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!


Chocolate raspberry tart

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

This past weekend our friendly downstairs neighbors/landlords were kind enough to invite us over for dinner.  They offered to prepare a delicious feast, complete with tasty margaritas, and in return, we offered to bring dessert.  Since I didn’t have a lot of time to be slaving over a dessert, but I wanted to bring something that both appeared and tasted impressive, I opted for this chocolate raspberry tart. (It also didn’t hurt that we  had recently purchased a full flat of raspberries as a last-ditch effort to hang on to summer.)

I have made this before for another dinner party, and posted some photos of it earlier (here), following a recipe from Fine Cooking Chocolate!, but I wanted to change it up just a bit.  The original recipe calls for a gingersnap crust.  I’m a pretty big fan of gingersnaps, but for my taste, I felt like this detracted from the main show here: chocolate and raspberries.  So, in this version, I substituted a chocolate cookie crust, which I think added the same great texture as the gingersnap crust, but kept the flavors balanced and highlighted the richness of the chocolate. This tart could be made in many different ways, so feel free to use your own favorite crust, but here’s how I did it:

For the crust:

  • 6 oz. finely ground chocolate cookies (I used Newman’s Own Chocolate Alphabet Cookies)
  • 2 1/2 tblsp granulated sugar
  • 4 tblsp melted, unsalted butter

    For the filling:

    • 2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
    • 10.5 oz chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    • pinch of table salt

    To prepare the crust:


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 11 inch tart pan with cooking spray and set aside.

    2. In a medium bowl, use a fork to mix together the

    ground cookies and sugar.

    3. Drizzle the melted butter over the cookie crumbs and mix well with a fork.

    4. Pour the cookie crumb mixture in to the tart pan and spread it evenly over the bottom.  Use your fingers or a hard object to press the crumbs in to the bottom of the pan and up the sides of the pan, trying to achieve just under 1/4 inch thick crust.

    5. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Set aside to cool.

    To prepare the filling:

    1. Process 1 1/2 cups of fresh raspberries in a food processor or blender and then pass through a fine sieve.  Collect 3/4 cup of strained, raspberry puree and set aside. 

    2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat it until it just boils.  In the meantime, chop the chocolate and place it in a medium size bowl.  (I used this 73% Dark Chocolate Cacao from Alter Eco.  We are limited to soy-free and non-nut contaminated chocolates in our house, so this often means splurging a bit for chocolate-centric desserts.  This chocolate also has some cacao nibs in it, which adds a very small amount of crunch.)

    3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk quickly, melting all of the chocolate.

    4. Mix in the raspberry puree and the salt.

    5. Pour the ganache in to the cool tart shell.  Refrigerate until the ganache is firm (approximately 1 hour).

    5. Add the raspberries (as many as you’d like! I accidentally ground up too many of them and didn’t have as many left as I wanted for tart decoration) around the edge of the tart and chill again in the refrigerator before serving to make sure the ganache is firm.

    Ready for service at the dinner party!

    Notes on this tart: This tart is really quite simple, but tastes decadent, so there’s no reason not to make it.  I also recommend adding a dollop of softly whipped cream as a sweet complement to the rich chocolate.  My only complaint about this particular recipe is that the crust turned out a bit too crumbly.  Keeping the crunch in the crust is very important for having some contrasting texture in the tart, but I was a little worried about it crumbling in to too many pieces (mostly on the sides were the crust was a bit thinner) and ruining the otherwise elegant presentation.  So, I might add more butter next time, or maybe just make a larger amount of the cookie crumbs to make it a tad thicker.  I’ll definitely be sticking with the Chocolate Alphabet cookies though– they aren’t overly sweet and they have a deep chocolate flavor.  And who doesn’t want alphabet cookies in their dessert?

    I promise I have been baking, I just have not been blogging.

    September 18, 2010 § 2 Comments

    Here’s some of the evidence:

    First, I turned this bowl of cherries…

    …into these scones (with the help of my trusty assistant, Mr. Cherry Chomper).

    And then I tried my hand at a chocolate raspberry tart with a graham cracker crust.

    And, of course, there was the blackberry crisp.

    I was also a bit more adventurous, creating some gluten-free, vegan cupcakes.

    Note to self: Vegan frosting is delicious!  Gluten-free cake is not-so-delicious (at least not this version of  gluten-free cake).  Therefore, it’s important to make enough frosting to truly smother the cupcake.  Seriously, your mouth will thank you.

    As you can see, some baked goods have been made.  And, I’ve just pulled the next ones out of the oven.  So there will be more–  for me to enjoy today, and for you to enjoy tomorrow.

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