Saturday, November 27, 2010
This month's challenge was crostata (tarts) we had a choice of two types of dough made with eggs (the first was a simple sweet crust pastry and the second used a mixture of almond meal, and barley flour with normal wheat flour). I used the first recipe for all my final dishes.
Our host for this month is Simona from briciole.
Simona this month, invited us 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.
There are many recipes for pasta frolla and different ideas about how to make it. I will give you two versions that I have been using for some time. They have been inspired by those in the book La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiare bene by Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911). The book was first published in 1891, and is available in English translation as Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (further details are given in the Additional Information section).
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.
See here for the full details of the challenge recipes.
Mango and blueberry Crostata
This is my first crostata I used the version 1 pasta frolla recipe! I decided to do a mango and blueberry crostata since mangoes have just come into season here in Australia they are very cheap ($1 each) and super tasty. Since the pastry uses a lot of sugar (7 tablespoons) I used unsweetened puréed mangoes (with some cornflour to thicken it and a small amount of baking powder to lift it during baking) for the filling and some blueberry purée to line the base of the crostata also I used some frozen berries for decoration. The final colour of the crostata was vibrant and using pure fruit and berry purées gave the right amount of sweetness. This is a simple challenge which produces a delicious tart. The mangoes and blueberries were a great combination I thought so yuumy. The pastry was very sweet flaky and light with a strong buttery taste this is a good tart recipe.
The biggest tips I can give you is to grate the butter and freeze it. Then chill the flour, sugar and salt before rubbing in the frozen grated butter. This gives you the maximum time to coat each butter particle with flour and makes the process so much easier.
Sweet short crust pastry
The least handled dough is the best made dough.
The most important points while making pastry by hand is to
1. keep everything as cold as possible – I place the mixing bowl, the sifted flour/sugar/salt, grated cold butter, whole egg and egg yolk for 15 minutes in the freezer to get all ingredients the same cold temperature.
2. be quick (use a food processor if possible will make everything in under 1 minutes while by hand 30 seconds longer)
3. use your fingertips (and only your fingertips) as little as possible (I place my fingertips into ice cold water and dry them with paper towels so they will be cold and won't melt the fat)
4. use as little liquid as possible
5. don't be delicate just quick when rubbing in the butter and you don't need a smooth dough at the end
Sift together flour, sugar and salt and place into the freezer (15 mins) make sure you sift from a height this allows air to be incorporated into the mixture and trapped air is what makes pastry light.
Frozen grated butter (using the large hole-side of a box grater) straight from the freezer (grate the cold butter first then place into the freezer much easier than grating a frozen block of butter)
Place grated butter onto the flour mixture
Using your fingertips only (I used a pastry blender (or you can use a fork with a knife) for most of the process only using my fingertips near the end), and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles pea-sized lumps. As you lightly rub the fat into the flour, lift it up high and let it fall back down into the bowl, which again means that air is being incorporated all the time, and air is what makes pastry light, make sure all the flour is coated with fat. Set aside in the fridge. I have two pictures so you can see exactly what it looks like. You want small pieces of butter coated with flour showing. Do not keep cutting and tossing the butter so that the butter chunks all become pea sized. The butter chunks should mostly remain a bit larger than peas and vary in size, ranging from lima bean size to pea size. This is where most people go wrong and 'rub' the butter too long until it starts to melt into the flour – the idea is to have separate particles of butter coating the flour this produces the flakiest pastry. How can you tell if you are doing right – smell your fingers if they smell of butter you have melted the butter into the flour and not rubbed it in – this was the “test” that I had to pass by the person who taught me to make pastry I had to make pastry and not have buttery fingers. Try it.
Keep mixing while dribbling in the beaten eggs, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough. The water in the eggs allows for gluten formation (the strengthening of flour protein once a liquid is added and incorporated), which does not mean the dough will be tough or chewy, but it does enhance the flaky air pockets and the slight crunch in the mouth. This is the other place where most people go wrong adding too much liquid – the dough only needs to JUST stick together resting and rolling will do the rest. Notice how 'dry' it looks but this will produce the lightest crispest and flakiest pastry!!!
Form using your fingertips the dough into a large flat disc, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate. Below is a picture of the formed disk of pastry (just enough liquid to hold most of the ball together is exactly right don't worry about a couple of cracks) before chilling. The dough was still cold so I only chilled it for 30 minutes.
