Sunday, November 28, 2010

Apple and Pecan Crostata

I absolutely loved this version of the crostata as I love apples and cinnamon in any form. This was made with the remaining dough from the Custard and Fruit Crostata. I didn't follow any recipe as such but just threw in whatever I liked.



Half a batch of Crostata dough
1 Tsp Cinnamon
A Pinch of Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Lime Juice
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Large Apples (Any kind)
1/2 Cup Toasted Pecans (Roughly Chopped)

1. Preheat oven to 175 degree C (350 degree F). Keep the dough in the fridge until needed. Keep ready a large baking sheet.
2. Peel, core and slice the apples. Place them in a microwave proof plate and add to it the rest of the ingredients (except the pecans). Give a good stir with a spoon to mix and heat in the microwave for 4 minutes on high. The apples will become soft and leave a lot of liquid. Separate the liquid and add in the pecans (Alternatively you can cook them on the stove).
3. Take the dough and place between two sheets of wax paper. Roll out the dough to form an 8 inch circle, upto 5 mm in thickness. Remove the top sheet of wax paper. Using the bottom sheet, lift the dough circle and flip on the baking sheet.
4. Place the filling in the center of the circle, leaving a one and half inch gap from all sides. Fold the dough over the filling from all sides to form a temporary bowl leaving the center open (pleating the edges to form a broad rim). Place in the oven and bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Happy Eating!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dare to make a Crostata?

I just did! After missing out on the Octobers Daring Bakers challenge (too much going on at home - but the doughnuts had me going nuts!), I was all geared up to know what November brought for us. And it was something that I have always admired in the cute glass displays of bakeries. Beautifully decorated crostatas with jam, custard and fresh fruit. Yum! 

Blog-checking lines: 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.

According to Simona "Crostata (tart) is an Italian dessert. The base of a crostata is pasta frolla (or pastafrolla), sweet short crust pastry (or sweet tart dough) made of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. Pasta frolla is versatile: it provides the base to make crostata with fruit preserves, pastry cream, fresh fruit, ricotta, and other ingredients, and, by itself, it makes very nice cookies."

Though I have made pies before, I have not made a crostata and was happy to try something new. While I could have gone wild with my filling ideas I chose to go the simple route and opt for a crema (pastry cream) filling and fruit topping. Because I did not have a tart pan I decided to use my mini tart pans and make four individual tarts with half of the dough. The other half was used to make a free form Apple and Pecan Crostata.

The pastry cream recipe is from Annie's Eats and makes a great home made custard. As my mom is a diabetic I used Sugar free instead of sugar in the recipe. All I can say is blech!! Somehow I was getting a chemical after taste in the cream even though none of the others could taste it. The cream by itself was good but I will never use the sugar free for desserts again.

Update - Let me clarify here that the recipe for the pastry cream is great and I was the only one who had a problem with the chemical after taste. I'm sure if I made it with regular sugar it would be fantastic. Every one in the house enjoyed the cream without any complaints :)

I used Version 1 from the recipes provided.

Recipes - Crostata di Frutta Fresca
Pastry Cream Recipe from Annie's Eats

For The Pasta Frolla (Tart Dough/Base)
1/2 Cup minus 1 Tbsp (100 Gms) Superfine Sugar Or A Scant 3/4 Cup (90 Gms) Powdered Sugar – I used artificial sweetener
1 3/4 Cup (235 Gms) Unbleached All-purpose Flour
Pinch of Salt
1 Stick (8 Tbsp/100 - 115 Gms) Cold Unsalted Butter (Cut Into Small Pieces)
Grates Zest of Half a Lemon
1 Large Egg and 1 Large Egg Yolk (Lightly Beaten)

For The Crema (Pastry Cream)
2 Cups Single Cream - I substituted with 420 ml whole milk and 4 Tbsp melted butter.
1/2 Cup Sugar - I used artificial sweetener.
A Pinch of Salt
5 Large Egg Yolks
3 Tbsp Cornflour (Called Cornstarch in U.S)
4 Tbsp (50 Gms) Cold Unsalted Butter (Cut into 4 Pieces)
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Essence

For Assembling
Fruits like strawberries, kiwis, raspberries (whatever you love!)
Jam (Any flavour - I used strawberry)
2 Tbsp Melted Chocolate

Making The 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.

