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Flour, eggs, butter, sugar. Few ingredients perform an authentic magic: the pasta frolla, italian short pastry.
Fragrant tarts spreaded with jams, buttery cookies, crunchy shells filled with parfumed cream and fresh fruits... the pastry dough is the quintessential of the Italian cooking.
The dough is quick and easy to make, but the ingredients can be used in differents proportions.
Even the method can be different, starting with cold or creamy butter.
So I think is important to define how a perfect pasta frolla must be, at least for me: buttery (yes!), crumbly and fragrant, elastic just enough to be rolled out easily.
Here my tips:
Flour, it's important to choose the right one. Gluten, the natural substance we develop kneading the fresh pasta, here is our enemy.
Too much gluten means an hard and elastic dough and we can say goodbye to one of the basic caratheristic of the pastry dough: to be crumbly.
It's important to use a flour with a low protein content, usually called "pastry flour".
To be sure, you can make your flour weaker adding 10% cornstarch.
it's also important to work the dough quickly, without kneading: this is the best way to avoid to develop too much gluten.
Fat ...butter, butter, butter. It's the kind of the pasta frolla, even if you find some version with extra virgin olive oil. Fat is important for the taste, of course, but not only: butter prevents the gluten develop and makes your dough crumbly .
The egg proteins play an important role in our pastry dough, binding the different ingredients and giving "body" and structure. You can use just the yolks or whole eggs for an easier to roll out dough.
Sugar makes difficult the gluten develop and also makes your crust crunchy. You can use different kind of sugars, I love to use brown sugar for "rustic" jam tarts and icing sugar when I want "silky" shells and cookies.
The baking powder is optional, you can use just a little pinch of it for more softness.
And, finally, play with different aromas, vanilla - always natural - is the flavour the I use more, but I also love the lemon zest with my ricotta and fruit crostata. Then orange zest, cinnamon and other winter spices, dried lavander flower, finely chopped rosmarin ....
Recipes for a 22 diameter ring and some extra cookies...
400 gr. pastry flour - 100 gr. cornstarch - 1 pinch baking powder - 1 pinch salt - 150 gr. icing sugar - 250 gr. cold unsalted butter - 1 egg - 1 pinch baking powder - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ( or lemon zest)
Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and sugar directly on your working surface. Add in the cold butter cutted in small cubes and vanilla.
Using your finger points "pinch" butter and dry ingredients until you will obtain a mix similar to wet sandy. Add in the beaten egg and work pressing the dough in your hands, without kneading.
Wrap it in a cling film and refrigerat for 2 hours minum.
Take out from the fridge about half hour before use. This time indication change in refert to your kitchen temperature. The dough must be soft enough to be rolled out but still well cold.
Shape out your tart or cookies then refrigerate 30 minutes before baking to save the shape nicely.
Bake the big tarts for 25/30 minutes and cookies for 10/15 minutes at 180°