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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daring Bakers - Italian Ricotta Crostata

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 have enjoyed this challenge. It took me a long time to decide on the filling then I got the idea for a traditional Italian ricotta cheese filling from one of the Daring Baker posts. I used version 1 from our challenge for the Pasta Frolla and rolled it into an 8-inch tart pan. It has a lot more sugar and eggs than a pate sucre and was very crumbly; I had to add 2 TBS. of water to the dough to get it together.

I let the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight before rolling it out; it was not such an easy task to roll it as it can get pretty sticky and break off here and there. Maybe pressing the dough in the tart pan with the finger-tips would be an easier, if not better, method as I had to do this with the edges anyway.

This is what I used for the filling, a recipe from "Group Recipes," slightly adapted.

Ricotta Filling
2 pounds ricotta
½ cup sugar
1 Tbs. flour
1/2 teasp. salt
1/2 teasp. vanilla
1 tsp. grated orange zest
4 egg yolks
2 TBS. white raisins, soaked overnight in marsala wine
Pastry cut-outs from the left over pasta frolla

Combine the ricotta cheese with ½ cup of sugar, 1 Tbs. tapioca, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tsp. vanilla, grated orange peel and egg yolks. Beat until they are thoroughly mixed. Stir in the raisins. Spoon this filling into the partially baked pastry shell spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Decorate the pie with the pastry cutouts. Make sure the filling covers the edges of the pastry so the pastry does not get too brown.

Place tart on a tray in the oven then bake on the middle shelf at 350 degrees F for 1 to 1¼ hours or until the crust is golden and the filling is firm. (I baked it for 1 hour and 10 mins.) The almost invisible flower shapes are pastry cutouts I made from the leftover dough.

After baking:
Take the pie from the oven and let it sit on wire rack to cool. Refrigerate for a while. Serve slightly chilled.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Apple Cranberry Galette - Tuesdays with Dorie

I have never made a galette before; it's a wonderful type of pastry to make - so easy and quite pretty, I think, with its pleated border. I used a pizza pan to bake it on, just rolling the dough over the rolling pin and placing the pastry on the pizza pan by unrolling the dough from the pin. The pan also has a natural 1-1/2 inch border so I used it as a guideline for making the folds.

Cranberries alone are a bit tart for my taste so I chose sliced apples and cranberries in a compote, mixed with sugar, water, honey, about 3/4 tsp. of squeezed of lemon juice, and a dash of cinnamon. I got the idea for the compote from Epicurious.

The dough was nice and easy to roll but stuck awfully on the silpat the first time, so that means using a lot of flour. The galette is in the oven right now. Tomorrow I'll get my taste testers' comments.

Later - it's baked perfectly, except some of the fruit on the very top is a bit dry so I am applying some Dr. Oetker's glaze over the fruit.

The verdict today: fabulous pastry but the fruit mix was not liked. It was too sour and needed more sugar. My next fruit galette will not have cranberries; I think my best recipe for apple filling so far is Chef Bo Friberg's in my November 2 post.

Elizabeth of Celestial Confections chose this week's treat. Here's the link to her blog and the recipe: Here's to many more galettes! Thanks Elizabeth.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not-Just-for-Thanksgiving Pear Shortbread Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

Monday night - I have just finished grating the dough disks and mixing the pear filling in a skillet. The P&Q is just the right place to get great ideas for the weekly Tuesdays with Dorie bake; this week I read about grating dough. It is so much better than trying to get rolled out pastry discs to fit the pan.

For the filling I cut up two large Boscobel pears, quite finely, then added 3 ozs. brown sugar, 1-1/2 TBS. flour, 1 TBS. lemon juice, a dash of ground nutmeg, a dash of ground cloves, and a couple of pinches of salt to a skillet and stirred them a bit, then added the pears. Cooked mixture gently over a medium heat until it started to bubble (it took about 7 minutes to bubble). Now it's cooling - I hope it's not going to make the cake mushy, but here's hoping.