Make The Crema (While the dough is chilling)
1. Heat the single cream (in my case I combined the milk and butter), 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
2. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.
3. Whisk in the cornflour until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
4. When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. (The cream thickens very quickly so keep an eye on it)
5. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.
6. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Bake The Pasta Frolla
1. Preheat the oven to 180 Degree C (350 Degree F).
2. Divide the dough in two parts and roll out on a lightly floured surface (I made four mini tarts, if making a single crostata roll out to at least 11 inches). With the help of a rolling pin roll the dough onto the pin and unroll over the base of the pan.
3. Cut a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil large enough to cover the bottom of the crust and extend out a bit over the edges of the pan.
4. You can use pie weights or dry beans to blind bake (I used uncooked rice). Place whatever weight you’re using directly on the parchment paper or aluminum foil in an even layer.
5. Place the crostata shell in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. (Lesser if making a smaller version like me)
6. Remove the weights and parchment paper and continue baking the crostata shell until the border is light golden, about 5 minutes (watch carefully to avoid over-baking, which results in a hard shell). In the absence of weight, the crust may rise in the middle: if that occurs, gently push it back down with the back of a spoon.
7. Remove from the oven and let the crostata shell cool completely before proceeding.
8. If you use a tart pan with removable bottom, release the base from the fluted tart ring, then slide the cooled crostata shell on a serving plate for filling. (Note: If you’ve used a cake pan or pie plate, use a bit of care in taking the shell out of the baking vessel.)

Assemble The Crostata
1. Spread a thin layer of the melted chocolate on the bottom of the cooled shell.
2. Spread the chilled prepared pastry cream on top.
3. Decorate the surface with fresh fruit (You can use any fruits you like - I used strawberries and kiwis).
4. Heat the jam in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, just until slightly melted and easy to stir. Using a pastry brush, paint a light layer of the jam over the fresh fruit.

The crostata must be cool, but not cold, so if you refrigerate it, take it out of the fridge half an hour before serving. This crostata is best eaten the same day it is prepared.

Watch for the Apple Recipe in the next post!
For the complete challenge recipe and directions check out the daring bakers website.
Happy Eating!!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Best Cinnamon Rolls Ever

Sorry for the bad picture, but my camera broke :( Have to rely on my cellphone!!

There are many times in life when someone claims that they make the best of something or that they have eaten the best possible version of it somewhere in the world. And think I half of the times those claims don't hold true to a taste test and you and end up disappointed. However, this time I have to hand it over to the Pioneer Woman. Having already made Cinnamon rolls before, I was expecting a similar result from this recipe. But was I wrong! These rolls are melt in your mouth delicious and I am not at all surprised that she makes 7 pans at a time because my sister and I managed to finish 2 pans all by ourselves in just two days. If all you have eaten is the store bought stuff its time you whip out the yeast and create these babies. The best part about this recipe is there is no kneading of the dough. Just mix with a spoon or spatula and you are ready to roll (no pun intended!). I didn't want to make the entire recipe so I searched for a scaled down version and got it on another blog (even though I could have calculated it myself - talk about lazy!). I got three pans of seven - eight rolls each,  next time I will not roll out the dough as much. I added all the flour at once in the beginning without reading the recipe properly and had to add the baking powder and soda on their own later on. However, this didn't affect my rolls at all and I got a great rise. Because I was pressed for time I made the dough one night and the rolls the next day and the dough was a lot easier to work with. You do have to knead it with a little flour so that it is no longer sticky. In her recipe Pioneer Woman makes a lot of frosting and drowns the rolls in them. But I preferred the rolls with just a drizzle as the frosting was way too sweet for our tastes. I suggest adding a little at a time according to your sweet tooth.
P. S - For Step-by-step photos and instructions check the Pioneer Woman's Site.

Recipe Source - Originally from The Pioneer Woman, Scaled down recipe from here.

Ingredients - Aprox. 20 rolls.

