Saturday, November 27, 2010

crostata con la crema (crostata with pastry cream)

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.

This was a nice, straightforward challenge this month which I enjoyed.  I found the recipe came together nicely and was quite quick to put together.  I also enjoyed that it involved ingredients that I already had at hand.  The boys gave it their thumbs up which is always a bonus!  I will be making this again.

Pasta frolla
  • 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: 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.


Making pasta frolla:
  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.

    Crema pasticcera di zia Lucia
    • 2 extra large eggs 
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 500 ml milk
    • 3 strips lemon peel about 3" long and 1/2" wide (using a potato peeler to cut the strips makes it easier to avoid cutting the white part of the lemon)
    • 3 tablespoons pastry (or unbleached regular) flour
    1. Pour the milk into a pan, add the lemon peel and warm up to well below boiling point. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is bubbly. 
    2. Sift the flour over the egg mixture and beat briefly until it is incorporated. 
    3. Temper the egg mixture with a small quantity of milk, then slowly add the rest of the milk, mixing with a wooden spoon. 
    4. Pour the mixture into the pan and set it to very low heat, stirring at least every couple of minutes. When the froth on the surface disappears completely, the crema starts to feel slightly thicker. From then on stir almost continuously. 
    5. When the crema reaches boiling temperature and thickens, cook briefly (1-2 minutes), then remove the pan from the heat, remove the lemon peel, place the saucepan in a cold water bath, and stir the crema to bring down its temperature. 
    6. While the crema cools down, stir it every now and then to prevent the formation of a film over it.

    Assembling and baking the crostata con la crema:
    1. Heat the oven to 350ºF.
    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 cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into ropes.
    11. Instead of jam or fruit preserves, cover the bottom of the crostata crust evenly with the pastry cream.
    12. Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes. (Note: You can use dough scraps to make cookies: see the Additional Information section for some pointers)
    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 30 minutes.
    15. After 35 minutes, check the tart, and continue baking until the tart is of a nice golden hue. (Note: Every oven is different. In my oven it took 45 minutes to bake the tart until golden.)
    16. When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    individual chocolate soufflés

    Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

    I've made soufflés before, but it had been awhile, so I was pleased to see them as our challenge this month.  I made both a savoury and a sweet soufflé, but I wasn't pleased with the crab and artichoke creation.  The flavour was only okay, and it didn't have the rise I was hoping for.  So I dusted off another recipe and tried individual chocolate soufflés instead.  Success!

    The annoying part was trying to take pictures of them before they started to fall.  I did my best!

    Individual Chocolate Soufflés
    (recipe adapted from The America's Test Kitchen "Family Baking Cookbook")

    1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped course
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
    1 tablespoon espresso (or 1 T strong instant coffee mixed with 1 T water)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    6 large egg yolks, room temperature
    8 large egg whites, room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

    1.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease eight 6-ounce ramekins.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar into the ramekins and shake to coat evenly; tap out any excess.  Set the ramekins on a large baking sheet.

    2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave in a large bowl, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the espresso, vanilla and salt and let the mixture cool slightly.

    3. In a medium bowl, whip the egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup granulated sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture triples in volume and is thick and pale yellow, 3 to 8 minutes.  Fold the egg yolk mixture into the chocolate mixture (this is the soufflé base).  Thoroughly clean and dry the beaters.

    4. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar together with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip the whites until soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute.  Gradually whip in the confectioners' sugar until the whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, 1 to 3 minutes.

    5. Fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the soufflé base until almost no white streaks remain.  Fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly among the prepared ramekins, wiping any filling from the rims with a wet paper towel.

    6. Secure a strip of foil that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray around each ramekin so that it extends about 2 inches about the rim.  Bake the souffs until fragrant, fully risen and the exterior is set but the interior is still a bit loose and creamy, 10 to 14 minutes.  Serve immediately.