Tuesday and one cake slice later. This is a delicious cake, a bit like a crumb cake in texture but very rich because of the butter. The pear filling is very good and not too sweet. Any stone fruit compote or preserves would be good with this; and apples with some cranberries, but not a whole cranberry filling.
Jessica of "Singleton in the Kitchen" picked this week's treat for us. Thank you, Jessica; it's a great cake. For the recipe check out her blog.
[Note to self: next time leave the freshly grated pastry out on the shelf for about 15 minutes; do not put back in fridge. This way the dough won't be too cold and take about 50 minutes to bake; it should be more like 35 - 40 minutes.]

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lemon Meringue Nests and Apple Hand Pies

I've been pretty busy these past two weeks, making pastries for a reception at my church. All in all I prepared around 200 mini pastries; it felt something like a teach yourself pastry school course as I tried a couple of different items I had never made before.

The first pastry was the Meringue Lemon Curd Nests, adapted from a recipe by Chef Gordon Ramsey in BBC Good Food.
Meringue Recipe

3 egg whites
1/2 teasp. lemon juice
3/4 cup of fine sugar (ground regular sugar in the coffee grinder)

Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Tip the egg whites and lemon juice into the clean bowl of a food mixer. Whisk until the whites double in volume and hold a peak when the whisk is drawn through them. Keep the whisk running and add the sugar a tbsp at a time, incorporating completely before adding the next. Whisk until all the sugar has been added and the whites are glossy.
Place a square of baking parchment on a large baking sheet. Pencil 20 circles, about 1-1/2 to 2 inches each, onto the parchment (or place a second sheet of parchment with drawn circles under the top sheet). Spoon the meringue into a 14-inch piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle (no. 3 is a good size) and pipe concentric rounds to fit each drawn circle, piping two or more rings around the edge to form a nest. Place in oven, leaving oven door slightly open by inserting the handle of a wooden spoon it it. Bake for 3 hrs until they are crisp and lift off the paper easily. Leave to cool completely.

Make lemon curd mixed with whipped cream.
Spoon small amount of the curd-cream into each meringue nest. Delicious!

The next treat was apple hand pies. I used a pie pocket maker 3 inches in diameter to cut the pastry and fill the pies. This is a wonderful tool as it makes really neatly shaped pies.

Apple Filling Recipe
(from The Professional Pastry Chef, by Chef Bo Friberg*)

About 7 Granny Smith apples
10 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
4 teaspoons lemon juice
Peel and core the apples. Chop approximately 2/3 of the apples into 1/2 inch pieces.
Place the chopped apples in a saucepan with sugar, water, and lemon juice. Adjust the amount of sugar according to the tartness of the apples and your own taste. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the apples have broken down and the mixture starts to thicken.
Chop the remaining apples into 1/4 inch pieces and add to the mixture on the stove.

Continue cooking the filling until the apple chunks are soft and the filling has reached a jamlike consistency, adding a bit more water if it seems necessary. Let cool at room temperature, then store, covered, in the refrigerator. Add nuts, or raisins, currants or dried cranberries.

Make favorite all butter pastry.
Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick and cut as many rounds as will fit. Sprinkle pie pocket maker lightly with flour. Fill each round of pastry with about a TBS. of apple filling and insert into pie pocket, closing very lightly. Remove apple pastry from pocket. Make a couple of small knife inserts into pie so air can escape while baking. Use egg wash over the top side of each pie.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes or a bit less. (These pies freeze very well, unbaked; when needed they can be baked straight from the freezer.)

Tip: Very important - use only the first round of pastry cut outs - the dough on subsequent rounds will shrink in the the pie pocket and the pies will open while baking. The leftover dough from each first round can always be used for something else.
Work quickly; only cut one circle at a time for each pie. Use needle, not knife for pricking. Use egg wash to help close edges as well as over tops. Must prepare well beforehand so pies can sit in freezer at least overnight.

The reception guests thoroughly enjoyed both these treats - I will be making more of them coming up Thanksgiving visits and Christmas Holiday visits.
*The Professional Pastry Chef:Fundamentals, by Bo Friberg, is an absolutely fabulous baking volume. I would highly recommend it for a treat-yourself purchase.