recipe and I could have had a lot of fun with it. I still plan to, but I won’t get to post about it as part of my November challenge!

Simona provided several short crust or pasta frolla recipes. Being lazy, I used the first one and used the food processor. It was so, so easy, I was quite surprised. The resulting pastry was somewhat hard to deal with, as it was very soft even after being refridgerated, but it may be easier if left overnight (there’s that forward planning thing again).

This is the version I used: pasta frolla

Ingredients:

* 1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (See Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
* 1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
* a pinch of salt
* 1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
* 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Note 1: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

Note 2: There are different ways of making vanilla sugar. I keep vanilla beans in a jar half-filled with sugar until I need to use them, for example, to make vanilla ice cream. After I remove the split bean from the custard that will go into the ice cream maker, I rinse it, dry it and put it back in the jar with sugar.

(I used the vanilla sugar option)

Making pasta frolla by hand:

  1. Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
  2. Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse crumbs. You can do this in the bowl or on your work surface, using your fingertips or an implement of choice.
  3. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it (reserve about a teaspoon of the egg mixture for glazing purposes later on – place in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to use).
  4. Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg mixture.
  5. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips.
  6. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
  7. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

Making pasta frolla with a food processor:

  1. Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
  2. Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
  3. Empty food processor’s bowl onto your work surface.
  4. See step 3 above and continue as explained in the following steps (minus the lemon zest, which you have already added).

Assembling and baking the crostata di marmellata:

  1. Heat the oven to 375ºF [190ºC/gas mark 5].
  2. Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.
  3. To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. You can also use parchment paper for this. However, you can also roll the dough directly on a work surface if you prefer.
  4. Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
  5. If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin’s width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
  6. Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.
  7. If you used the plastic wrap or parchment paper as rolling surface, flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.
  8. Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.
  9. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.
  10. Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutter to make shall shapes or roll with your hands into ropes.
  11. Spread the jam or fruit preserves evenly over the bottom of the crostata.
  12. Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes.
  13. Brush the border and strips of dough with the reserved beaten eggs. You can add a drop or two of water to the beaten eggs if you don’t have enough liquid.
  14. Put the tart in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  15. After 25 minutes, check the tart and continue baking until the tart is a nice golden colour.

I decided to make a tart filled simply with lightly sweetened ricotta and fresh blueberries, partly because I was too lazy to make pastry cream, but also because I wanted something light and relatively healthy, and blueberries are delicious at the moment.

Here is my “creation”

I only made two small tarts, which means that I now have quite a lot of left over pastry dough to use more creatively. I’m thinking the ginger brulee tart from the Bourke Street Bakery’s cookbook, which means I get to use my blowtorch! Happy days!

Happy November everyone, and thanks to Simona. Baking is tops.

 

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