I was pretty excited about my first Daring Cook challenge, but even more excited about my first Daring Baker foray. I love to bake. But when the challenge was revealed I felt a bit deflated, just because I recently made a French dessert tart and the crostata looked similar. Then I started leafing through my Italian cookbooks and came across a line drawing of a Crostata di Quattro Stagioni. I saw the four little quadrants and my heart went all a flutter - I had found my challenge! The recipe comes from The Italian Baker by Carol Field and translates as Four Seasons Tart from Lake Como.
I made a practice crostata to start. I had some good left over pastry creme in the freezer, so I made a small Crostata con la Crema, and used the version 1 pasta frolla. I had a little trouble with my first pasta frolla. It didn't seem keen to come together and I think I overworked it. I also rolled it too thin. The crostata was good but the pastry was not particularly light or flaky.
After reading assurances on the forum that the pasta frolla was supposed to seem like it wasn't coming together and to just leave it like that, I set about a second batch. At this stage I also had a to choose the four fillings. In the head note to the recipe Carol Field says:
Raspberries for summer, wild amarena for fall, apricot preserve for winter and pastry creme for the spring ... but don't feel confined by the ingredients listed above; you should use whatever appeals to you and arrange it with your own fantasia.
I chose poached rhubarb because I love it and know a great way to cook it so it maintains its shape, fresh strawberries because they are cheap and tasty in Sydney at the moment, jarred cherries for simplicity and a blueberry preserve because I loved the color.
I was so proud when this came out the oven. I couldn't get over how gorgeous it was. The pasta frolla was lovely and sweet and light, and the different fillings were all delicious. (The rhubarb was my favourite.) Thankyou Simona for this wonderful challenge, I can honestly say that you gave me my proudest moment so far in the kitchen.
Crostata di Quattro Stagioni
(adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field)
1 partially baked crostata shell
100 g extra pasta frolla
1 cup poached rhubarb
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
I cup jarred pitted cherries, well drained
2/3 cup blueberry preserve
1 egg beaten
1/3 cup apricot glaze
Divide the extra pasta frolla into four and roll each into strands longer than the diameter of your tart shell. Gently twist two strands together to make 2 ropes. Lay the ropes in the tart shell at right angles so your tart is divided into 4 equal quadrants.
Arrange the 4 fillings into each quadrant as carefully and artfully as your patience will allow. Brush all the exposed dough with the beaten egg.
Heat your oven to 175c and bake the tart for around 25 minutes, until the pastry is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and gently brush the fruit with warm apricot glaze. Allow to cool before serving, with homemade custard if you are lucky.
For the poached rhubarb
Make a sugar syrup of equal parts sugar and water. Add half a split vanilla bean and 2 or 3 pieces of lemon rind. Slice the rhubarb into the desired shape and size and add to the syrup. Make a cartouche. (That means cut a piece of baking or greaseproof paper into a circle just larger than the size of your saucepan. Its easiest if you use the saucepan lid to trace around to do this.) Place the cartouche over the fruit and syrup so it is sort of sealed. Cook over lowest possible heat for 10 minutes. Test after 10 minutes, it should be tender. If not, continue for another 5 minutes.
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.