Thursday, September 23, 2010

Los Clásicos



Continuing the classics of Argentinean cuisine kick that I've been on lately, a couple of weeks ago I said to Felipe that I wanted to buy some quince to make pasta frola, one of the classic Argentinean desserts. He made a skeptical face. I don't really like pasta frola. Oh, I know, I replied, I don't either, but I want to see if I can make a version that I do like. 

Pasta frola is another one of those Argentinean descendents of Italian cuisine. It´s like a jam crostata, most commonly filled with membrillo (quince paste), though you also see it filled with dulce de batata (a sweet potato-like jam) and other various incarnations. Argentineans adore it and it can be found in every bakery and many kiosks even sell squares of it. Like many Argentinean desserts, I normally find the filling way too sweet and the crust pretty tasteless. I generally like membrillo though, and I mean, I do love butter crusts. So I reduced the sugar in the membrillo, and I made a butter crust with lemon, vanilla and semolina, to tweak the taste and texture a bit more to my liking while still staying in the Italian vein. Semolina is one of my favorite ingredients ever, and I try to stick it into everything I can.

The result was really lovely, and Felipe promptly ate more than 1/2 of the tart in less than a day, so ha. We should've made a bet, though I'm not sure why exactly I'm looking to turn my relationship with the person who washed all the dishes into a competition. So I suppose the moral of the story today is to not always trust my first instincts, unless they involve conservative homophobic clergy and closeted homosexual behaviour, often illegal but almost always at least creepy.


Pasta Frola

3.5 oz. (100 g. or 7 Tbsp.) butter, room temperature
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. semolina
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Membrillo filling, about 2 cups
Sugar for sprinkling

Cream the sugar and butter together. Beat in the egg, lemon zest and vanilla extract. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and then stir them into the butter mixture just until combined. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and put it in the fridge to chill for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cut off a third of the dough to use for the lattice top, wrap it back up in the plastic, and put it back in the fridge. Press the two-thirds of dough that you have left into a 10-in. springform pan (you could use a tart pan as well), pressing it up the sides so you have walls of about an inch.  Spread the membrillo in the tart in an even layer, leaving 1/2 cm. of rim showing. Take out the remaining 1/3 of dough from the fridge, lightly flour the counter, and roll out the dough to 1/8 in. thick, laying the plastic you wrapped the dough with in between the dough and a rolling pin (or wine bottle) to help the dough from sticking to the rolling pin.  Cut the dough into 1 cm.-wide strips. Lay the strips crosswise on top of the membrillo, pressing the dough strips at the edges into the dough of the tart rim. Sprinkle sugar over the top of the tart. 

Membrillo 

5 quince
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half
2 strips lemon zest
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Peel, core, and chop the quince and stick it in a large heavy-bottomed pot along with the lemon zest and the vanilla bean. Add water just to cover and simmer until the quince is very soft, about 30 min. Take out the vanilla bean and set aside. Using a hand blender, blender, or food processor, blend the quince and lemon zest until smooth. Return to the pot (if you didn't use a hand blender), scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean and put them in the pot with the puree, and add the lemon juice. Add in the sugar and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't burn, for 1-2 hours until the quince thickens and darkens in color (here is a good explanation of the process with clear pictures).


And the remaining puree? You can make quince gelees. Oil a baking pan and spread the remaining puree into a layer 1/2 cm. thick. Bake in the oven on low heat, around 150ºF, until set (it may take at least 2 hours). The top will be set before the bottom. Cut into squares and toss in sugar.

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