Crostata, tart, pie – oh my…. Daring Baker Challenge

I usually don’t procrastinate.  When I have something to do I generally like to “get-ir-done”.  In fact, postponing things often makes me  a bit anxious.  However, this month I have to admit that I procrastinated when it came to completing my Daring Bakers’ challenge.  It’s not because I don’t enjoy being part of the The Daring Kitchen.  I really do enjoy my role with this wonderful group.  Last month I made homemade doughnuts.  I had never made them before.  And this month, the challenge, to make a crostata (an Italian baked dessert tart, or form of pie).  I’ve never made a tart before, but have made a lot of pies over the years. Making a tart was slightly new to me.

The first thing I did was buy an 8 inch tart pan.  There was no procrastinating where that was concerned. Why was I putting off making the crostata?  I couldn’t decide what kind  to make.  I scoured recipes on the internet, my cookbooks, and magazines to find a filling recipe  that captured my attention.  One criteria for this challenge was to use one of the two crust recipes that our host Simona from briciole had chosen. Unfortunately, her crust recipes weren’t compatible with the tart filling I decided on, so my crust recipe is slightly different from hers.  I’m sure I will use her recipe in the future when winter passes and fresh, juicy fruits are readily available. I would love to make a fresh raspberry, or blueberry tart – oh my….

The recipe I followed made a chocolate crust. It called for a couple of ingredients Simona’s didn’t, and it didn’t call for eggs like her recipes did.  My recipe originated from William-Sonoma Baking and I made a few small changes to their recipe as well.  Making this recipe also gave me the perfect opportunity to use some of the new products that I recently acquired from the great people at King Arthur Flour. I used their unbleached white whole wheat flour, Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla extract, and double dutch dark cocoa in this recipe.  The scent of their double dutch cocoa and vanilla extract was out of this world. 

The recipe, Black-and-White Fudge Pie Crostata:

Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat)

1/2 cup walnuts (I used pecans)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (I used King Arthur double dutch cocoa)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract)

Chop the nuts but avoid grinding them into a paste.  Combine flour, nuts, cocoa, sugar, and salt into mixing bowl.  Grate butter into dry ingredients and blend together with fingertips.  Stir in milk and vanilla until the dough is mixed.

Press the dough into a tart pan.  Chill for one hour. 

Poke holes with a fork into the bottom of the crust.  Line foil over the dough, and bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake for another 4 minutes.  If the crust starts to puff up – poke it with the fork.  Remove from the oven, reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees.  Allow the crust to cool.

Chocolate Batter

4 oz of bittersweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used the flour mentioned previously)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I excluded these in the chocolate batter)

Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, or top bowl of a double boiler set over (but not touching) a pan of simmering water.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs.  Add sugar, flour, and salt to the eggs and mix thoroughly.  Pour in melted chocolate and nuts (optional).  Set aside 1/4 cup of the batter; spread the remainder of chocolate batter into the cooled crust.

Cream Cheese Batter

8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 handful of mini chocolate chips

In a bowl add cream cheese and beat until smooth.  Add sugar, egg and vanilla and mixed thoroughly.  Lastly, add in one handful of mini chocolate chips.  Drizzle cream cheese batter over the chocolate batter in the tart shell.  Then drizzle the remaining chocolate batter over the cream cheese batter.  You can swirl the ingredients in the shell together with a knife for a marbled effect –  I didn’t.  Bake for 35-40 minutes (at 325 degrees) until filling is set – toothpick should come out clean.  I garnished with a few mini-chocolate chips.

Serve at room temperature, or refrigerated.

This tart  is delicious!  Although the recipe has quite a bit of sugar in it the double dutch cocoa and bittersweet chocolate create the perfect balance.  I liked being able to use the white whole wheat flour too.  It sneaks a little bit of nutritional value into a treat – without being at all obvious.  I didn’t settle for the first recipe that I stumbled across and my procrastination proved worth it in the end. I’m glad careful consideration went into making my first tart.  I recommend this recipe as a holiday dessert – and if you can splurge, I recommend using King Arthur products.  The quality of their products are exceptional.   

** Baker’s note – there was excess chocolate and cream cheese batter left over.  To use the batter up I lined cupcake tins with paper liners.  I then  put a small piece of honey graham cracker in the bottom of each paper and alternated the batters.  The graham cracker floated to the top during baking giving these little treats a very neat look. 

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Apple Cider Doughnuts, a Daring Baker’s Challenge

Well, I  took the plunge and signed up with The Daring Kitchen.  It isn’t like I don’t have enough to do already but I figured one post out of the month was manageable and it would help stimulate me a bit.  I opted for the role as a  daring baker since baking is my cup of tea.  Lori of Butter Me Up  hosted this months challenge.  And at her request we all made homemade doughnuts.

Before I get into the actual doughnut making, I’ve got to tell you that I’ve ate a lot of doughnuts in my lifetime but I have never made them.   It’s one of those things that I’ve always wanted to do but just never did.  This seemed like perfect timing to me.

There isn’t much that makes me nervous in the kitchen.  I’ve work with lye when I’ve made my homemade soaps,  and I’ve deep-fried foods before, but I have to admit I was a wee bit worried about  deep-frying these doughnuts.  Not because I had to work with the hot oil, but because I was afraid I would over cook the doughnuts.   Or worse yet,  I was afraid my cooking oil would  lose it’s required temperature and my doughnuts would turn out oil soaked and soggy.  There is nothing worse than an over cooked or under cooked doughnut.

Part of the reason I fretted over this?   While making the doughnuts I had a horrible time with my thermometer.  It wouldn’t stay clipped to the side of the pot I used to deep-fry the doughnuts in.  I dropped the thermometer in the hooil at least three times during the frying process.  What a nightmare.   While I was deep-frying my doughnuts thermometer  I vowed that I would never make doughnuts again.  But….

The recipe I used to make these doughnuts was provided by Lori.  It was posted by Ed Levine on Serious Eats, and is a Nancy Silverton  Buttermilk Cake Doughnut recipe. I tweaked it a bit to accommodate my original plan which was to make apple cider doughnuts.  The three things I did to alter the recipe?  First, I used 1 tsp. of pumpking pie spice in place of the 1 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg the recipe called for.   Secondly, I used 3/4 c. plus 2 tablespoons of apple cider in lieu of the buttermilk. And lastly, I added grated apple from one small apple to the batter.  I finished the doughnuts off by shaking them in a bag filled with cinnamon and sugar.

When all was said and done the doughnuts tasted great.  I thought they were a bit heavy; probably due to the grated apple.  If I make them again I will cut the amount of the grated apple in half.  One thing that struck me odd with this recipe, it called for yeast.  Most of the other cake doughnut recipes I looked at didn’t call for yeast.  I’d like to try a recipe without the yeast  to compare the two, and I’d like to make some raised yeast doughnuts also.

So, what do you do with over a dozen doughnuts?  You share them.  I delivered fresh doughnuts to some friends of ours who  have four little girls.  You should have seen the girls eyes light up when they saw the freshly made doughnuts.  Watching the girls devour my doughnuts helped erase most of the bad memories I had concerning the deep-frying thermometer incident.    I’m up to making homemade doughnuts again, but the next time I do, I’ll be a whole lot wiser!