Archive for the 'sweet pies' Category

November Daring Baker’s challenge – crostata!

When I read the heading to this month’s challenge I thought we were making some sort of bread. I’m so happy to say that crostata is actually delicious italian pastry!

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.

Simona gave us three choices of tart to make, all sounding utterly delicious. As I am still obsessed with creme patisserie after the May DBC, I decided to make my crostata with custard. Unfortunately I decided to make the pastry on one of Sydney’s 30-degree days! At first the pastry just would not work as it kept on getting too soft. I’ll even go so far as to reveal I threw a massive tantrum when Frank came in to help and flicked pastry blobs all over the kitchen counter….

After gathering the blobs and my frayed nerves, I decided to start again. I refrigerated the pastry after every step, and in the end it turned out fabulously. I didn’t have the right sized flan tin, so I used a spring-form cake tin. It gave the custard good height, and baked well. To quote Frank’s brother-in-law, this was one of my best yet! Definitely try it if you’re looking for an italian take on custard tart. Thanks Simona for the great challenge!

Pasta frolla (pastry)


1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or 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 (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Making pasta frolla by hand:

Whisk together sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
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.

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).
Add the lemon zest to your flour/butter/egg 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.
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.

Crostata con la Crema

you will need: One batch of pastry cream (Note: For the recipe that I used, see Prepare the pastry cream in advance of assembling the crostata)

Assembling and baking the crostata con la crema:

Heat the oven to 350ºF [180ºC/gas mark 4].
Take the pasta frolla out of the fridge, unwrap it and cut away ¼ of the dough. Reserve this dough to make the lattice top of the crostata. Refrigerate this dough while you work on the tart base.
To help roll the crostata dough, keep the dough on top of the plastic wrap that you had it wrapped in. This can help rolling the dough and can also help when transferring the dough to your pan. You can also use parchment paper for this. However, you can also roll the dough directly on a work surface if you prefer.

Lightly dust the top of the dough and your work surface (if you’re rolling directly on a work surface) with flour. Keep some flour handy to dust the dough as you go along.
If the dough is very firm, start by pressing the dough with the rolling pin from the middle to each end, moving the rolling pin by a pin’s width each time; turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat; when it softens, start rolling.
Roll the dough into a circle about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.
If you used the plastic wrap or parchment paper as rolling surface, flip dough over the pan, centering it, and delicately press it all around so the corners are well covered. Peel away the plastic wrap.
Trim the excess dough hanging over the edges of the pan. Press the remaining dough around the border into the sides of the pan making sure the border is an even thickness all the way around.

Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.
Take out of the fridge the reserved pasta frolla you had cut away earlier. Roll it with your pin and cut into strips or use cookie cutters to make small shapes (this is not traditional, but it looks cute); or roll with your hands into ropes.
Cover the bottom of the crostata crust evenly with the pastry cream.
Use the prepared strips or rolls of dough to make a lattice over the surface, or decorate with the cut shapes. (Note: You can use dough scraps to make cookies: see the Additional Information section for some pointers)

Brush the border and strips of dough with the reserved beaten eggs. You can add a drop or two of water to the beaten eggs if you don’t have enough liquid.
Put the tart in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
After 35 minutes, check the tart, and continue baking until the tart is of a nice golden hue. (Note: Every oven is different. In my oven it took 45 minutes to bake the tart until golden.)

When done, remove the tart from the oven and let cool. If you have used a tart pan with a removable bottom, then release the tart base from the fluted tart ring. Make sure the tart is completely cool before slicing and serving.


September Daring Cook’s challenge – preserving and apple butter

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

I was tempted to skip this challenge. The Daring kitchen allows you 4 “get out of jail free” cards a year, so if you are on holiday or do not have the equipment you don’t have to do the challenge. As I’ve been making quite a bit of lemon curd this winter, I didn’t feel it was necessary to do it all again. And the recipes John provided (no offense John) didn’t really excite me. But, as I used to do in Monopoly as I kid, I decided to save up my “get out of jail free” cards for a time that I might really need to use them.

So, onto the challenge. We were given the option of either making apple butter or roasted tomatoes, and then either freezing them or home canning them. I chose to make apple butter as the Granny Smith apples are abundant at the moment, and I chose to freeze it. The apple butter recipe was easy to follow, and quick to complete. I put it in sterilized jars and froze it for a week while trying to decide what to use it  for! Having given it a lot of thought I decided to use some of the butter in a marinade for pork ribs, and the rest of it to make apple meringue pie. My french Aunt D makes a fantastic apple meringue pie and I thought it would be a great time to replicate it.

