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.
Pastry is my thing. I'll just come out and say it. I'm good at it, I understand it, I know how to work it into submission. I can't say that about anyone anything else in my life. As with anything, this sense of skill comes simply from experience and since pastry is the dessert category I adore the most, I've made sure I've had lots of experience with it.
So when I heard this month's Daring Bakers challenge would be an Italian tart, called a Crostata, I flipped my hair back and confidently said to myself "well, that's an easy one for me, where's the challenge there?"...
If you ever wondered what humble pie actually looks like, apparently its a sweet Italian pastry filled with apricot jam. Yup, I spoke too soon. When I walked into that kitchen I was promptly [curse alert] bitch-slapped by this simple mixture of flour, butter, sugar and egg.
Crostata is an Italian tart made with Pasta Frolla, the Italian version of pate sucree, which as far as I can see is identical to the French version. My entry into the world of tarts and pastries began with a similar recipe of sweet crust dough. I got good at it, through repetition. This kind of pastry is tricky to work with. Its sugar content makes it beautifully tender and also very fragile. It can be overworked easily therefore losing its delicate nature, and it falls apart, oh how it falls apart. Over the years my recipe changed and I discovered that pressing the dough into the tart shell yielded a still beautiful tart shell without the frustration of trying to roll it out. I also discovered that a recipe using only the egg yolk made for an easier dough as well. So I left that original recipe in my pastry past.
Crostata is filled usually with a jam or preserve filling, and also seen filled with pastry cream and fruit. I chose the jam route having a pantry full of beautiful homemade jam that too often only sees the insides of tiny cookies or mostly slathered on morning toast. Emptying an entire jar was satisfying and showcased these beautiful apricots from just a few months ago. Very much like a linzer tart, this tart reminded me of the beauty of a jam tart, something I don't make often enough.
Not every recipe goes as planned, but so what? As you can see it still looked pretty great. We enjoyed a tasty piece with tea and for dessert with ice cream. And while I'll still head to my go to recipe for pastry next time, I'll be making more Crostata in the future.
Crostata di Marmellata
1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar or 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
grated zest of half a lemon
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 and 3/4 cups jam or fruit preserves
Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add egg and then pulse several times until just beginning to come together. DO NOT overprocess. As long as all ingredients are combined, the dough will come together willingly.
Divide dough in dough, wrap in plastic wrap and refgerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Assembling and baking the crostata di marmellata:
- Heat the oven to 375ºF.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch thick.
- 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.
- 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.
- Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.
- 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.
- Spread the jam or fruit preserves evenly over the bottom of the crostata.
- Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes.
- 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.
- Put the tart in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
- After 25 minutes, check the tart and continue baking until the tart is of a nice golden hue.
- 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.