Monday, November 29, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Cranberry Apple Crostata with Orange Pastry Cream

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.

November's baking challenge was a crostata (e.g. Italy's version of a tart). Crostatas have two basic parts: the crust and the filling. The crust is called pasta frolla and is buttery with a hint of citrus. The filling is variable, from raw or cooked fruit to crema pasticcera (a.k.a. crema or pastry cream, a creamy custard which is cooked on the stovetop). I thought a lot about seasonal fruits when preparing to make the challenge. I recalled a tasty cranberry apple casserole that my friend Mary makes sometimes for Thanksgiving. I wondered how its filling would taste atop a layer of the crema. This led to the preparation below.

Step 1: Crust

Since the challenge requirements were to use Simona's recipes for the pasta frolla, I chose the first one she listed mainly because it only used wheat flour (standard all purpose). I did make a slight varation on this as I had no lemon available. I did have an orange so I used orange peel instead.

Simona's Pasta Frolla #1

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 (I used the zest of 1/4 of an orange)

1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

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.

Step 2: Crema Pasticcera (Pastry Cream)

For this recipe, I used Simona's aunt's recipe with a slight adaptations. I didn't have extra large eggs so I used what I had (which were either medium or large, they were farm raised locally so they weren't graded.  I'd say you could use medium or large and it wouldn't make a ton of difference based on previous experience.) Since she said her recipe was notably not sweet, I sweetened it just a little. This was especially important since I was adding the tart cranberry apple element as a fruit topping. Finally, due to the lack of lemon, I used orange. Note, this will yield about enough crema for two tarts with half fruit, half crema or one tart filled entirely with crema. Here's my version:


1 large egg and 2 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar (65 g)

500 ml milk (slightly more than 2 cups)

3 strips of orange peel about 3" long and 1/2" wide (using a potato peeler to cut the strips makes it easier to avoid
cutting the white part of the citrus)

3 tablespoons all purpose flour (I use White Lily. A harder flour such as Pillsbury will make a stiffer curd.)

How To:

Pour the milk into a pan, add the citrus peel and warm up to to just below boiling point. To describe this state, I'd say, pull the milk off the stove when you first start to see bubbles form. I'd class this as barely simmering.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is bubbly. Basically you'll see some bubble formation in the top of the solution. Its not going to be like a bottle of bubbles. Just expect to see some small bubbles in the top.

Sift the flour over the egg mixture and beat briefly until it is incorporated.

Temper the egg mixture with a small quantity of milk, then slowly add the rest of the milk, mixing with a wooden spoon. I alternated adding first maybe 1/4 to 1/2 c. of milk solution and then mixed the egg and milk solution together using a wire whisk.

Pour the mixture into the pan and set it to between low to medium heat, stirring at least every couple of minutes. When the froth on the surface disappears completely, the crema starts to feel slightly thicker.

From then on stir almost continuously. When the crema reaches boiling temperature and thickens, cook briefly (1-2 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat. Then remove the citrus peel. Place the saucepan in a cold water bath, and stir the crema to bring down its temperature.  To prevent making a mess, choose a bowl for the water bath that is slightly larger in diameter than your crema sauce pot.  Fill the bowl 1/4 to 1/2 way full with cold water and ice. Plan to have at least 30-45 minutes to cool your crema.

While the crema cools down, stir it every now and then to prevent the formation of a film over it. Since everything is cooked, feel free to have a taste.

Step 3: Fruit Filling (Adapted from Mary's Cranberry Apple Casserole)


1 1/2 c. of your favorite apples, peeled and diced (The original recipe called for Granny Smiths. I used 1 Granny Smith and 1 Honeycrisp. I'd recommend any sweet-tart apple so Braeburn would work well too.)

1 c. cranberries

1/3 c. brown sugar (I tend to prefer dark brown sugar but dark or light will work.)

How To:

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir them together. Yes that's really it. If you want you can add 2 tsp of lemon juice to keep the apples looking fresh but its really unnecessary as you are about to bake them.

Step 4: Assembly and Completion

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Pull your pasta frolla (crust) out of the refridgerator. Unwrap the plastic partially from around it so that you have plastic on the counter top and the dough atop the plastic.

Cut away 1/4 of the dough and reserve it for making a top crust.

Place another piece of plastic wrap on top. Using a rolling pin or a sturdy plastic cup, roll the dough to 1/8 " thickness.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap. Using the lower layer of plastic wrap, lift and flip your pastry dough on top of your tart pan. If you are using mini tart pans, cut away a section that's about the right size and then move the section rather than the full sheet of dough. Shape your dough into the tart pan to cover the surface.

Add the crema. I filled the crema to about halfway up the tart.

Sprinkle the fruit mixture on top of the crema to fill the rest of the tart pan.

Roll out the reserved portion of dough to 1/8" thickness. Cut out strips to form a lattice or use cookie cutters to create a seasonal decoration. I used maple leaves and served this for Thanksgiving.

Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes. The crust should be lightly browned.

Now its time to take a taste! Cut off a slice!

Reaction: Its tart! Its sweet! Its creamy! The crust is awesome! I don't want the recipe, I want you to make it again for me to eat! (My favorite response was this last one from my grandma.) Its good to try new things. Its even better to try new things at Thanksgiving with family members who are often picky and who find out they love this new thing you've had them try. I really enjoyed this challenge, both in making and in tasting. I tasted the pastry cream with a little hesitance since I'm a bit iffy on pudding like textures. I found I really liked it. It had just enough sweetness for me. (I only increased the original sugar slightly). Thanks for introducing me (and my family) to crostatas!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Double Take: Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas

Before you say, WHHHHAAAT? I know most of America is busy stuffing themselves to points beyond consciousness but that's part of what makes this post so useful. Seriously. What are you going to do with all those random leftover vegetable trays from appetizers. You know what I'm talking about. The ones with the squash that just stare at you. You could snack on them but you probably will just stick them in the fridge and eat some more pie. What about a way to dress up those random asparagus? How about the onions that you let you let someone else cut up (so you wouldn't cry while you prepped other parts of the meal) and they cut way too many? Presenting ....leftover quesadillas!

Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas with a Potato Cake (Latke). Talk about your cultural melding.

Sure, I'm going to list this with veggies but you could certainly place some extra turkey in here. In addition, the random roasted vegetable medley that Aunt Ruth made could be used in here too. If you want, you're also welcome to get some fresh veggies.

(I felt way too confined by the actual southern living recipe. The main similarity here is that I roasted veggies and put them in quesadillas.)

Tab's Roasted Veggie Quesadillas

10 stalks of asparagus, broken into 1" sections
1 small squash, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil (I used Greek extra virgin olive oil. Use what you like best.)

3/4 c. cheddar, shredded
3/4 c. pepperjack cheese, shredded
5 (8 inch) flour tortillas
your favorite salsa (I used Peach Mango....mmmm)

Preheat your oven to 475 F.
Chop up your asparagus, squash, zucchini, onion and garlic. Place them on walled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 475 F for 10-15 minutes.

Now is a good time to shred your cheese. If you have a smoke detector, I'd turn it off before opening the oven. Roasted veggies tend to generate a fair bit of smoke.

When the veggies are done, spoon them onto tortillas.

Sprinkle evenly with cheese and fold the tortillas in half.

Place a nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add the quesadillas, 2 at a time, to the skillet. Cook 2 - 3 minutes on each side until the outsides are toasted to your preference. A light brown makes me happy. Cut the tortillas into wedges. Spoon on some salsa or dip in salsa. Enjoy!

(Note: These reheat well and make a good light lunch.)

My thoughts: I liked them. I learned I preferred the zucchini to the yellow squash. Also, its very important to make sure to cook the asparagus long enough or it will be woody. I would definitely make these again. I'd probably even spice them up with some rosemary while they roasted. They'd be great with potatoes and sweet potatoes too!

