I'm feeling pretty proud right about now. Not only did I make a rather delightful crostada, not only have I done so without burning anything or making it twice, or even breaking down in tears from the pressure of performance, not only have I actually made a good tart, but also, I have, most importantly, discovered the perfect purpose for one of last year's Christmas presents--this antique noodle maker.
I will make noodles with it too, of course, but in the inbetween times when life is noodleless, I will be making pastry lattice.
This tart, or crostada, is a meeting of cultural loves. It has the special almond-barley-wheat pasta frolla recipe which the Baker's Challenge host, Simona, provided, and it has the a thinly piped layer of membrillo (quince paste) atop a manchego laced pastry cream.
The tasty Spanish snack of membrillo and manchego cheese was my obvious inspiration. I am very partial to fruit and cheese combinations of any kind, where sweetness is tempered by creamy saltiness, and when I finally tried the classic Spanish pairing, I was more than a little smitten. I just happen to have a glut of membrillo stored away from a recent score on free quince. So for this crostada, I thought I'd try for a similar effect. There is really only a hint of manchego, just enough to add a mysterious flavor backdrop, to bring the barely sweet cream into a middle-realm of slightly salted too.
I will be eating this with family tonight, as we delve right in to the Holiday season. We will be decorating my parent's tree, dancing about while untangling Christmas lights and unwrapping clothespin ornaments we made as kids. I'm hoping for a lot of Raffy and maybe even a wee bit of the overdone, previously-despised Mannheim Steemroller, to which other family members are still quite attached. With a little glass of port in one hand, and a wedge of this tart in the other, I think I'll manage.
Simona tells us that the pasta frolla leftovers are fabulous as cookies. If you are like me, you will be rather excited about this double-use. I will be using the cookies as a base for the leftover pastry cream and a topping of slices of the membrillo--little crostada tartlettes. God, I love food, such glorious possibilities.
Pasta Frolla (Simona's):
- 1/3 cup superfine caster sugar
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour meal
- 1/4 cup whole-grain barley flour
- a pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whisk together sugar, flours and salt in a bowl.
- Rub or cut the butter into the sugar and flour mixture until it 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.
- Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten egg and vanilla extract into it.
- Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into mixture and then use your fingertips.
- Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
- 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.
2 extra-large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
500 ml whole milk
3 tablespoons pastry (or all-purpose) flour
1/4 cup grated manchego cheese
Pour the milk into a pan and warm up to to well below boiling point. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is bubbly. 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 whisk. Pour the mixture into the pan and set it to very low 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), then remove the pan from the heat, place the saucepan in a cold water bath, and stir the crema to bring down its temperature. While still hot but no longer at boiling point, stir in the cheese. While the crema cools down, stir it every now and then to prevent the formation of a film over it.
Assembly and Baking:Have at room temperature 7 ounces membrillo. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out pastry to 1/8 inch thick between two pieces of plastic. press lightly into tart pan (round or rectangle), and cut off excess, cover, and place back in the refrigerator. Spread most of the pastry cream on the bottom of the tart, leaving enough room for a layer of membrillo and the lattice of pastry. *
Stir the membrillo till smooth, then put in a pastry bag fitted with a flat piping attachment. Pipe thick layers of paste in strips along the cream.
Roll out the leftover pastry to 1/8 inch thick and cut into thin strips with a noodle-maker or pizza slicer. Arrange in a cross-hatch pattern (or anything else you fancy).
Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before serving at room temperature. Enjoy!
*If you also have a lot of membrillo ready to use, and if you desire a sweeter tart, use 1 cup of the cream and double the amount of membrillo. Mmm. Use the leftover pastry cream for a second tart...because its Christmas time.