Short pastry and crostata were the first sweet recipes I tried when I was just a child. During my long summer breaks, I used to spend my whole time with Chiara, a classmate from the elementary school who soon had become one of my best friends and my summer joyride mate. We used to ride our bicycles from morning to evening, exploring nearby countryside. We had to do our summer homework tough, but we shared the duty, sitting on a table under honey scented linden trees in her garden, drinking iced tea and nibbling at cookies and fresh fruit.
Our passion were picnics! We started with simple ham and cheese sandwiches and fruit salad to reach the highest levels of refinement and creativity the year we decided to organize an English party in the middle of the field! We even asked our sisters and friends to come with fancy dress costumes! Every year, there was a constant: short pastry cookies and crostata.
Therefore, I was very happy when I saw that this month Daring bakers’ theme was crostata, a well-known Italian recipe, and most of all a family favourite! 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 was happy also because it was a brand new version of short pastry, totally different from my usual pastafrolla (as we call it in Italy). For example, here you can find my family recipe for short pastry, while this is my version with olive oil instead of butter. Last but not least, this is another version, the one I learned from last year cooking class!
I made short pastry following Simona’s recipe, and I loved it till the last crumble. With the pastafrolla I obtained, I made two crostate, using a 10 x 30 cm tin. I used leftover dough to make delicious cookies filled with raspberry jam.
- vanilla powdered sugar, 90 g
- unbleached all-purpose flour, 235 g
- a pinch of salt
- cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, 115 g
- 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl. 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.
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). Use a fork 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.
This delicious crème de marrons de l’Ardèche – a French chestnut spread – had waited patiently in my cupboard for too long, since FoodBlogger Connect 2010, when Pam was so nice to bring a gourmet gift from France for us! It was time – and season, most of all – to use it in a delicious and delicate tart.
Crostata filled chestnut pastry cream
- short pastry, 1/2 batch
- milk, 250 ml
- egg, 1
- sugar, 2 tablespoons
- plain flour, 1 tablespoon
- chestnut spread, 1 heaping tablespoon
- ground nutmeg, 1 pinch
Making chestnut pastry cream. Heat milk on medium heat until the steaming point. Whip egg with sugar and flour. Fold in chestnut spread. Pour hot milk over the egg mixture and bring back to the heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. As soon as the pastry cream is thick and veils the spoon, remove from the heat, cover with cling film and let cool down.
Assembling the tart. Heat the oven to 180ºC. Grease a 10×30 cm baking tin and dust with flour. Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll it out. 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 with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
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.
Cover the bottom of the crostata crust evenly with the chestnut pastry cream and sprinkle with a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. Put the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or 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.
Chocolate and tahini. I still remember the first time I saw this two ingredients used together into the same sweet preparation. It was La Tartine Gourmande’s molten chocolate cake, a love at first sight. I used to consider tahini just a savoury ingredient until that day, when I suddenly realized it could be used with gourmet results in sweet recipes as well, paired with chocolate. Since that day, I’ve dreamed about a chocolate and tahini tart, supported by Meeta’s examples, who used this mix twice, in macarons and clafoutis. Well, believe me, give it a try! I’m a chocoholic, I admit it, but tahini gives a totally new and unexpected depth and character to chocolate, making it one of the best chocolate cake ever eaten. Maldon salt is the icing on the cake: it creates a crisp and luscious contrast, that enhances the velvety sensation given by chocolate and tahini.
Crostata with chocolate and tahini filling
- short pastry, 1/2 batch
- whole milk, 250 ml
- dark chocolate, 120 g
- egg, 1
- sugar, 2 tablespoons
- cornstarch, 1 tablespoon
- tahini, 1 tablespoon
- Maldon salt or fleur de sel
Making chocolate and tahini filling. Heat milk on medium heat with chopped dark chocolate. Stir frequently, until completely melted. Whip egg with sugar and cornstarch. Fold in tahini. Pour hot milk and melted chocolate over the egg and tahini mixture and bring back over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. As soon as the chocolate and tahini cream is thick and veils the spoon – about 5 minutes -, remove from the heat, cover with cling film and let cool down.
Assembling the tart. Heat the oven to 180ºC. Proceed as in the other recipe and bake for about 30 minutes. When done, remove the tart from the oven, sprinkle with Maldon salt or fleur de sel and let cool. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving.