Daring bakers’ challenge: Roasted vegetable crostata

November 27, 2010 § 5 Comments

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 my first challenge with the Daring Bakers and I found it quite inspiring. I had so many ideas for the fillings for my crostata.  In fact, I planned to make multiple crostate, but instead I ended up make two versions of the same crostata, mostly because it was so delicious.  I started with a savory version of the pasta frolla and topped it with a mix of roasted root vegetables and winter squashes.  And a bit of cheese and bacon, of course.

First, there was the individual size roasted vegetable crostata.  And then, there was the bite-sized versions served as appetizers at Thanksgiving.

I modified the pasta frolla recipe slightly to make a savory version of the crostata: I eliminated the sugar and added a bit more salt and some fresh thyme.  I baked 6 4-inch tarts with this dough, although the recipe should also work for one 9-inch tart pan with more for a lattice or other decorative top. I’ve inlcluded both the recipe for the pasta frolla and also the roasted vegetables.  Here they are:

Savory pasta frolla

  • 1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 8 tblsp cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tblsp lemon zest
  • 1 tblsp fresh thyme

1.  In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt.

2.  Add the cold, unsalted butter to the flour mixture in either small pieces, or grate frozen butter in to the flour using a grater.  Cut the butter in to the flour using a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (Of course, you could also do this with a food processor.)

3.  Lightly beat the egg and egg yolk in a small bowl.

4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture.  Add the eggs, lemon zest and thyme.

5.  Using a fork, mix the eggs in to the flour mixture until just incorporated.

6. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead gently until it comes together in to a ball.

7. Shape the dough in to a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill in the fridge for two hours to overnight.

8.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. On a floured surface (or keeping it on the plastic wrap), roll out the dough in a circle approximately 1/8th of an inch thick.

9.  For use with the 4-inch tart pans, use a sharp knife to cut out pieces of dough at least 1 inch wider in diameter then the tart pan.

10.  Transfer the dough pieces to the tart pans and gently press in to the pan.  Use a sharp knife to cut off an excess dough hanging over the edges of the tart pans. Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork in many places.

11.  Blind bake the tarts before baking with the filling:  Line the tarts with parchment paper and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice.

12.  Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 15 minutes.

13.  Remove from the oven and remove the parchment paper and pie weights.  Sprinkle with shredded fontina cheese and place roasted vegetables (recipe below) in tart.  Top with bacon and more shredded fontina.

14. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the tarts turn light brown and the cheese is melted.

15. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Roasted winter vegetables

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes*
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 medium dumpling squash
  • 2 turnips
  • 3 yukon gold potatoes
  • 3 leeks
  • fresh thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 4 strips cooked and chopped bacon

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Slice the leeks and chop all of the vegetables into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes.

4. Put the vegetables in to a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Toss the vegetables with olive oil to coat all of the vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper and fresh thyme.

5.  Roast vegetables in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until they are tender and appear roasted, with browned edges.

6. Following the blind baking of the tart shells, sprinkle them with the fontina cheese and fill the shells with the vegetables, chopped bacon, and a bit more fontina on top.    Bake for additional time as described above.

*I have made these with many combinations of winter vegetables, mostly lots of root veggies and squash.  Pick your favorites!  Also, for a richer flavor, feel free to roast the vegetables with the bacon.

Notes on this crostata: I found the recipe for pasta frolla to be quite straightforward and made a perfectly buttery and flakey crust that can support a lot of hearty fillings.  In one version that I made, I ended up adding a tiny bit of water by wetting my hands when kneading the dough, just to get it to stick together a bit.  But, this wasn’t necessary for the second batch I made.  I also attempted a new trick for making this crust– to cut the butter in to the flour, I tried grating frozen butter in to the flour and then taking my pastry blender to it.  I have to say, I really loved this technique.  Although grating the butter is a bit of a pain, it was so much easier and faster to incorporate the butter.  I will definitely be using this technique in the future for all of my pie crusts, scones, and biscuits.  Now go check out the other Daring Baker’s crostate!

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Gouda and bacon biscuits

October 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Cheese!  And bacon!  In a biscuit!  Sounds pretty heavy, I know, but these biscuits actually turned out light and fluffy and not at all like the gut bomb I was worried they would be.  I made these as a breakfast treat last weekend and I was limited by what we had in the pantry and fridge because I didn’t feel like trekking to the store.  I essentially took a basic cream biscuit recipe, messed it up a bit, and then added some cheese and bacon.  Here’s what I used:

  • 5 slices crispy bacon, cooled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded gouda cheese (or your other favorite cheese)
  • 1/4 cup cubed gouda cheese
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tblsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

3. Mix in the cheese and the bacon.

4. Add the half-and-half and mix  with a wooden spoon until the dough just forms.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until it is smooth, approximately 30 seconds.

6. Divide the dough into approximately eight handfuls (or large spoonfuls) and drop onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

7. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Notes on these biscuits: These biscuits were quite tasty on their own– no butter, gravy or any other condiments required.  This dough bakes up light and fluffy, and the cheese and bacon add a nice contrasting texture.  My one complaint is that they could have used a bit more cheese flavor.  This may have been due to the use of relatively mild gouda, so I might choose a sharper cheese next time, or add more shredded cheese to the dough.  I liked the combined use of both shredded and cubed cheese because the cheese flavor gets integrated in the dough, but there are still pockets of crispy, backed cheese thanks to the cubes of cheese.

I was not intending to make drop biscuits with this recipe, but I had some trouble handling the dough as it was very wet. It just seemed easier to drop the biscuits on to the baking sheet rather than cutting them out.  So, that’s what I did and it turned out pretty well.  The craggy texture allowed for a lot of corners of yummy, melty cheese.  You can’t go wrong with that.

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