For The Rolls
1 1/3 Cup Whole Milk
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/3 Cup Caster Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp Dry Yeast - I used instant yeast
2 2/3 Cups All-Purpose Flour (Maida) (+ 1/3 Cup for sprinkling)
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/3 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Salt
100 Gms (1/2 Cup/1 Stick) Unsalted Butter (Melted)
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
Cinnamon Powder - As Much As You Like
For The Vanilla Frosting
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Essence
3/4 Cups Milk
2 Tbsp Brewed Coffee
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Pecans (Optional)
A Pinch of Salt

1. Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a saucepan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in the yeast (Whichever yeast you are using). Let this sit for a minute. Transfer the mixture to a big mixing bowl and add 2 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir together and cover. Let rise for at least an hour.
2. After rising for at least an hour, add remaining 2/3 cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).
3. When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take the dough and form a rough rectangle (I added some extra flour and kneaded my dough till no longer sticky). Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle the 100 gms melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. (Put the cinnamon powder in a sieve and lightly tap against your hand to get an even sprinkling all over). 
4. Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.
5. Generously grease three 7, 8 or 9 inch round foil, cake or pie pans. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans (A bread knife or large serrated knife works best). Turn on oven and pre-heat to 190 Degrees C (375 Degrees F).
6. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Make The Frosting - Mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. 

Happy Eating!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mango Cheesecake

Mmmmm, Cheesecake! Creamy, tangy and sinfully delicious. I really like fruit cheesecakes more than any other flavours mostly because they are lighter (can a cheesecake be called light??) and give a subtle yet refreshing fruity taste. One of the treats on my sisters' list was this cheesecake and I was all geared up to make it since I rarely get a chance to bake cheesecakes. A big cheesecake sitting in my fridge is a big danger sign for me! After making the Oreo Cheesecake and the Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake, I was all geared up to try a new flavor and decided to try a mango version.

As you know I am from India, the land that is home to hundreds of varieties of the best mangoes you can get anywhere. Come summer and the markets are flooded with mangoes like the Alphonso, langda, totapuri, gutli, badami etc. Every variety has a distinct flavor and smell. Ripening mangoes smell heavenly and if you have a tree in the backyard you are done for. It is so much fun to go and pluck the unripe mango from the tree and store it in the rice bin till it is ready to eat. What is not fun is having to share one mango among five people!
Even though I am not a big fan of the fruit, I love everything made from it like pickles, chutneys, curry, ice cream and aam ras (slurp!)
I used canned mango pulp in this recipe rather than fresh ones as most of the reviewers suggested it. I also cut down the sugar and I think this amount was perfect.

Recipe Source - Adapted from Bon Appetit via Epicurious

Ingredients - Makes One 9 Inch Cheesecake

For the Crust

1 1/2 Cups Crushed Digestive Biscuits (Or Graham Cracker Crumbs)
1/4 Cup Sugar
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) Unsalted Butter (Melted)

For The Filling
2 Cups Canned Mango Pulp**
680 Gms Cream Cheese 
1 Cup Sugar
2 Tsp Vanilla Essence
4 Large Eggs

1. Preheat oven to 165 Degree C (325 Degree F). Lightly butter a 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Mix the biscuit crumbs and sugar in a bowl. Add in the melted butter and stir until evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan. I use the bottom of a measuring cup to press and evenly distribute the crumbs to get an even crust. Bake until crust is set, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Maintain oven temperature.
2. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 cups mango puree and beat until well blended. Beat at low speed and only till the ingredients are combined. Pour filling over crust in pan. I used a little extra pulp to create a swirled look on the top. But my cheesecake cracked and the pretty swirls were lost! :(
3. Bake cake until set and puffed and golden around edges (center may move very slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 25 minutes. Remove and cool cake 1 hour. Refrigerate uncovered overnight. Run small knife between cake and sides of pan to loosen. Remove pan sides. Transfer cake to platter. Cut into wedges and serve.
* Tip - To powder the biscuits easily, place the biscuits in a large Ziploc bag and seal tight. Roll a rolling pin over the plastic to powder till fine.
** - The original recipe calls for fresh mangoes. If you have fresh mangoes follow the recipe on Epicurious.
Happy Eating!!