Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daring Bakers-Apple and Lavender Crostata

I finished on time this month, yeah! Ironically, I made the same crostata for Thanksgiving but forgot to take a picture of it, and probably it was for the better as by the time it came out of the oven there was no day light to take a picture of it. I served it with caramel ice cream, and it was devoured. This tart went in the oven that it was almost dark so the pictures are really bad, plus it is really hard to take pictures of brown food, see the difference with the rose photo, taken at the same time.


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.

Not sure how to fix the following format, I tried everything, short of rewriting the post, not sure how it happened, apologies.....

When people ask me what my specialty is as a pastry chef I immediately say tarts and cookies, so I was happy to have the excuse to make a crostata for the DB challenge, I will never tire of them. A crostata is essentially a tart, in Italy we mostly make two types, the classic version with pastry cream and fresh fruit, and the one with jam and a lattice top. Because of my love for fresh fruit tarts (crostate), I started making them in college whenever I was going somewhere for dinner, soon I was making them all the time, just so I could eat them. Crostate sealed my fate I believe, as I started trying different versions and never stopped. I believe that what attract me of this dessert is the endless variations. The crust can be flavored by adding lemon zest, vanilla, or ground nuts, and it can be baked blind or with the filling, depending on the recipe. The sky is the limit when it comes to the filling, as you can see from the many versions of other daring bakers. You can find the complete recipe here.

Simona, whom I first met in cyber space and then in real life, gave us two versions of pasta frolla to try, and complete freedom when it came to the filling. Pasta frolla is a type of paté sucree, and it is made by just making a mound of flour, adding the butter in pieces, and binding everything with an egg or few yolks, it comes together in minutes and it is delicious. I struggled for few days to decide what to make, since there are so many fantastic flavors I could have used. This particular tart became my favorite for a while, I first saw it in the 1992 book Savory to Sweet: Pies and Tarts, which is no longer published. I have made this tart dozen of times, it is not only stunning but also delicious. This tart comes from Normandie, a region in France where they grow apples and lavender, thus the pairing of the two in this tasty tart. The recipe for frangipane is mine, the one from the book is a little too rich for my taste. You can omit the lavender if you prefer (I used a tablespoon), but I urge you to try it, it goes really well with the apples.

This bad photo reminds me of pre-digital photos from the 60's, but can't do better than this

Pasta frolla

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Note 1: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

Note 2: There are different ways of making vanilla sugar. I keep vanilla beans in a jar half-filled with sugar until I need to use them, for example, to make vanilla ice cream. After I remove the split bean from the custard that will go into the ice cream maker, I rinse it, dry it and put it back in the jar with sugar.

Making pasta frolla by hand:

  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.


Making pasta frolla with a food processor:

  1. Put sugar, flour, salt, and lemon zest in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
  2. Add butter and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
  3. Empty food processor's bowl onto your work surface
  4. See step 3 above and continue as explained in the following steps (minus the lemon zest, which you have already added).

Variation for Version 1 of pasta frolla:

If you want, you can make the pasta frolla using a combination of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat pastry flour.

If you choose to try this variation, use 1 cup [240 ml, 135 g, 4 3/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup [180 ml, 100 g, 3.5 oz.] whole-wheat pastry flour.


Frangipane


4 oz. butter, at room temperature
1/2 Cup sugar (100 gr)
1 egg
2 Cups ground almonds (hazelnuts would work as well)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and the sugar until fluffy, add the egg, and beat until well incorporated. Scrape the side of the bowl and add the ground almonds. Spread evenly in the unbaked tart shell. Frangipane keeps few days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for weeks.

Assembly:

Peel, halve, and core 4 apples (I used Golden delicious). Cut each half in very thin slices, keeping the pieces together. Sprinkle one tablespoon of lavender flowers on the unbaked shell, then spread the soft frangipane on top. Add the sliced apples fanning the slices as shown in the pictures. Bake at 350F until the frangipane is set and the apples start to color. Brush the top with diluted and strained apricot preserve to give the tart a beautiful shiny look (warm up few tablespoons of jam with a little water, bring to a boil and then strain any fruit pieces out).

Many thanks to Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lisa of La Mia Cucina, founders of Daring Bakers, and to Simona for choosing this month's challenge.

9 comments:

bakercoz said...

What a unique flavor combination. It sounds wonderful!

Koci said...

I've never tried the apple/lavender combination before, but it sounds delicious. Great job on this challenge!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A splendid flavor combo and crostata! Tarts are so delicious.

Cheers,

Rosa

Simona said...

La tua crostata e' bellissima, Laura. Veramente mi hai fatto venire voglia di provare. Non ho mai fatto il frangipane e sono curiosa di provare il sapore della lavanda in questa combinazione. Grazie!

Gaia said...

Che bello e originale questo fiore di mele che hai fatto!
:-)

bake in paris said...

I am intrigued by the addition of lavender flowers on the shell before applying frangipane, it must create a very good aroma into the overall tart.

Besides that, I love the way you arrange and fanning the apple slices. Just beautiful

Lisa said...

What a beautiful and unique crostata, Laura. It's so..shall I say feminine? Would be ideal for tea in the backyard. I love it!! Fantastic job!

elra said...

apple and lavender, this two combo really intrigued me :)

MC said...

You are so talented, Laura! This is just gorgeous...

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