SO, what if that actually was the title of the Police Album? Would the tracks be something like, ‘Don’t Stand to Close to Pie’ or ‘Driven to Pears’?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
I’m late for yet another challenge, although technically, I finished weeks ago. Explanation coming, but first, this month we were asked to make a crostata, which is essentially a sorta pie or tart with a fancier name. Yes, a crostata is known for being sorta rustic, sorta free-form and is made with a pasta frolla, which is a tender and crumbly shortcut pastry, usually containing eggs and/or yolks and traditionally filled with jams, pastry creams, sweet ricotta and/or seasonal fruits. But, in this challenge, we could fill it with whatever we wanted, so to me, this was a tart; this was a Thanksgiving pie; this was whatever we wanted to call it, as long as we used a pasta frolla.
I took the easy way out..pasta frolla via food processor. Never let the dough pulse until it forms a uniform ball. Stop and take it out when it’s still crumbly (upper right photo), but moistened, then gently bring it together with your hands, wrap in plastic wrap and chill. You still want to see pieces of butter in the dough.
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.
So it all started with roasted caramel quince, apple, pear, raspberry and frangipane. I finished this month’s Daring Bakers challenge at the beginning of the month, the first week in fact. I was absolutely exhilarated as I took the last photo of it because now I could fully focus on my usual 5000 course Thanksgiving dinner! But then, as I skimmed through the photos of slices, I noticed the almond frangipane had blended into the bottom crust, one strip of white on white.
Hmmm..what did I do wrong?
It hit me when I saw the prep photos. I had spread the frangipane on the raw dough. How could I forget to partially blind bake the crust prior to adding the frangipane?
Although I don’t typically do ‘do-overs’ on this blog. I had to do it over because it looked really gross. Plus, who wants a soggy bottom crust? Fortunately, there were a few who ate the whole pie, err, crostata, not minding the strip of goo that greeted them with each bite. I guess I’ll have to head out to buy some more quinces, pears, apples and raspberries, I thought. BUT, I have so much time left, I’ll go tomorrow.
Tomorrow came and went, and so did the next day, and the next week. When I finally got to the store; BOOM, quinces are now officially out of season. So were raspberries. I immediately shifted gears and decided on apples and figs on top of frangipane. I rushed to the section where they have figs and was greeted with yet another produce guy telling me that figs were also out of season. HUH? Do they all step out at once? Aren’t these Fall fruits? Isn’t it still Fall?
This is where ‘pie block” reared it’s ugly head. Do any of you remember my cheesecake block? These blocks always arise when it’s a common, classic dish or dessert, ones most of us have made many times over and can do in our sleep. I’ve done many a crostata, pie, tart, galette I have this amazing cherry almond galette that I’ll be posting soon!), etc. I’ve played with fillings, and I have recipes up the wazoo..hundreds of them. The unexpected ‘out of season’ announcements had rendered me fruitless and creatively stumped.
At one point, I almost dumped a jar of my homemade cherry pie filling, made the previous summer, into the pasta frolla crust and called it a day, albeit not a very nice day. I even considered using a turkey shepherd’s pie I made one night and photographed, for this entry.
After another few weeks of mulling over ideas that never came to fruition, it was now D-day aka a few days before it was time to post this challenge. I sat on my bed one night pondering away, completely blocked, when a bit of light caught the edge of a book in my bookcase in the hallway. I knew what book it was before I even took a look. You see, I never win anything, but this past year I’ve won two blog giveaways, so now I have won things (although I still can’t help saying “I never win anything”. It’s programmed into me.)
A few weeks ago I won the cookbook Bake! by Nick Malgieri from a giveaway by Meaghan at The Decorated Cookie. Apparently, this book and I were meant to join forces because as soon as I opened it, it landed on the page where this beautiful vanilla bean poached pear tart with a rich walnut filling, lives. This was going to be my crostata; Nick’s recipe, using the pasta frolla provided to us by the lovely host of the challenge. However, I did make one small change; I added some rich, dark cocoa powder to the filling, making it a poached pear chocolate walnut crostata.
I cannot tell you how delicious this crostata, tart, pie..whatever you want to call it, is. The filling is hard to describe, sort of a cross between frangipane and pecan pie goo, and with each slice, you get half a poached pear, glazed with tangy apricot. I love the idea of each pear half pushed into the filling; no fancy, fanned out slices; so rustic and absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving, or any time pears are in season.