The chilled pastry ready for use. Notice how the butter is not distributed evenly in the pastry this is what you want. Looks like I haven't added enough liquid doesn't it!? The cracks don't matter the dough will come together when you roll it out.
A close up of the dough after it has been chilled
An extreme close up of the dough noticed how the butter is not spread out equally in the dough
Roll out the pastry dough between two sheets of waxed paper
A close up of the rolled pastry dough ready to be used
The finished crust should be chilled (at least 30 minutes) before it goes into the oven. As this type of crust bakes, the flour and water layers set or gel, trapping the fat in sealed pockets. Steam develops in these sealed cells and they expand, creating an aerated pocket and a flaky texture in the finished crust.
The baking dish lined with the sweet shortcrust pastry I like my pastry to be thick on tarts
Place some blueberry purée on the base of the tart
Unbaked crostata I placed a few frozen berries on top for decoration
Finished crostata I baked it for 45 minutes
Roasted beetroot and chilli chocolate crostata with a charred carrot lattice
WOW this was one of the best tart's I have ever made, I love beetroot and chilli chocolate cake and I adore charred carrot and chocolate cake so I thought that I would make a crostata combining both of these roasted vegetables with chocolate and chilli. I blind baked the crostata crust then I made a roasted beetroot purée with added sugar, cocoa powder, grated 85% cocoa chocolate and chilli powder. And then I roasted and charred some carrots and made a lattice for the filled crostata with the charred carrots, it looked so good and tasted superb. The dough (I used powdered sugar for this tart) is so much better when left overnight it forms a marvellous short crust pastry that is a perfect foil for the chocolate beetroot chilli filling. The charred carrots and roasted beetroot adds a HUGE depth of flavour to the chocolate.
The great thing about this recipe is that the crostata crust is blind baked until totally cooked and then filled with the cold beetroot filling and the cold carrot lattice is then added perfect for a dinner party and it would make marvellous picnic food also. I'm sure it would be great warmed served with cream or ice cream.
How to blind bake
Firstly line the baking dish with the cold pastry and prick with a fork make sure that you do not go all the way through the pastry which can create holes for the filling to run out. Chill for 30 minutes before baking.
Cut aluminum foil (or parchment paper) to size do not cover the edge of the pastry if the baked crust is to be used with a cold filling, cover the edges if you are going to bake it again using a pastry lattice.
Fill with uncooked rice, uncooked beans or baking balls. You can reuse the uncooked rice again and again for blind baking, do not cook the rice after you have used it for blind baking.
Bake for 15 minutes then remove the foil and uncooked rice. The crust will be soft and bubbly. At this stage you can lightly brush the par-baked shell with some beaten egg wash which will form a layer to stop the filling from making the fully baked shell soggy.
Bake uncovered for a further 10 minutes, the top edge should be brown and the bottom should be full of small and large holes produced from the expanding and escaping gases from the flour-encased-butter.
The edge of the pastry should move away from the sides of the baking dish, the pastry will be soft until it cools so be careful.
Cool until room temperature then the crust should harden and be easy to remove. Notice especially on the upturned crust all the small and large bubbles which are caused by the expanding and escaping steam from the water in the crust. Once cooled you can coat the fully baked pastry shell with melted chocolate which will form when cooled a layer that will stop the crust becoming soggy once filled.
Roasted beetroot and dark chocolate
Puréed beetroot with added grated chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder and chilli powder
The honey roasted carrots don't be afraid to get the carrots charred
Filling the crostata
The finished crostata notice how ”short” the pastry is in the final tart, it was so flaky and light resting overnight improves the final baked pastry a lot as compared to the two hour chilled dough.
Savoury gorgonzola, cauliflower and pear corstata
I had to do a savoury version and I thought a free-form corstata would be perfect for a filling of a tangy blue cheese (gorgonzola cheese) with roasted cauliflower purée and roasted pear. I just loved the look of this tart and it was delightful gorgonzola, cauliflower and pear go so well together I decided to do a very thin free-from crust to see how the pastry works. The pastry really is a wonder and browned and crisp up superbly.
Ricotta lemon and rose crostata
I thought I would do one more crostata before the reveal date, I decide to do a ricotta lemon and rose filling for my blind baked shell. This tart is very tall over 3.5 " (9 cm) and the filling was ricotta, cream cheese, iron bark honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 eggs and rose water. I was very pleased with the tart, the filling was the perfect balance of sweet, sour and tangy with a slight hint of rose as a faint after taste. The filling was set yet slightly soft. I loved it and well as my guests.