The challenge was good to do, as I got to make sticky ribs and apple meringue pie (which Frank loved). And we got to have our first BBQ of the summer of 2010!

Apple butter (to make one jar) – from John, the host and

6 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped into cubes
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp cinnamon and mixed spice each

Combine apples and water in a pan and cook until apples are falling apart. Mash, and then add in sugar and spices. Simmer over a low heat for 20 – 25 minutes.

To test for doneness, spoon a small quantity onto a clean plate; when the butter mounds on the plate without liquid separating around the edge of the butter, it is ready for processing. Another way to test for doneness is to remove a spoonful of the cooked butter on a spoon and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon. Pour contents into a jar and store in the fridge for 1 month or the freezer for up to a year.

BBQ pork ribs (Serves 6 people) – a lollcakes original

2 to 2.5kg pork spare ribs
125g butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
125ml (1/2 cup) vinegar
250ml (1 cup) water
125ml (1/2 cup) ketchup
250ml (1 cup) barbecue sauce
62.5ml (1/4 cup) tomato paste
62.5ml (1/4 cup) apple butter
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place ribs in large frying pan or roasting pan. Cover with lightly salted water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour, or until meat is tender, but not quite falling off the bone. Remove from heat, and drain.

While the ribs are simmering, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until the onion softens. Remove from the heat. In a blender, combine vinegar,water, ketchup, tomato paste, apple butter, barbecue sauce and lemon juice. Pour in the melted butter mixture, and purée for 1 minute.

Pour into the saucepan, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.Place the cooked ribs in a roasting pan, and mix with the sauce. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

Preheat barbecue for medium-high heat.Brush the grill hotplate with oil. Cook ribs for 10 to 20 minutes, or until well browned, basting with sauce and turning frequently.Serve with salad and potatoes.

Apple Meringue Pie – adjusted from

1 1/2 cups (250g) plain flour
125g butter, chilled, chopped
1/3 cup castor sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon chilled water
jar apple butter
juice of 1 lemon
3 eggs

For the pastry, combine flour, butter and sugar in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add yolk and chilled water. Process until dough just comes together.Turn pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until just smooth. Shape into a disc. Wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line a 7-8-inch flan case with the pastry and bake blind.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs and keep the whites aside. Mix the apple butter with the egg yolks and lemon juice and fill in the pie shell. Beat, the egg whites until very stiff, then very gradually beat in 1/2 cup sugar. Either bake for about 25-30 minutes in a very moderate oven, 325°F and serve hot, or bake for about 1 hour in a very slow oven, 275°F

Lemon tart with a twist

Do you know how I know I’m getting old(er)? I shout at the tv. I used to laugh at my parents when they shouted at the tv or sang really loudly to the radio, dismissing it as something that happens in old age, but now I am finding myself doing exactly the same thing. And I still see myself as young! (Granted, my parents certainly were when I caught them singing, but I didn’t see it like that when I was a kid)

I think we’ll always see ourselves as 20, or 25, or even 16. I insist that I will always be a 13-year-old in a however-many-years-old body. I will always laugh at cartoons, I will always wear fun pyjamas, and I will always enjoy birthdays. Although in all other ways I age: I now complain about the school kids on the train, I feel the need to discipline other people’s kids when they misbehave, and I find myself saying to Frank all the time that “back in my day, these things wouldn’t happen” about some news story or another.

One fantastic thing about being older is that I can bake what I want. And I’m still finding this a novely after many years! One of my favorite things to eat is lemon tart, I am a big fan of anything lemony. As I had a lot of cream and delicious farm-fresh eggs in the fridge I thought it was the perfect time to make my favorite dessert. I’m still not great with the pastry as I seem to burn the edges, but despite that the tart was rather tasty. I mixed in the pulp of two passionfruit to make it summery, and it went down very well at work and at home!

Lemon and passionfruit tart – from AWW’s “old-fashioned desserts”

250g plain flour
2 tablespoon icing sugar
pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
2-3 tablespoons iced water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
pulp of 1 passionfruit
¾ cup castor sugar
1 cup cream
5 eggs

Place sifted flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process briefly. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and a bit of the water and process until mixture comes together in a clump, adding more water if necessary.Place the mixture onto the bench and flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.

Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan forced.Remove from the fridge and roll out to fit a 28cm fluted tart tin with a removable base. Press into the tin with pastry overhanging the edge. Prick the base of the pastry and cover with a sheet of baking paper. Line with baking beads or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beads and paper and bake for a further 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

look at the beautiful orange colour of the yolks!

