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Apricot Crostata

Apricot Crostata

What is that one cake or sweet that reminds you of your childhood the most?

If you asked me I’d say crostatas, the pie-looking tarts commonly filled with jam my grandmother used to make. Every Sunday morning I would go to my grandma’s house,  where I was welcomed by the smell of a scrumptious Sunday lunch. But what interested me the most was what was hiding in the dark living room, where all the cakes were left to cool down. And that’s where I would always find a crostata, its warm homemade jam tempting me have a taste, just a bite.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had a crostata, I’m not sure why I haven’t made it since leaving Europe. Maybe I never had enough people to bake it for, since it’s a tart I always shared with friends and family, or maybe baking it myself reminds me too much of when others used to bake it for me – and of how quickly time flies when your not paying attention, only to wake up one day and realise that you have to bake your own tarts.

Whatever it was, it’s no longer relevant because I made my first “Australian” crostata just last week and I intend to bake many more from now on! To my surprise, it was a lot easier to make than I remembered, and super-quick, too!

Crostata Recipe

Italian Shortbread Pastry (Pasta Frolla)
Translated from GialloZafferano.it

500 gr Cake Flour ( or All Purpose/Plain Flour)
250 gr Unsalted Butter (cold, cut in pieces)
Pinch of Salt
4 Egg Yolks
200 gr Icing Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Essence
500gr Apricot Jam (Filling)

1. Place the flour, salt and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium speed until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

2. Pour the flour on a flat surface and create a volcano (!), then add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. Quickly knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Wrap the dough in cling wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. Your Pasta Frolla is now ready to be turned in a Crostata!

Notes:
Plain flour worked well for me, however, for best results or more complex pies (for example a braided edge), I suggest you use a flour low in gluten (cake flour), as this will make your dough more elastic and easier to shape.
Crostata
Crostata

1. Preheat oven at 180°C

2. Grease a loose base tart pan (I used a 24cm, but there’s enough dough for a slightly bigger one). If using a tart pan without a loose base, line with baking paper.

3. On a floured surface, roll half the dough with a wooden rolling pin until 5mm thick. Line the tart pan with the dough, cutting the extra pastry with a knife and making sure there are no holes or air bubbles. Spread the apricot jam evenly with the back of a spoon.

4. Roll the other half of the dough, then cut 1cm/1.5cm strips. The more precise you are, the better the crostata will look once baked. Apply the strips on the crostata, horizontally and vertically, pinching the edges slightly to secure.

5. Bake at 180°C for 30/40 minutes or until the crust is a nice golden brown. Let it cool in the pan before attempting to remove.

Slice of Crostata

Does it look delicious? Because it most definitely was!
I’ve been working on my photography, I know I’ve got a very long (and probably steep knowing my luck) road ahead of me in terms of photographing food but I’m trying to improve bit by bit.

So, what is the food that reminds YOU of your childhood the most?
I’m curious, don’t keep me hanging!

Your excitable baker,
Sylvia

More Halloween Goodness!

I haven’t been very organised with the Halloween posts, have I?

Typical!

But I just realised that I had been waiting a whole year to post last year’s Halloween sweets as I didn’t yet have a blog then…and then, this Halloween, I promptly forgot. Damn, Sylvia!

Halloween Vanilla Cupcakes

Halloween 2011 was fun, but it was more because I got to bake Halloween sweets for the first time than because of the actual party. Last Halloween I still shared a house with a family with 3 kids, and these kids had all their friends over for trick-or-treating and a jump in the heated pool – which makes me realise that the only pool I had growing up was the little inflatable one…yeah, kids these days have all the good things in life.

Pardon the orange-ness of the photos, I was still getting used to having a proper camera and was apparently colour blind!

Halloween Mars Bar Slice

I made Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and little Witch Hats…and a Mars Bar Slice with Chocolate Spiders! The Vanilla Cupcake recipe is quite straight forward, so I will leave it to you to decide which one to use. However, the Mars Slice comes from an Italian website and it looks a bit different from the usual Mars Bar Slices with a thick chocolate coating…so I’ll write down the recipe for your convenience :)

Mars Bar Slice 
(makes 20)

80gr Unsalted Butter

300gr (7) Mars bars

200gr Rice Bubbles (Krispies)

For the spiders:

200gr White Chocolate Melts
100gr Black Chocolate Melts

1. Line a medium rectangular (brownie) tray with baking paper. Chop the Mars bars up in little chunks to aid the melting process.

2. In a saucepan and over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, add the Mars chunks and stir frequently until melted.

3. Put the rice bubbles in a big bowl and add the melted Mars, mixing slowly with a big spoon so as not to break the bubbles.

4. Once the rice bubbles are all coated and well mixed, put them in the brownie tray. With the back of a spoon, pat the bubbles until they’re evenly distributed.

5. Put in the fridge for min 30 minutes before serving.

6. Melt the white and black chocolate melts in separate bowls. Once melted, quickly put the chocolate in two piping bags and  begin decorating. Once finished, refrigerate until the chocolate sets before serving!

Halloween Mars Bar Slice

And that’s it for the Halloween posts from me this year :) Promise!
But wait, aren’t you curious about my Halloween costume?

I was…

Sylvia the Zombie Baker

…a zombie prom queen with a nosebleed. Scary stuff, you guys! 

Sylvia

Chai Cupcakes

I am back! I’m so sorry for neglicting to post until today (my aim is to post twice a week, just so you know), I have been a bit overwhelmed with the whole blogging experience. Did I mention I am somewhat of a perfectionist? And since recipes don’t always come out perfect at the first try…well, it’s obviously a tiny bit hard for me to be confident enough to post them!

But hey! Aside from this slightly down start, I am very excited to announce that my cake-baking season will be starting soon :) In fact, next weekend will be pretty busy with birthday cakes, and so will be the one after that! I can’t wait to get baking and post all the cake madness that will ensue.

Today, I’ll leave you with these sweet Chai Cupcakes with Chai Buttercream.
Do you like Masala Chai? I love it!

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Ingredients
100g Butter
1 cup Caster Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
2 Eggs
½ Chai Spice Mix (recipe follows!)
1 ¼ cups Plain Flour (sifted)
½ cup Buttermilk
½ tsp Bicarb Soda
½ tsp White Vinegar

Chai Spice Mix
1 ½ tsp Ground Cardamom
1 ½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Ginger
¼ tsp Ground Cloves
¼ tsp Ground Nutmeg

Preheat oven at 160°C

In a bowl, mix sugar and butter together until well combined. Add vanilla extract and eggs, beating after each addiction.
Add chai spice mix. Fold in flour and buttercream alternately. Mix vinegar and bicard together before adding it to the mixture.

♥ I recommend making mini cupcakes with this mixture (makes 24 ), since it is quite tasty and sweet.

Chai Buttercream
2 cups Butter
2 cups Pure Icing Sugar
1/2 Chai Spice Mix
2 tsp Vanilla Essence
Milk (if needed)

Beat butter until creamy. Mix in sugar, 2 tblsp at a time, chai spice mix and 2 tsp vanilla essence. You can add 1 tblsp milk to soften consistency if you like.

Pipe onto cupcakes and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before serving!

Recipe from Some More Please

nullDid you know?
“Chai” is an hindi word meaning “tea” in general, not specifically the type of tea we associate with the Western “Chai”. In India, the Chai tea we know is called “Masala Chai” which translates into “mixed-spice tea”.
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