Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November Daring Baker's Challenge - Crostata!

In an attempt to make sure I don't get into a baking "rut" (If you call it a rut if I tend to always make chocolate or fruity layer cakes), I decided to rejoin the Daring Baker's group so that at least once a month I'd have a new baking challenge, proposed by someone other than myself. Getting back on this blog again will also hopefully help me to blog about some of my other desserts that I'm making. Just as a reminder, the purpose of this blog is for me to post pictures of some of the desserts I am making, as well as recipes and little scientific or baking-related "tidbits" that people will find interesting and explanatory.

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.

What is a Crostata? A crostata is an Italian baked dessert, like a "tart" or a pie. Typically, it's roughly shaped and the edges are folded over to give it a more rustic appearance. Typically they are filled with fruit jams or a combination of fresh fruit and pastry cream. If it were summer time, I would definitely have opted for a fresh fruit and pastry cream crostata, but because so many of the fall fruits are fantastic when roasted, I opted instead to make an autumn crostata of Apple, Pear and Quince.

Just to give some background on the quince, quince is a pome fruit related to apples and pears, native to Asia. Even when it is ripe, a quince is usually too hard and too sour to be eaten raw. A couple additional interesting tidbits about quince:

-Although the book of Genesis does not name the specific type of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the tree in the garden of Eden, some historians and ancient texts suggest that Eve's fruit of temptation might have been a quince

- Among ancient Greeks, the quice was a ritual offering at weddings

- Like apples, the seeds of the quince, if eaten in sufficiently large quantity can be broken down in the body to produce cyanide.

OK, now that you know that stuff, can we move on to the recipe? Sure. So, here we go.

For the base layer of the crostata, we were given several recipes from which to choose for "pasta frolla," which is a shortbread dough, like a pie dough, but uses eggs instead of cold water to bind the dough. As you can imagine, it is rich and delicious and, no matter how good that filling is, the *best* part of a crostata for many people. This is Simona's pasta frolla recipe, which is what I used. (Since I made an 11" tart, I used 1.5 times the recipe.)

Pasta Frolla
3 oz powdered sugar
8.25 oz AP flour
pinch salt
4 oz cold butter
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

To make, blend the sugar, flour and salt together in a mixing bowl, then cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the dry ingredients until it has a coarse crumb. There can be a few larger, pea-sized pieces mixed throughout.

Make a well in the center and put in the lightly-beaten egg mixture (reserve a tablespoon or so to use for glazing the crust later).

Using a fork, pull the dry ingredients into the liquid and mix together until blended.

Shape into a ball and then flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

While the dough is chilling, roast the fruit.

3 ripe, but firm pears
3 firm apples (I used Fuji)
1 quince
1 stick of cinnamon
4 whole cloves
1/2 cup sugar
3 T lemon juice
2 T apple cider
1 T minced fresh ginger

Peel, core, quarter and then cut the fruits into about 1" sized pieces. Mix together with remaining ingredients and roast in a 375 degree oven for about an hour, mixing occasionally, until starting to caramelize. Remove from oven and cool.

Remove the crust, and roll out on a lightly-floured surface until it is a few inches larger in diameter than your pan. Lightly place in the pan and cut excess. You can decide whether you want the crust to roll over the top loosely, or whether you want to fit it to the edge of the tart pan. Put the crust in the pan back in the fridge to stay cool while you make the additional filling.

4 oz softened butter
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla
1/4 c flour

Blend butter with sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. Blend flour in last, only mixing until blended.

Remove crust from the fridge, pour in the filling, then top with the roasted fruit (including juices). If you have saved crust to fold over, go ahead and fold it over now. Brush the edges with the reserved egg, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 degrees on a preheated cookie sheet for 50-60 minutes until the filling has puffed up around the fruit and the edges of the crust are browned.

In case you weren't already thinking of it, this is EXCELLENT with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Buon Apetito!

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