Saturday, November 27, 2010


The November 2010 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.  Crostata, is an Italian tart made with a base of pasta frolla, a sweet pastry crust made from flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.  Pasta frolla is very versatile.  While I chose to make my Crostata with strawberry jam, you can also fill it with pastry cream, ricotta, fresh fruit, and many other ingredients.

This month's challenge was particularly special for me as it brought back memories of one of my oldest and best friends.  Ever since Kindergarten my family and I have gone to my friend's house on Christmas day and her family prepares the most amazing authentic Italian meal.  The night would never be complete without the Crostata.  I came to love the Crostata over the years and would occasionally arrive early to lend my hand in making my most memorable cake.

While nothing will really ever compare to my friend's Crostata, my dinner guests gave my version two thumbs up.  The smell of the Crostata while it was baking and then after removing it from the oven was absolutely delectable.  And the taste lived up to the smell.  The crust had the slightest hint of sweetness which complimented the strawberry jam nicely.  

adapted from Baking History


2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, diced
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup (about 1 jar) fruit jam

If the granulated sugar is coarse, it is preferable to process it briefly in a food processor or coffee grinder.  Mix the flour and sugar, then work in the butter with the tip of your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand.  Add the egg and yolk and work briefly until the dough just holds together.  It is important not to overwork the dough (do not knead it) or it will harden when baked.
A food processor also works perfectly to make the dough: start by placing flour and sugar in the work bowl, process for a few seconds to mix, then add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture looks like wet sand.  Add the egg and yolk and process a few more seconds until the dough forms. Do not over-process.  You may need to work the dough together in a separate bowl after the food processor. 
Wrap the dough in wax paper and let it rest in a cool place for at least 30 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface roll 2/3 of the pastry dough to a 1/8-in (3 mm) thickness.  Then line the bottom and sides of a 9-in (23 cm) tart pan with scalloped edges and a removable bottom.  The sides should be lined with a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom, about 1/4-in (0.5 cm). Fold back the dough that is hanging over the sides to make a thicker lining along the sides.  Cut off the excess.  Prick the pastry bottom in a few places with the tines of a fork, then spread with the jam.
Roll the remaining pastry on a lightly floured surface slightly thicker than 1/8-in (3 mm), then with a sharp knife or pastry cutter cut it in strips 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) wide and make a lattice on top of the jam layer. There might be some leftover pastry.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake the tart until golden, about 25 minutes. Un-mold the tart as soon as it is ready and let it cool on a rack.  If left in the pan it will turn soggy.  It is great freshly baked but it definitely improves after a day or two, if kept in a closed container.

So delicious!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Once again I find myself with the same dilemma as a few months back.  Do I start working on my school paper as soon as I wake up and then take a break to bake or do I start with the baking and then switch to the paper to ensure my mind is totally focused?  If you must know which path I chose I did in fact begin with the paper.  I may have taken my baking break a bit earlier than planned, but as soon as I finish this post I am back to the paper! :)

As I looked out the window of my cab on my way back to the office earlier this week I noticed the most beautiful tree with bright red and orange leaves.  Whenever I see leaves like these I think of my mother and I am reminded of the need to bake as many Fall recipes as I can before the season passes.  Normally I am not a big fan of pumpkin recipes, but after trying a friend's pumpkin pie a couple of weeks back I figured that if I found the right recipe I would give it a go this Fall.

I came across this recipe for "Perfect Pumpkin Cookies" and saw cinnamon chips on the list of ingredients!  Cinnamon chips...that is all the convincing I need!  Thankfully I still had one bag leftover from my aunt's cinnamon chip package (I still cannot find cinnamon chips in DC).  These cookies came out big and fluffy and full of flavor.  Friends commented that the taste was a cross between a scone and a muffin, which I agree with, but I think a more accurate description would be a cake-like cookie.  The pumpkin flavor does not overpower any of the other ingredients, so you really can taste everything from the nutmeg to the cinnamon.  The cookies also go great with a little bit of vanilla ice cream.  I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I did! 

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Erin Cooks
Yields 3 dozen cookies

3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz. mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup cinnamon chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl beat the butter, sugar, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla; just until blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients.  Stir in the chocolate and cinnamon chips with a wooden spoon.

Drop the dough 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.  (I used two spoons to shape the dough)  Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let the cookies cool on the sheets for two minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Don't you just love Fall!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh yes, these cookies taste as fabulous as they lookDon't you just want to pull one right out of your computer screen?  Or how about we create a scratch and sniff photo?  That is what a friend recommended to me this week.  I FINALLY ordered business cards for the blog which means I can stop writing my blog address on the back of my regular work cards!  ;)  So anyway, when I handed my new card to my "neighbor" at the office he asked if it was scratch and sniff.  That got me thinking...

On to the cookies...these little goodies seriously hit the spot.  They were soft and slightly chewy, almost as if they were melting in your mouth, but then you hit a mini chocolate chip which gave a nice bit of texture.  And the cocoa really brought out a unique chocolate flavor which in addition to the pinch of cinnamon turned out just perfect!  These guiltless goodies are only 1 point on Weight Watchers, but be prepared to use your will power to only eat just one!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Weight Watchers
(1 PointsPlus per serving)


1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar, granulated
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy; gradually add the granulated sugar, beating well.  Add the cocoa and egg whites, beating well.  Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until blended.  Stir in chocolate minichips.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 11⁄2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.  Cool on the pans for 2 minutes or until firm.  Remove the cookies from the pans; cool completely on wire racks.  Yield: 40 cookies, serving size: 1 cookie (1 PointsPlus per serving)

Beautiful and delicious...