Finally, this crostata recipe called for a 10-inch tart pan. I always thought I had a 10-inch tart pan, but when I went through my stack of tart pans, it turned out I only had a few 8, 9 and 11-inch tart pans. I could have sworn I’d bought two 10-inch pans along with the others. Since it was late at night when I put it together, I ended up using an 11-inch pan, I’m telling you this because the filling in this tart should have more depth than my photos show. The pear halves should nestle into the chocolate-walnut filling a little more than they did in my 11-inch pan.
PASTA FROLLA RECIPE FROM THE CHALLENGE:
- scant 3/4 cup (180ml, 90g, 3oz) of powdered sugar
- 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml, 235g, 8 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1. Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
2. Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture had 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 flour and butter mixture and pour in the beaten eggs. Add the lemon zest to the mixture. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients, and then use your fingertips. Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball and then shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll out the pasta frolla on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick and cover the base of the tart pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper or foil large enough to cover the bottom of the crust and extend out a bit over the edges of the pan. Cover the base with either pie weights or dry beans and place tart pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
5. Remove the weights/beans and parchment paper/foil and continue baking the crostata shell until the border is lightly golden, about 5 minutes
OH, I almost forgot. Keep checking back next week for TWO GIVEAWAYS!
Poached Pear Chocolate Walnut Tart aka Crostata
Chocolate addition by me
- 2 cups all purpose flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 10 pieces
- 2 large eggs
- Ice water
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 5 ripe Bartlett pears, about 2 pounds
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 1 two to three-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon pear brandy, optional
- 1 cup walnut pieces (I toasted the walnuts first)
- ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butted, softened
- 1 large egg
- 1 large yolk
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (reduced from ¼ cup due to the addition of dark cocoa. If you don't use cocoa, use ¼ cup flour)
- ¼ cup dark cocoa powder (unsweetened)
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup walnut pieces, finely chopped (I omitted these extra walnut pieces that are scattered on top of the filling prior to arranging the pears)
- ¾ cup apricot preserves
- 2 tablespoons water
- Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
- To mix the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1 second intervals until the butter is finely mixed into the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and pulse again until the dough forms a scrappy, raggedy ball. You still want to see chunks of butter in it.
- Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Use immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
I rolled one half of the dough and fit it into an 11-inch (should be 10-inch) tart pan, then blind baked it prior to adding filling and pears. 15 minutes at 350 F with parchment paper and dried beans - remove both, then 10 - 12 more minutes until light golden in color.
- Fill a 4-quart pan with ice water and add lemon juice. Peel and cut the pears in half vertically, using a melon-ball scoop to core and stem the pears. Add each pear half to the ice water. Skim out the ice and pour away all the water except what’s needed to cover the pears by 1 inch. Add the sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and stir gently.
- Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper the same diameter of the pan and cut about six 1 inch holes in it. Press the paper down on top of the pears so that it is fully submerged. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a full boil. Cover, remove from the heat and allow the pears to sit in the hot liquid until they completely cooled. If the pears are perfectly ripe, they won’t need any more cooking; if they are less ripe, boil for another two minutes. Once the pears are cool, use slotted spoon to lift and place them in a container. Pour pear brandy over pears, if using; pour enough of the poaching syrup to cover the pears and transfer to the vanilla bean to the container. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
If you aren't making this crostata and want to poach the pears for dessert, once the pears come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool in the syrup. Refrigerate in the syrup or serve immediately with ice cream, creme fraiche, chocolate syrup or whatever you suits your fancy.
- Before assembling this filling, set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 F.
- Combine walnut pieces, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Scrape away any mixture stuck to the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the butter, egg, and yolk, pulse until smooth. Mix the flour, cocoa and baking powder together and then add the bowl and pulse again until absorbed. Scrape the sides of the bowl and pulse 2 to 3 more times. Scrape the remaining filling into the crust and smooth the top. Evenly scatter the chopped walnuts on top (I omitted this).
- Stir together the apricot preserves and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over low heat. Strain into a bowl, then rinse the pan and return the strained glaze to the saucepan. Reheat the glaze and reduce it (cook down) slightly.
- Drain the pears on paper towels and arrange them on the filling, wider sides close to the edge of the crust, ends pointing toward the center. (Do a dry run on a plate and trim the sides of the pear halves if necessary.) Bake at 350 F until the edge of the crust is deep golden and the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
- Once cool, Dust the tart well with confectioners sugar, then pour a small spoonful or brush the glaze onto each pear. Unmold and slide the tart to a platter to serve.