Monthly Archives: November 2010

Daring Bakers: Blackberry-Mango Crostata

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.

To be honest this challenge caused me a bit of anxiety because of the pastry dough.  This was my second experience with pastry dough and it was just as frustrating as the first time.  The dough did not come together as it should have after adding the egg.  I kept my fingers crossed that it would somewhat come together after resting in the refrigerator….wishful thinking.  I ended up pressing the crumbly dough into the tart pan…a tip I read in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours.  This worked but it was difficult to get the bottom and sides the same thickness.

I knew I wanted to do a pastry cream filling topped with fresh fruit as it is one of my favorite desserts.  I used Dorie Greenspan’s pastry cream recipe and it was absolutely delicious.  I always stayed away from pastry thinking it was too difficult but thanks to The Daring Bakers I am conquering many of my baking fears!

Even though I thought my finished crostata looked great I was still hesitant to share it with other people without trying it first.  Turns out there was no need to worry because the ladies at my Bible study loved it!  Yes, the crust was more like a hard shortbread cookie but at least it tasted good.  I am glad I decided on the tart blackberries as they paired nicely with the slight sweetness of the pastry cream and mango.  Regardless of my dough drama this was a great challenge.  I look forward to giving the pastry dough another try with the tips I learned from my fellow Daring Bakers!  Check out the blogroll to see their amazing crostate.

Pasta frolla recipe


  • scant 3/4 cup (180ml, 90g, 3oz) of powdered sugar
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (420ml, 235g, 8  1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

1.  Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

2.  Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture had 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.

3.  Make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture and pour in the beaten eggs.  Add the lemon zest to the 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 and then shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll out the pasta frolla on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick and cover the base of the tart pan.  Cut a piece of parchment paper or foil large enough to cover the bottom of the crust and extend out a bit over the edges of the pan.  Cover the base with either pie weights or dry beans and place tart pan on a baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes.

5.  Remove the weights/beans and parchment paper/foil and continue baking the crostata shell until the border is lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Pastry cream recipe


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
  • 1  1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3  1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temp

1.  Bring the milk to a boil in a small pan.  Meanwhile in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended.  Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle.  Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk.  Put the pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot) bring the mixture to a boil.  Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

2.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and let sit for 5 minutes.  Then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky.  Scrape the cream into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal.  Refrigerate the pastry cream until cold (can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).

Assembling the crostata

Smooth the pastry cream by giving it a couple of strong turns with a whisk.  Spoon enough of the pastry cream into the crostata shell to come almost to the rim then even the surface with a rubber spatula.  Then layer your fruit of choice in whatever design tickles your fancy.  I used 12oz of blackberries and 1  1/2 mangoes (sliced).  Let the crostata sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so before serving.


Posted by on November 27, 2010 in Tarts & Pies


The Cake Slice Bakers: Cinnamon Pudding Cake

What do you picture when you read the words “cinnamon pudding cake?”  Do you picture a warm, moist and gooey cake?  A nicely spiced cake fit for the holiday season?  Well, this is what I think most of us Cake Slice Bakers were expecting.  Unfortunately things don’t always turn out as we imagine.

Many of my fellow bakers found this out when they baked the cake earlier this month.  The cake was being described as dry and simply not worth making again. There was lots of brainstorming as to how we could tweak the recipe to have a better end result.

I had decided on the changes I would make and was ready to make the cake.  Now there were a few of my fellow bakers that really enjoyed it so I was unsure which way things would work out for me.  I made the cake last night and it fell somewhere in the middle for me.  I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either.  There was a lot of the brown sugar “caramel” sauce when I turned it over and the cake came out very easily. The cake was light with a good cinnamon flavor and the sauce had the perfect amount of sweetness.  I served it with some vanilla ice cream which accompanied it quite nicely.  In my opinion this cake should be eaten with the ice cream…it would be pretty mediocre on its own. Even though my friend and her kids loved it I don’t plan on making this again.

Check out the other Cake Slice Bakers here to see their adventures in baking this month’s cake.

Adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

Caramel Topping

  • 1  3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1  1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp rum (couldn’t taste it in final product)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I actually forgot to add it)

The Cake Batter

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Method – topping:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray the bottom and sides of an 8 in square baking pan (I used 9″ round cake pan) with nonstick cooking spray.  Combine the brown sugar, water, butter, rum and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, then set aside to cool.

Method – cake:

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.  Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and beat until combined.  With the mixer now on medium-low speed add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/2 of the milk and the tsp of vanilla.  Continue by beating in the rest of the flour and milk, starting and ending with the flour.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Add the batter to the prepared pan and smooth with a rubber spatula.  Place pan on a baking sheet and then pour caramel topping over the batter.  Carefully transfer cake to the oven and bake for 35 minutes.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, invert it onto a large rimmed serving platter and serve warm.

Let any leftover cake cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Posted by on November 20, 2010 in Cakes


SMS: Lemon Blueberry Muffins

The recipe chosen by Shandy of Pastry Heaven was strawberry muffins with fresh lemon and rosemary.  As you can clearly see I went a slightly different route.  My initial plan was to just leave out rosemary as I am not a fan of it even when it comes to savory dishes.  The change of plan came when I saw that the strawberries were just too pricey.  Blueberry muffins are my favorite so it all worked out in the end.

These muffins turned out light with just the right amount of sweetness and blueberries.  The fresh lemon zest adds such a nice touch.  I took them to work on Friday and everyone seemed to enjoy them.  I ended up eating one for breakfast and another as a snack…once again breaking my “one piece” rule.  Well, at least they were normal size muffins and not the gigantic ones found at most bakeries.

Check out Shandy’s blog to find the recipe and see her yummy muffins.  Go here for all the other SMS bakers and their muffin creations.

  • I reduced the flour to 2 cups and used 2  1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Used 1  1/4 cups frozen blueberries

Posted by on November 14, 2010 in Muffins


Carrot Cake

I made this cake for my friend at work to surprise her for her birthday this past week.  She and I actually started our new job on the same day and we were lucky enough to hit it off from the start.  It seems as though food is always a good topic of conversation when you are getting to know someone….I mean we all eat.  Early on I found out her favorite cake in the whole wide world is carrot cake so the choice was an easy one.  I was a bit nervous about it as she has eaten plenty of carrot cakes in her life….what if mine didn’t meet her expectations?  Well, luckily it did….she said it was one of the best carrot cakes she has had in a long time.  This is good being that she has been eating carrot cake for her birthday for several years!

Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts (toasted)
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1  1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound (3 1/4 cups) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Getting ready: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter three 9-x-2 inch round cake pans, flour the insides and tap out the excess.  Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, stir together the carrots, 1 cup of the chopped nuts and coconut.  Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth.  Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother.  Beat in the vanilla and the crushed pineapple.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear.  Gently mix in the chunky ingredients and then divide the batter among the baking pans.  Bake for  40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers come out clean; the cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans.  Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them.       Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To make the frosting: Working with the stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth.  Beat in the lemon juice.

To assemble the cake: Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Cover the first layer generously with the frosting and smooth all the way out to the edges.  Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake top side down and smooth on a layer of the frosting.  Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top and sides of the cake.  Top the cake with the remaining 1 cup of nuts.  Refrigerate the cake for 30 min, just to set the frosting before serving.


Posted by on November 7, 2010 in Cakes