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.
On the first day of every new month I am very nervous. And do you know why? As it is the day when I find out what the new challenge is and that's always a big surprise and I'm really looking forward to this, because I love this our group where one can fully express himself (or herself) and create something fantastic for the others. As for exaple this month - famous Italien crostata (loosely translated as tart).
Crostata? What's that? Let me explain :D It's a type of Italien dessert made from pasta frolla and filling. We had to use the recipe provided for pasta frolla, but were completely free to choose a filling.
Pasta frolla is similar to the dough used for sugar cookies and it's used as a base for Italien pies (so I think I can say it's also similar to shortcrust pastry when it comes to usage - NOT TASTE!). It could be loosely translated as a "pastry dough". Recipes vary a lot and some suggest using one part sugar, two parts fat, three parts flour (which is in fact light Linzer dough). Others are completely different and do not suggest any parts at all. However, the one (which i've found sooo many times) consists of two parts flour, one part fat and one part sugar. The fat should be butter, the real thing, not some butter flavoured margarine or something. Another ingredient is egg. Again it's hard to tell whether you should use an egg yolk or whole egg. Using egg yolks without egg whites creates more "shortcrust-like" pasta frolla and using whole eggs leads to more "cookie-like" pasta frolla. So it's up to your preference :)
The most traditional filling is (preferably homemade) jam or preserve. The sourer in taste the better, because the dough is pretty sweet, itself. Although you can find hundreds of different fillings such as pastry cream (a.k.a. creme patisserie in French or crema pasticcera in Italien), ricotta or mascarpone cheese filling, vanilla flavoured one with raisins and many, many others.
When I was supposed to decide what my filling would be I wasn't sure what to choose. You know, there's so many possibilities and I'd love to try them all, though it's not possible. I wanted something Italien, because crostata=Italy - you know what I mean. My first idea was bourbon vanilla ricotta or mascarpone filling (I just love these cheeses - in fact I'm all-cheeses lover :D). However, when I saw chestnuts in my local store I simply couldn't resist. So I googled and googled for two hours through a huge lot of Italien recipes to create a perfect chestnut filling (plus now I know quite a lot of new Italien words). And here it is. My Crostata di castagne e cioccolato (Crostata with chestnust and chocolate).
I chose a slightly different recipe for pasta frolla, because I wanted it to be the most traditional one. I also lowered the amount of ingredients for the dough and still ended up with a lot of leftovers (so I turned them into cookies filled with nutella, honey, pecans, candied ginger, treacle or marzipan - daddy devoured them all within a minute). I gotta say it was a huge pleasure to work with this pasta frolla - the best yet. I simply put together 2 parts flour, one part butter and one part powdered sugar, then I added two egg yolks (as I prefer "shortcrusty" pastry to cookie-like one). It's fabulous! When it comes to the method I sticked to the recipe provided by Simona, as it is the one you can find in almost all recipes for pasta frolla and it works great without any problem. However, I have to avow I forgot to add lemon zest to the pasta frolla. Yep, it belongs there (either lemon zest or vanilla - depends on you), but my head probably doesn't do its best these day. Anyway, it was very yummy and nobody noticed anything :D
The hardest part though, was the filling. Probably my chestnuts were too ripe/young whatever or maybe too old, because it was almost impossible to remove the inner shell so I spent two hours removing it and in the end I was so bored and tired I used my vegetable peeler and it worked like heaven! Then I had to boil the chestnuts to soften them which took another one hour but the taste of the filling - it's worth every minute! Okay, I won't bore you any more and here you have the recipe :)
150g plain flour (or all-purpose), sifted
75g cold butter, cut into tiny lumps
75g powdered sugar
a pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
grated zest of half a lemon
800g chestnuts (maybe more)
250ml whipping cream (33% fat)
50g powdered sugar
100g bourbon vanilla powdered sugar
2 tsp whiskey cream
120g dark chocolate, melted
Pasta frolla: Mix together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl. Add 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 a knife and then your fingertips. Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten egg yolks into it. Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg yolk mixture. Use a knife to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball. 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. Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge and unwrap it. Lightly dust the top of the dough and your 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 3 mm thick. Flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. 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. Spread the dark chocolate chestnut filling evenly over the bottom of the crostata. Then spread the whiskey cream chestnut filling evenly over the first one. Bake in preheated oven to 180C for about 15 minutes. Then (if needed) cover it with aluminium foil to avoid overbaking the surface and bake on 160C another 15 minutes. When done, remove crostata from the oven and let cool. Make sure the crostata is completely cool before slicing and serving.
Filling: Use a sharp pointed knife to slice either a horizontal slash or a large X along the flat side of each chestnut. Then put chestnuts into a deep pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and take out two chestnuts at a time. Peel the outer shell and then try to remove the inner one too. If this doesn't work, use your vegetable peeler. When done, put 500g chestnuts into a deep pan, add milk and whipping cream. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 45 minutes (until very thick and there's almost no liquid). Let cool a bit, add powdered sugar and homemade vanilla sugar and blend with your blender until smooth and creamy. Divide into two parts. Mix one part with melted dark chocolate. Add whiskey cream into the second part. Let cool completely.
- Bourbon vanilla sugar is sugar containing seeds from real vanilla pods. You can either make your own or buy it in a store. However, I recommend using the finest you can get, preferably powdered.
- You can use any alcohol of your choice - like rum, eggnog etc. I used whiskey cream and it was wonderful - it added the right depth to the chestnut cream.
- The amount of chestnuts isn't exact. I peeled 800g of them and then their weight was a little above 500g. The important thing is that you need 500g peeled chestnuts for the filling - not less!
Thank you so much, Simona! Pasta frolla is wonderful and I love it even without the lemon zest and/or vanilla. It's very shortcrusty, light and melt-in-your-mouth :) As for the filling, it's one of the best I've ever made. I had a hard time preparing it and avoiding eating it before the baking itself. So smooth and rich, nutty tasting and the vanilla + whiskey cream kick was spectacular. It brought the crostata into another dimension. Oh heck, and I didn't want to get fat before Christmas :D No matter how hard and time consuming the filling is, it's worth every second, because it's utterly delicious!