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.
I love pies and tarts. I really do. I think, in most cases, I’ll choose them over cake. So this month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge, crostata, was good news for me! Crostata is a traditional Italian tart, made with short crust pastry. I’ve been wondering what the difference is between short crust pastry and short pastry (or pâte brisée) Apparently, the main difference is that short pastry contains water. And then, you have pâté sablée, which is closer to short crust pastry, but has a higher butter content. So many doughs, so little time.
I made my first ever crostata a few months ago, to bring to a dinner party; while I obviously didn't make it as part of this challenge, I thought I might as well included it here, since I haven't posted about it yet. I used pâte brisée, and made an apple filling. I quite like the rustic look of free-form crostate, and they’re so easy to make. But, although the dough was perfect, I found that the apples were undercooked to my taste.
The challenge required us to make pasta frolla (short crust pastry), which was easy enough to make. It was very crumbly, and I had trouble rolling it out evenly, but it was also quite forgiving, in that it allowed me to patch up any holes or tears very easily.
We were giving free range for the filling. Our hostess, Simona, suggested filling the tart with jam, or pastry cream, before baking it. But I wasn’t in the mood for a jam tart. As for pastry cream, I already knew how to make it, and I tend to prefer it unbaked. There was the possibility of blind baking the crust entirely and then filling it with fresh pastry cream and fresh fruit. That last option was most appealing to me, but it also had the inconvenience of not keeping very long. What to do, what to do?
In the end, I used a recipe from Marcy Goldman’s A Passion for Baking, a variation on the traditional French chocolate silk pie. Traditionally, silk pies require no baking – but since they contain eggs, they are considered a little risky that way. I’m not too afraid of raw eggs (coming from a country where people have regularly freaked out about mad cow disease and dioxin-contaminated chicken, I think I’ve grown a little blasé about food poisoning in general), but I did want my crostata to keep for at least a few days. Marcy’s version features slightly non traditional ingredients, such as sweetened condensed milk, and is baked long enough to ensure safety. “Sounds good to me,” I decided.
Having never used sweetened condensed milk before, I didn’t know what to expect. The thick, gloopy mixture that poured out of the can wasn’t particularly appetizing, but then I’ve learned not to judge an ingredient based on first impressions. And I was right, because this was one of the best tarts I’ve ever made. There was a distinctive malty taste from the condensed milk, but it wasn’t too invasive, and the chocolate was still definitely the star. The crostata was sweet, but not cloying (although I was glad I’d cut out some of the sugar in the crust), and the filling was creamy and almost fudge-like. Fudge in a crust – who wouldn’t love that?
Speaking of the crust, I’d blind baked it for 15 minutes before filling it, as I often have trouble with underbaked pie bottoms. I had rolled it out quite thinly, and it was evenly baked, with a nice, sandy texture that nonetheless held together. I did try to decorate the top with the traditional lattice pattern of dough strips, but because my filling was so liquid before baking, the strips looked like they were sinking into it. It just seemed like a bad idea, so I removed them.
This was a very pleasant challenge, and the pasta frolla recipe is a keeper. Also, the Untraditional French Chocolate Silk Crostata will from now on be one of my go-to recipes for dinner parties. Thank you, Simona, for these discoveries!
Don’t forget to check out the challenge recipes, and to go through the Daring Bakers’ blogroll!