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.
This was a fun challenge. It was the kind of thing that allowed for a lot of freedom, which meant that I could do whatever I wanted! (Which is actually a double edged sword - I love the freedom, but it also leave open a lot of "what about this?" questioning...!) I knew I would do a sweet crostata. I mean, really, I love sweets, so why wouldn't I? I was trying to figure out, though, what I could do for a savory one. There were a bunch of ideas floating around, but I just wasn't sure if any of them would actually work...
For my sweet crostata, though, my ideas were coming fast and furious. Jam! Fresh fruits! Chocolate under a vanilla pastry cream! Really, there was too much, and I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't make any of them since I wouldn't be able to decide. Then I looked at the week's supermarket circulars and saw that fresh raspberries were on sale. Mmm... Raspberries are my absolute favorite. Then I remembered one other thing - I had two beautiful lemons sitting in my kitchen which had been grown on the tree in my mother's backyard. Lemon and raspberry... Perfect!
Simona gave us two recipe options for the pasta frolla, or crostata crust, dough. I chose the first option, as the second contained a variety of flours and such that I don't keep on hand. As I usually do, I used vegetable shortening instead of butter to keep my dough dairy free. This recipe was very much like the pie crust I usually make, except this on uses eggs rather than water. I was a little concerned, it did not look like there would be enough moisture to hold the dough together. But it really did come out beautifully! I was really impressed by the tender dough that held together so nicely.
For my lemon layer I made the same lemon curd that my family has always made for our lemon meringue pies. It was strange, though, because we usually only make that pie on passover. So my recipe calls for potato starch. Which I don't have in the house. It took me a moment to remember that potato starch is really the passover substitute for corn starch, and that it really was ok to use the corn version! The fresh lemons were so good in the curd! The whole kitchen smelled lemony, it was heavenly!
Because I was using a cold, precooked filling, my pasta frolla crust would need to be prebaked, or blind baked. This was process which seemed to be new to a number of my fellow Daring Bakers. But I have done it a number of times, when making my home made pie crusts. This challenge gave me another opportunity to pull out my trusty, fancy pie weights! Dried beans and rice to the rescue! This challenge also gave me the chance to buy myself a present of a tart pan. I was very excited about it! Because I was prebaking my crust, I knew I was not going to be making the lattice top for my crostata. I was a little happy about that, since I am a little intimidated by making the lattice... Instead I used the extra pasta frolla to make heart shaped cookies, which turned out to be really tasty!
Crust cooked and cooled, curd chilled and ready, it was time to put everything together. My finished crostata looked so good! I couldn't wait to cut into it!! My parents-in-law came for lunch, so this was set to be the perfect dessert. Finally it was time to cut...
It seems my lemon curd did not set up as well as I thought it had. It was a little bit leaky... But the taste was AMAZING! All of us had a hard time keeping our forks out of the dish to take more tastes! And the fresh raspberries complimented the lemon to well. The crust was like a big, subtle sugar cookie. This was a fabulous treat!
With the success of the sweet crostata, I decided to just do it and go for a savory one. I used the same pasta frolla recipe, but cut the sugar from a cup to about a tablespoon. This time I knew I would be baking the filling, so I left the extra dough to make my lattice. That was hard! I knew there was a reason I kept avoiding it! The dough was very fragile, and I had a hard time getting my strips up from the counter onto the pie... But I eventually got there...! For my filling I used spinach, onions, eggs and cheeses. It was quiche-esque, but crossed with a savory cheesecake texture. Yet again, this crostata was a success! It was a satisfying, filling, delicious dinner that was enjoyed by all!
Thank you so much, Simona, for such a wonderful challenge! This is such a fun, versatile dish, I know I will be making it again and again! If you want to see the amazing creations my fellow Daring Bakers came up with, take a look here! I guarantee it, you will not be disappointed!