Beat together the lemon juice, sugar and cream. Add the eggs one at a time. Strain mixture through a fine sieve. Pour into cooled tart shell. Bake for 25 minutes or until filling is set on the outside, but still a little bit wobbly in the centre. Allow the tart to cool completely.Serve a slice dusted with icing sugar with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Pecan pie with brandy cream

Tis the time for Christmas in July. My lovely English friend Ferret doesn’t understand the concept, as where she comes from Christmas is in winter (“like it should be”, I can hear English people say) Always a nation to use any excuse for a party, the Australians do Christmas in July fantastically well! Having spent my fair share of Christmases in the cold, not only has having a warm Christmas become even more wonderful, but in winter I do love having a mini-Christmas to pig out on all the winter fare!

Our friends the Hoggetts decided to throw a Christmas-in-July at their house two weekends ago. Mr Hoggett, being English too, made the meanest roast to be seen on this side of the Equator. It brought back memories of London! Keen to join in, I made my apple pie with a Christmas twist – I made brandy cream to go with it. And now Folks, I am sad to reveal that I am addicted to brandy cream. So much so that when Frank made his request for what birthday baked good he wanted, it was definitely being served with brandy cream.

Frank and my birthdays are both in the middle(ish) of the year. I think this is the best time of year to have a birthday, as there is an equal amount of time to wait between Birthday presents and Christmas presents. Given the choice of what to have for his birthday treat, Frank chose pecan pie and carrot cupcakes – pecan pie for his actual birthday, and carrot cupcakes for the weekend celebration. (Although Frank claims he didn’t actually ASK for pecan pie, apparently I volunteered it…) As I took him to Steersons at King Street Wharf for the best steak on this earth, we were both too full on Thursday night to have the pecan pie. So, we kept it for the weekend to take the place of the carrot cupcakes and it lasted brilliantly. After pizza with the family, everyone came back to the Pig Palace to finish off the pie smothered in brandy cream. It was a perfect winter dessert to finish off a lovely evening!

Pecan pie with brandy cream – recipe adjusted from Women’s Weekly’s Old-fashioned desserts recipe book

This recipe can be made 1-3 day in advance. Uncooked rice or dried beans used to weigh down the pastry are not suitable for eating. Use them every time you blind bake; cool, then store in an airtight jar.

2 cups (280g) toasted pecans
6 egg yolks
½ cup (175g) golden syrup
½ cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
90g butter, melted
¼ cup (60ml) thickened cream for pie and 150ml for the brandy cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
tbsp brandy

1¼ (185g) plain flour
1/3 cup (55g) icing sugar mixture
125g cold butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Grease 24cm-round loose-based tin. Make pastry.

Place nuts in pastry case. Combine egg yolks, syrup, sugar, butter and cream in small bowl; whisk until smooth. Pour mixture over nuts; bake, uncovered, in moderate oven about 30 minutes or until set. Cool. Whip remaining cream until stiff, pour in icing sugar and brandy and whip until combined. Serve pie topped with cream.

Blend or process flour, icing sugar and cold butter until combined. Add yolk and juice; process until ingredients just come together. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth. Cover; refrigerate 30 minutes. Roll dough between sheets of baking paper until large enough to line prepared tin. Ease dough into tin, press into side; trim edge. Cover; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan-forced. Place tin on oven tray. Line pastry case with baking paper, fill with dried beans or rice. Bake, uncovered, in moderate oven 15 minutes. Remove paper and beans; bake, uncovered, in moderate oven about 5 minutes or until browned lightly.

Definitely-not-Grandma’s Apple pie

“Ladies and Gentlemen… if I could offer you only one tip for the future, not being over-confident in the kitchen would be it.”
Singing the lines of the Sunscreen song while typing this, I would like to offer you the reasoning behind my tip. Having fun in the kitchen is great, and having wonderful friends and family complimenting your food is even better. Until you start to think: “hey, my friends love my food, so I must be a dab hand in the kitchen” and you convince yourself that trying a pastry recipe for the first time would be mere child’s play to you. And that of course you can make an apple pie with your eyes closed.
That’s where the ever-present kitchen fairy likes to prove you wrong. (The kitchen fairy also decides whether your cupcakes will rise, or whether your lamb cooks in time for dinner.)

