Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Cake fail and cake find: Crostata di Mela

There were three attachments with the email. Two of them were work documents, the third was for Italian baked apple and honey tart.
It’s always a delight to find empathetic foodies and bakers within your professional network and I am very glad to say that on the occasions (not nearly frequent enough) when I get to catch up with @rich_tapestry any industry talk soon gives way to chat about restaurants and recipes. @rich_tapestry knows what it is to be too busy to get into the kitchen as often as one might like, and that “work first, kitchen second”, frustrating as it is, is the reality nine times out of ten.
On my recent Sydney trip though, @rich_tapestry and I transitioned effortlessly from a meeting to a bar – big thanks to her for also introducing me to Berta, I did manage a second visit during my stay – and that was when she told me about her success with the Crostata di Mela. When I arrived back in Perth, the recipe was there in the email when I was sorting through my Inbox on Monday morning, but I had to wait until the end of the working week to try it out.
Not only was it superb (and I will be using the pasta frolla recipe every time I make a sweet tart now) but it also saved my proverbial bacon as my Secret Cake Club project failed and the crostata stepped in to save the day. The theme was ‘Classics’ but my classic Indian pistachio and cardamom burfi failed to set, however I had my Italian classic right there in the oven. It was still warm when I arrived at Cake Club.
Failed pistachio and cardamom burfi - looked great, tasted great, but didn't set.
Several people have asked for the recipe – I am sure that @rich_tapestry won’t mind me sharing. Originally from a Stefano di Pieri recipe book, it really is a show-stopper.

Pasta Frolla

200 g unsalted butter

100 g castor sugar

1 egg

300 g plain flour

The butter and sugar need to be creamed until pale yellow. Add in the egg (I was lucky enough to fetch one straight from the chicken coop) and then fold in the flour. For fun and authenticity, I had nipped next door to the Italian grocers and bought a bag of high grade Italian flour. It was very fine and made for a gorgeous short pastry. Don’t overmix the dough – when it is just combined, pop it into the fridge to chill for 15 -20 minutes.
When you are really to use it, remove from the fridge, knead it to soften, and roll out on a lightly-floured surface


Crostata di Mela (Baked Apple Tart)

1 x 24 cm tart case lined with 2/3 pasta frolla pastry (the other 1/3 will be used to make a lattice)

5 medium sized golden delicious or granny smith apples

50 g unsalted butter

1 vanilla bean

4 tbsp honey

a pinch of cinnamon (if liked – although an Italian baker at Cake Club told me that real crostata di mela doesn’t use cinnamon at all!)

The tart shell will need to be baked blind in a 180C oven for 10 – 15 minutes. Allow  another 10 – 15 minutes to dry completely and then wait until it is completely cool before using.
Peel, core and quarter the apples. I ended up using 6 apples instead of 5.  Possibly I would use as many as 8 next time to really be able to fill up the tart shell.
Melt the butter in a frying pan then add the split and scraped vanilla bean. Turn the heat to high, and, as the butter browns, add the apple pieces, tossing occasionally, allowing them to colour slightly and cook. Spoon over the honey (I used WA Redtail Ridge organic honey) and continue to toss with the cinnamon. This process will take 10 – 15 mins. The resulting apples will be partially cooked and caramelised. Allow to cool and retain the juices.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Place the cold apples and juices in the pre-baked tart case. Cut the remaining pasta frolla into strips and use to form a lattice over the apples. (My lattice didn’t really work – no matter, it’s all about the taste!)
Bake the tart for 35 – 40 mins until the lattice pastry is golden and the caramelised honey bubbles around the fruit. Eat hot or allow to cool to room temperature. Delicious with cream, creme fraiche, or ice cream.
On the table at Secret Cake Club!

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