(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.)

I have to admit -I looked at this challenge and was unimpressed.  I make tarts all the time, and I have a really good tart crust recipe that I like.

But it’s the holidays, and who doesn’t need an extra dessert to take somewhere?  I was making a rather adventurous chocolate-cranberry pie for Thanksgiving, and thought a tart would be a good backup if the pie didn’t work out.

So I mixed up the tart dough.  It started with powdered sugar and flour, with an entire stick of butter worked into it until it crumbly.   Then add an egg and a yolk, work it into a dough, then into the fridge for two hours to rest.

I left mine in overnight, and put it on a silpat to roll it out:

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It rolled out far easily then I expected – cold, sticky dough is usually a real pain, but the silpat (and a light dusting of flour) really helped:

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For a filling, I used cherry jam. I’ve been doing a lot of homemade jam, and I had one batch of cherry that hadn’t set up evenly, but I figured a trip through the oven would fix it nicely. The recipe called for 1 3/4 cups, but that wasn’t nearly enough for my tart pan – even a thin coating took about 2.5 cups, but I may have a non-standard pan.

I planned to weave the top, but the dough I reserved had gotten soft while I assembled the jelly, and so I was doing good to get the strips to hold together long enough to lay them lightly on top.

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Then a quick egg wash, and off to the oven for half an hour. It came out looking really good:

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Since my pie looked to have been a success, we just went ahead and tried the tart – and it was really very good.  The sweet dough reminded me of a cookie, and the jam complimented it nicely.  I was so impressed with it that I immediately made a second one to take with me on an after-Thanksgiving trip.  I didn’t get pictures of the second one, but I made sure to keep the dough I’d reserved for the top cold, so I could actually weave the strips into a real lattice. 

I’ll probably make it again for my cookie-swap party, maybe with swirls of cream cheese in with the jam.  Definitely going in the "keep" folder!

( see the recipe )

We eat a good bit of Mexican food – I have a CSA meat subscription, so every month I get pork shoulder for carnitas and ground beef for tacos or enchiladas. 

All the local Mexican restaurants make their own tortillas, and they’re always so much better then store-bought, so I figured I’d try my hand at making my own.  I’m not sure exactly where this recipe came from originally, but I’ve been using it for a while.

It’s very simple – mix flour, baking powder, and a bit of salt in a bowl.  Add lard.  I’ve done them with shortening, but they don’t come out nearly as good – I’d recommend getting the lard.  Here, I can buy it in buckets, but I’ve seen it in blocks next to the shortening, too.  I use it mostly in tortillas and tamales, so a big bucket lasts me a very long time.

After you’ve worked in the lard, add enough water to make a dough.  Knead it enough to work in all the flour, then split it into a dozen little balls.  Let them sit on the counter for 10 minutes.  If you don’t let them sit, the dough will be springy, and when you roll them out, they’ll just shrink right back to the size they were before and they’ll end up too thick.

Roll them out:

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I usually roll them out one at a time, while the previous one is cooking, but that’s mostly because I’m usually in a hurry. You probably don’t want to do it that way until you’ve made enough batches to have a good feel for how long they take to cook – it’s easy to get distracted and burn one.  If I have plenty of time until dinner, I’ll roll out all 12, and just stack them on a plate until I’m ready to cook them all.

The recipe says to use a comel, but I just toss them in my heavy-cast iron skillet:

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They’re done when they have nice brown spots on both sides – depending on how hot my pan is, anywhere from 30 seconds to 90 seconds a side:

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They’re great wrapped around almost anything, or by themselves with just a bit of butter (or butter and cinnamon-sugar!).  I haven’t had much luck keeping them until the next day – they’re best eaten within half an hour or so.

Try them.  You’ll never buy another bag of tortillas at the store again!

( see the recipe )

We had a dinner invitation, and I was bringing dessert.  I meandered through the recipe database – I wanted something better then cookies, transportable, sort-of fall-ish, not terribly rich, and preferably something I hadn’t made before.  This was the first recipe that caught my eye.

Before I bookmarked this, I’d never heard of a Verrine.  The Internet tells me that they come in savory and sweet, and they only requirement seems to be that they are “layered artfully in a glass”. 

This one has 4 layers – a maple jello on the bottom, a maple whipped cream, a layer of maple-glazed apples, and a layer of crisp on top. 

Each one was simple enough.  The jello was made by letting some unflavored gelatin bloom, then adding it to a boiling maple syrup and water mixture.

The whipped cream was a standard whipped cream, with the addition of a bit of maple syrup and some sour cream.  The sour cream added a tiny bit of bite, and kept the whole thing from being too sweet.

The apples get tossed in a pan with the maple syrup, and cooked just a bit.  I don’t like really soft apples, so I started with firm apples and only cooked them enough to get them glazed.  I didn’t want them crunchy, but I didn’t want applesauce either.

The crisp is just like every other crisp – some butter, flour and brown sugar in a food processor until it gets to the right consistency, then gets baked.

I was worried about transporting the finished glasses, so I made the jello in the glasses, but then I put the apples, whipped cream, and crisp in separate bowls and let people assemble them on the fly.

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They were quite a hit. I was worried that they’d come out too sweet, but they weren’t.  The maple jello was an interesting texture with the apples and the crisp.  It really did taste like maple, without being cloying. 

Definitely going on my “make-again” list.  They’d make a nice, light, post-Thanksgiving dessert if you were looking for an apple-pie alternative – just don’t tell anyone that the recipe is originally Canadian!

( see the recipe )