My kitchen fairy was rubbing her hands in glee when I strolled in to the Pig Palace kitchen with my pretend Masterchef apron and my newly purchased rolling-pin. (As Frank says, it’s better than using an empty wine bottle) Not-so-silently confident that I was going to whip the apple pie recipe into shape, I proceeded in getting all the ingredients on the bench. Which is when my 6 bruise-free apples went tumbling onto the floor. “Never mind” I thought, “just a small hiccup”. After Frank’s masterful peeling of the apples I chopped them up and got ready to make the pastry. (See Frank, I did mention you. ;)) And this is where it got a bit scary: pastry is HARD to work with. I am incredibly thankful that Beets and I spent hours in front of the Good Food channel, because if I hadn’t known to roll the pastry back on the rolling-pin to get it in the pan I would have lost the pastry, and my rag, all at once.

Now I strongly suspect I didn’t have enough pastry, as it was veeeery thin when I put it in the pan. Once I piled in the apples, I popped another sheet of needle-thin pastry on top, rips and all. Attempting to recover my pride, I cut out a little apple and a leaf from the left-over pastry and decorated the top with it. After glazing with egg white and sprinkling with sugar, I shoved the apple pie in the oven and ran out the kitchen as fast as I could.

40 minutes later, I crept back into the kitchen to discover a really funny-looking pie! To quote Frank “it looks like a moonscape”. And as he assessed correctly*, I should have left more pastry hanging over the edge. Oh well, Masterchef I am not, but at least it doesn’t look too bad.

As I have made this apple pie (or large pile of apples with a teeny bit of pastry) to take up to Mama and Papa C tomorrow, I cannot cut into it or tell you what it tastes like just yet, but thankfully it smells delicious! I’ve been told to let it cool properly and it will last for a week in the fridge if needs be. I’ll publish additional photos after we crack the pie open.

*For those of you who don’t know, Frank is not only the chief dish-washer and highly skilled sous chef, but he has nominated himself as my honest critic and is always willing to suggest how to do it better next time. 🙂

Apple pie – adjusted from the BBC Good Food website

1kg Granny Smith apples
140g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp flour

225g butter , room temperature
50g golden caster sugar , plus extra
2 eggs
350g plain flour , preferably organic
softly whipped cream , to serve

Put a layer of paper towels on a large baking sheet. Quarter, core, peel and slice the apples about 5mm thick and lay evenly on the baking sheet. Put paper towels on top and set aside while you make and chill the pastry.

For the pastry, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until just mixed. Break in a whole egg and a yolk (keep the white for glazing later). Beat together for just under 1 min – it will look a bit like scrambled egg. Now work in the flour with a wooden spoon, a third at a time, until it’s beginning to clump up, then finish gathering it together with your hands. Gently work the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film, and chill for 45 mins. Now mix the 140g/5oz sugar, the cinnamon and flour for the filling in a bowl that is large enough to take the apples later.

After the pastry has chilled, heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Lightly beat the egg white with a fork. Cut off a third of the pastry and keep it wrapped while you roll out the rest, and use this to line a pie tin – 20-22cm round and 4cm deep – leaving a slight overhang. Roll the remaining third to a circle about 28cm in diameter. Pat the apples dry with kitchen paper, and tip them into the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Give a quick mix with your hands and immediately pile high into the pastry-lined tin.

Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the apples pressing the edges together to seal. Trim the edge with a sharp knife and make 5 little slashes on top of the lid for the steam to escape. (Can be frozen at this stage.) Brush it all with the egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for 40-45 mins, until golden, then remove and let it sit for 5-10 mins. Sprinkle with more sugar and serve while still warm from the oven with softly whipped cream

28/06/10 UPDATE:

Despite the apple pie looking really silly, it tasted pretty good! The filling cooked perfectly dispite my misgivings, and even though the pastry was really thin it tasted like shortbread. (And I’ve figured out why the pastry was so thin, my pan was the right diameter on the bottom, but opened out really wide!) Next time I’ll use 1.5 times the quantitiy and have a slightly thicker crust.

In response to my lovely comments:
Lorraine – thanks for the tip! I am very keen to do a course at Planet Cake one day, I need to steady my hands first as they’re really shakey! Unfortunately being short wasn’t my problem (I’m 5’8″), I think put too much pressure on the pastry. 🙂
Renae – your filling sounds delicious. Do you add nutmeg and lemon in addition to the cinnamon, or in place of it? I’d never made pastry before, so I wouldn’t mind trying your recipe for it!
Queen Bee – Ooh, cardamom. Interesting twist! I’ll give that one a try with Renee’s adjustments next time. That darned kitchen fairy often knocks bowls and food onto my floor and then Frank has to clean it up. I swear it was her. 😉

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