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Daring Bakers November: Crostata

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.

The holiday season is around the corner and by the time this post goes live. it would have already begun. I have to admit I dreaded looking at the Daring Bakers site to find out what the challenge would be. Who needs more stress when I’m already dealing with unbelievable timing challenges. But this one was a blessing. What better to lift the blues that stem from the anxiety of a too-full calendar than a classic Italian crostata.

I have my own idea what what pasta frolla should be but since it is a Daring Bakers challenge, I had to follow along at some point, especially given that we could fill it with whatever we wanted. Yes, finally I don’t have to buy cream! There were two versions of the pasta frolla given and I used the second one:

Version 2 of pasta frolla

In this version of pasta frolla, I have played with different kinds of flours, using almond, whole-grain barley and, most recently, coconut flour instead of some of the all-purpose flour. If you want to try a different version of pasta frolla that uses some flours that you wouldn’t normally use, this is a good recipe to try. All the flours listed below (whole-wheat pastry, almond flour, coconut flour and barley flour) are available at health food stores. You may even find them at well-stocked supermarkets.

The preparation for this version of pasta frolla is very similar to the preparation for Version 1.

Ingredients

* 1/3 cup [80 ml, 75 g, 2 2/3 oz.] superfine sugar or 1/2 cup [120ml, 60 g, 2 oz]powdered sugar (see Note 1.)
* 1/2 cup [120 ml, 65 g, 2 3/8 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup [120ml, 65 g. 2 1/4 oz.] whole-wheat pastry flour
* 1/4 cup [60ml, 28 g, 1 oz] almond flour, or almond meal, or coconut flour
* 1/4 cup [60ml, 28 g, 1 oz.] whole-grain barley flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
* a pinch of salt
* 6 tablespoons[90ml, 85 g, 3 oz] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (you can also use vanilla sugar; see Note 2.)

Directions:

By hand:

1. Whisk together sugar, flours and salt in a bowl.
2. Rub or cut the butter into the sugar and flour mixture until it 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 flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten egg and vanilla extract into it.
4. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into mixture and then use your fingertips.
5. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
6. 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.

I used almond flour and white unbleached and substituted the 1/4 c. of barley flour for the same weight of buckwheat flour I had sitting in my cupboard from an as yet-unfulfilled need to make breton pastries of various kinds. Oh, yeah, I also bought it because it was at the farmer’s market and it looked cool. I would be way richer if I stopped buying weird things at farmers markets just because I can. Back to the pasta frolla, I made it by hand of course. All you need is a bench scraper and arm strength. I hate washing dishes and even if I owned a full-size food processor I still wouldn’t use it to make a simple shortcrust.

As for the filling, this was my favorite part of the recipe. I had a jar of refrigerated fig jam I made a few months ago and had been dying to use it in some way. This was the excuse, even if I ended up using all of it. My friend has a fig tree and I harassed her until she gave me a few pounds of them. They were beautiful, perfect Black Mission figs and to think they were in her yard doing nothing broke my heart. I don’t usually can.. I never can or preserve anything but these were too good to pass up. I boiled them with some water, lemon juice, and a liquor of some kind (brandy? I forget), and sugar and then used my immersion blender to grind them all up. I gave my poor friend some and the last of it I kept in a jar in the fridge until the opportunity presented itself. Now I think I should have saved it for Christmas but this recipe was too timely and November is starting to run out.

I never make things you have to decorate since my patience doesn’t exist and other things usually precede making decorated food in my daily schedule. But since I’m working on another project that involves Rome and the challenge of a classic Italian recipe, I went for it with images of the beautiful apricot crostate I have eaten all over Rome like the shop near the Pantheon and then my daily bar near Termini by the school I attended…

Sorry, I just had a moment. Anyway, I rolled out the remaining dough and cut it into near-even lengths with I then rolled to hide that they weren’t exactly alike. I made a bold attempt at braiding them the way people with far more skill than myself do. I had forgotten to save some egg wash so I just sprinkled the whole thing with powdered sugar and stuck it in the ready oven. About 15 minutes in, I sprinkled it with sliced almonds and sprinkled more sugar to help the browning process. I don’t know how long it was in the oven (I don’t own a timer) but I went back to get it when I started to smell it while watching Glee. Browned and beautiful, I left it to cool on the stovetop and then covered it for the night.

I had a piece the next morning which is when I took the pictures. Accompanied by a homemade cappuccino, it reminded me, a little, of the Eternal City.

Grazie mille, Simona.

One Response to “Daring Bakers November: Crostata”

  1. 1
    Simona:

    i am so glad that the challenge did not contribute to the Thanksgiving anxiety, but instead it cheered your mood. Nice choice of filling and good idea to use sliced almonds for decoration.

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