This week I have been testing bacon recipes for a recipe contest. It doesn’t take much to get me to cook with bacon. Bacon is firmly in my comfort zone. However, I’m trying to do something out of the ordinary…I first made a very bacony quiche sort of dish, which was fantastic, but not special enough. I’ve now moved on to desserts, and this is where I move from comfort zone to danger zone.
If you’ve read my blog before, you may recall several rants aimed at pastry. You will also note that more often than not, I cheat and use pre-made pie dough. This is something that I would love to change. To conquer doughs and breads of all kinds is high on my list of things to do. But then I try and fail. Bad.
Let me recap a few recent events:
I tried making a so-called “easy” and “super quick” beer bread that ended up in the garbage before it even got to the oven. When I announced I was going to bake bread, Andy’s eyes got wide and a worried look came over his face. Even though I followed the recipe, there was no way that this wet and gluey mess was becoming bread. Worst of all, I wasted a perfectly good beer on it.
Another time, when testing tart recipes for my tea party post, my mom and dad came over to try them. My dad, upon seeing my baked tart shells on the counter asked nervously, “You made pastry?” I’m fairly sure I heard a sigh of relief when I informed him that they were made from pre-made pie dough.
And yesterday, when I came up with a spectacular idea to make bacon shortcrust pastry for a bacony dessert, I actually felt cautiously optimistic. Shortcrust is easy, right? While I was making the shortcrust, it came together perfectly in the food processor and looked like dough should look when I put it in the fridge to chill. But when I rolled it out, I started to get nervous. It just wasn’t right. I forged ahead, and into the oven it went. Fifteen minutes later the smoke detectors were blaring and I was pulling charred rounds of bacon shortcrust out of the oven.Now, did I say shortcrust was easy? I’ll tell you what’s easier: not wasting your time making pastry. Instead, just gather up all the ingredients you would use and throw them directly into the trash. No need to mix them up. Better yet, just throw in a few dollar bills instead. Bitter, party of one? Yep, that’s me.
I had one more bacon extravaganza up my sleeve though, and that one worked out. Not surprisingly, it does not include homemade pastry. Fingers crossed it all comes together as planned. You should be seeing it in an upcoming post…I’m pretty excited about it.
In the meantime, I made this bacon-less crostata (yes, with pre-made pie dough!) and it turned out perfectly.
Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Crostata
1 sheet refrigerated pie crust
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
16 ounces heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cut each tomato in half (or quarters if larger). On a baking sheet, mix the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Reserve.
Meanwhile, in a large pan over medium-low heat, sauté the onions in olive oil to caramelize. Season with salt and pepper. When done, remove and let cool slightly.
Stir the ricotta, parmesan, egg and thyme together. Add the cooled onions and combine.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie crust slightly to about 12 inches. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread the ricotta filling onto the dough, leaving about 1-2 inches of overhang around the edges. Top with roasted tomatoes. Fold the edges up around the filling, then brush dough with egg wash.
Bake at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes until the crust is cooked through. Check underneath for doneness by lifting carefully with a spatula. (I made this twice: The first time it only baked for 40 minutes. The second time was closer to 50 minutes. If the crust is getting too brown, cover with foil.)
Let cool slightly before cutting.
So here I’m safely back in my comfort zone where I don’t fight with pastry and instead end up with a gorgeous crostata. This dish just screams summer to me and makes me dream of all those juicy tomatoes in my future. In the meantime, I am absolutely crazy about these little heirloom tomatoes and their slightly different flavors, already so good at this time of year. The ricotta filling is rich and creamy and a nice balance to the sweet tomatoes. I tried this both warm and at room temperature and either way is good. (My mom says it was good straight out of the refrigerator, but she’s in the minority, I think. She likes cold food and it borders on odd.) This would make a great appetizer or could even be a light dinner when paired with a salad.
Now, bacon calls once again. I’m beginning to wonder if the house will ever go back to smelling normal. At the moment, a definite diner smell hangs in the air…not that I’m complaining.