Take your turkey legs over to Mel's blog to see her version!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Double Take: Tabboleh

Some of you may be wondering, what is tabboleh? Its kind of a salad with cracked wheat (aka bulgar), fresh herbs, some olive oil, and lemon juice. The rest is up to you. This recipe isn't posted online but frankly, you might not need a recipe. This is the sort of thing that varies no matter who makes it. In this case, the tabboleh contained: lettuce (I used the curly sort), fresh tomato (I smelled mine for fresh flavor, its tough to find tomatoes with taste this time of year), parsley (rinse well before use), bulgar (same as cracked wheat, soak in an excess amount of water [at least double the amount of scooped grain] for one hour, then drain), mint, garlic (well you know how I am). The proportions of the above really don't matter. I'd go with more bulgar to the rest ratio so maybe 1 c. bulgar to other parts being 1/2 c. but in this case, it was more like the other way around. When you chopped everything finely, you mix it all together. Then make a little dressing: 1 Tbsp of olive oil, a little salt, a little pepper, 2 Tbsp of lemon juice (or more, just go with your own taste). Stir it together, let it sit an hour and then taste it. You can let it sit til morning or lunch or whatever. The flavors build so its a good thing to sit. Feel free to switch up the herbs and make it into something you like. I ate mine with italian bread. Yum!

Up close and personal, a very salady Tabboleh
Are you ready for this?


Review: The recipe in Ultimate Southern Living was different than I expected. I amped up the lemon juice and enjoyed it. I also got a few coworkers to try it and they especially liked it with more lemon. Would I make it again? Sure. I would probably use more bulgar though.

Wondering what Mel thought? Satisfy your curiosity at Fabulously Fun Food.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Double Take: Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup

"This is the soup that never ends....It just goes on and on my friends. This girl just started making it not knowing what it was and she'll continue eating it forever just because....."

This soup was my pick. I saw pumpkin. I read the recipe but apparently didn't process it all in my mind. While I normally sometimes read and really think about what something will taste like and how the textures will be when I look at recipes, for some reason I processed this as something like a sweet butternut squash soup...only with pumpkin. I didn't think about it being a thick creamy soup, I just kept on going. Well, its thick and creamy. I learned I really like one bowl of it. I rather enjoy the second bowl. By the time I hit bowl #4, I can't force myself to finish it. Moral (for me): Make sure I have other ppl to eat this soup in the future or just freeze the rest of the pumpkin so I don't get so tired of eating the same thing.

Now the sensible person that I am started this soup before going to work one morning. (Good idea. Not that the soup takes long but sometimes when I come in from the lab, I'm ready to eat, not wait an hour or so to prepare something.) It only took about 15 minutes to reheat and pulse to a smooth texture. No problem. The industrious part of me decided I wanted to make bread bowls from which to eat the soup. This really wasn't a bad idea. It really should have worked but when I got up that morning, the weather was against me. It was pouring rain. In spite of running a heater below the bread for an hour, the yeast refused to budge. I sat the bread dough in the microwave, covered it and hoped for the best. I returned home to find the bread looking almost exactly the same as when I'd left that morning (about 10 hours earlier). There was only one thing to do...go to the grocery deli and get substitute bread.  That got me to do deli's make sure their bread rises everyday? Do they run a dehumidifier? If anyone knows, let me know. I may ask a random local bakery or two if no one reading happens to know. I also wondered, how did they get bread to rise daily when everyone made their own bread everyday and didn't have dehumidifiers. My guess is there's a simple solution. Anyone?

I started to toss the dough. Then I hesitated and sat it back in the safety spot of the microwave. When I checked on it the next morning it had risen! (The rain stopped and the humidity fell.) I placed 4 ramekins upside down on a baking sheet and wrapped bread dough around them. By evening they were ready to bake.  I popped them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 until they browned. Then I flipped them over, removed the ramekins and baked about 5-7 minutes more. They came out great! I reheated soup from the day before and it was great!

Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup in a homemade bread bowl

Creamy Southwestern Pumpkin Soup 
(as featured in the All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)
modifications are in italics


  • 2  tablespoons  butter or margarine
  • 1  large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced (I doubled them, shocker.)
  • 5  cups  chicken broth
  • 1  large baking potato, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/4  teaspoons  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  chili powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  (15-ounce) can pumpkin
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh cilantro (I used closer to 1/3 c.)
  • 2  cups  milk
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lime juice
  • Garnishes: sour cream, fresh cilantro sprig

How To:

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeño pepper, and garlic; sauté 15 minutes. Add chicken broth and next 4 ingredients; cook, stirring often, 30 minutes or until potato is tender. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly (about 5 to 10 minutes).
At this point, I took the soup off the heat and did the rest when I got home. 
Process potato mixture, pumpkin, and cilantro, in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.
Return to medium pot; stir in milk, and simmer 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in lime juice; garnish, if desired.

REVIEW: I thought this was a good soup. I would definitely eat a bowl of it the distant future. I got a little burnt out on it after eating most of it myself. Ruthann didn't like it. Becky liked it ok. I think if it had about half or a quarter of the cumin, I'd have enjoyed it more. More lime juice might've helped as well. Overall I'd eat this again but I wouldn't make the whole recipe. I'm only one person and have a limit to how many leftovers of creamy soup that I can force myself to eat. The bread bowl was tasty. I used the recipe from Norwegian cooking night for the bread. Be sure to go for the higher amount of the cardamom. 
Pop over to Mel's blog to see what she thought of the Southwestern Pumpkin Soup.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Double Take: Smothered Enchiladas

Confession #1: Although I've tried a variety of Mexican food, this is my first time eating enchiladas. 
Confession #2: I was slightly anxious about trying them because they never appealed to me in restaurants. 
Confession #3: I can be a bit hesitant about recipes containing cream of chicken soup and/or sour cream.

When Mel picked this recipe out, I said to myself, its good to try new things. I hope it tastes good. Spoiler Alert: It tastes very good! As Lydia Bastianich is prone to say, “Let me taste it for you.” A soft tortilla wraps around a taco meat filling that is more than your average bear. The meat has the added bonus of little green chiles which are not hot but add nice flavor and texture to the filling. As you take a bite, you notice the sweet and moderately spicy flavors of the salsa blending with at once cheesy and creamy sauce that surrounds the tortilla. These flavors are followed by the texture and taste of the taco meat filling with bonus green chiles. If you’ll excuse me a minute, I have an enchilada (or two) to finish.

Smothered Enchilada with Peach Mango Salsa

Smothered Enchiladas (adapted from All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

1  pounds ground beef
1  (1 1/4-ounce) package mild taco seasoning mix
1/3 c. water
1  (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, divided
1  (10 3/4-ounce) cans cream of chicken soup
1  (8-ounce) container sour cream
8  (8-inch) flour tortillas
2  cups  (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Garnishes: Homemade Salsa, chopped fresh cilantro

How To:

Brown ground beef in a large skillet, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning mix, water (fill the empty seasoning packet with it ~ 1/3 c.) and half of chopped green chiles; set aside.

Stir together remaining green chiles, soup, and sour cream. Pour half of soup mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Spoon beef mixture evenly down centers of tortillas; roll up. Place, seam sides down, over soup mixture in baking dish; top evenly with remaining soup mixture and cheese.

Ready for the oven

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Garnish, as desired. (I used peach and mango salsa.)

Hot out of the oven!

What I thought:

I was pleasantly surprised. Sweet and spicy meeting up with a whirlwind of texture from chunky salsa to creamy sauce to crumbly filling makes for a little Mexican party in your mouth.

Test #1: How does it taste fresh? A: J.
Test #2: How does it taste reheated? J.

If you have 4 people, leftovers aren’t likely. General responses to the reheated food in the breakroom at work: Oh my gosh, you made that? (Its simple to make but it looks impressive.) Wow that smells incredible. (It really does.) In fact, there was a vegetarian that even liked the smell of it. Variations: You could easily change the filling to a lentil taco filling (instead of beef) or even go with a cheese filling. I would definitely recommend the recipe as modified above.

Drop by Mel's blog, FabulouslyFunFood, to see her thoughts and variations.