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!!


  1. Sorry to hear the artificial sweetener tasted yuck! but they do look wonderful well done on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. Your crostata look beautiful, and I know that Annies Eats always has really trustworthy recipes. Sorry that the artificial sweetener didn't work out as well as you had hoped, but man - that certainly looks stunning. Great job on the challenge.


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