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Cranberry-Quince Pastafrola

Cranberry-Quince Pastafrola

Thanks to multiple rounds of entertaining over the Thanksgiving, I only had about a cup of cranberry sauce left this time around. This was just the right quantity to allow me to write a tidy little epilogue to my American story about the melding of my Southern Hemisphere roots, my New England sojourn, and all the years between and since.

As I’ve mentioned before, pastafrola is a typically Argentine afternoon snack and casual dessert, somewhere between a tart and a bar cookie.  It’s composed of a thick layer of quince preserves (membrillo), sandwiched between layers of a slightly eggy pastry used extensively in Italian baking, pasta frolla, whence the name.  If you’d like to see what the real deal looks like, Pip’s and Katy’s are legit.

This, my friends, is not legit, but it’s closer than the bastard cousin deconstructed version I made during my pre-move pantry clearing efforts.  I’d like to think that if my grandmother ever had transplanted to Boston, she would have come up with a cranberry version like this. I rather suspect my mom would approve, too, since she disfavors highly sugary desserts.

I’m not perfectly content with the pastry here, since it was a little bit more biscuity and puffy than it really needed to be, but I do love how the tartness of the cranberries tones down the sweetness of the quince and pear and richness of the pastry, to say nothing of adding a seasonally-appropriate red sparkle.  I’ll definitely be engaging in further experimentation with the Christmas batch of cranberry sauce.

Cranberry-Quince Pastafrola
(Loosely adapted from Jam Crostata in Cook’s Illustrated’s Best Recipes for Holiday Baking)
Makes 12-16 bars

1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
2-3 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups (11 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup leftover Cranberry Sauce with Quince, Pear and Vanilla
1 egg white beaten with 2 tablespoons water

Whisk egg, yolk, water, vanilla and 2 tablespoons water together in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix at low speed for a few seconds.  Add the butter pieces and mix again at low to break up the butter a bit more, stopping the mixer and using your fingers to help if necessary.

Add the liquid to the butter-flour mixture and stir until just moistened.  If the dough does not stick together when squeezed in your hand, add the extra tablespoon of water and mix again.

Knead a few times by hand in the bowl until the dough coheres, adding a sprinkle or two of flour if necessary.  Divide dough into two equal pieces, pat into flat squares, and place in zip-top bags.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let come up to room temperature.

Puree the cranberry sauce with an immersion blender or in the food processor until smooth.  If necessary, supplement with additional quince or other jam to make 1 cup.

Line a quarter-sheet rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out the first batch between sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 inch thick, and long and wide enough to fit the bottom of the pan.  Trim the edges with a pizza cutter or knife so that the dough just fits in the bottom, without creeping up the sides.  Spread the cranberry puree on the dough, leaving a one-inch border.

Roll out the second batch of dough to the same dimensions, and cut into 1-inch strips.  Brush the uncranberried rim of the base as well as the strips with the egg wash.  Carefully lay each one across the filling in a lattice pattern, washed-side down.  Knead together the scraps and roll into a rope 3/4 inch thick and long enough to go around the edge of the pastry.   Press the rope around the rim to seal the lattice and filling in, then brush the rope and lattice tops with the remaining egg wash.  Refrigerate for an hour to chill the dough well before baking.

Preheat the oven to 375.  Bake the pastafrola on the middle rack until puffed and golden, 25-30 minutes.  Cool slightly, then run a knife around the edge of the sheet to loosen the sides.  Slide the knife under the parchment and use the paper to move the whole pastfrola onto a wire rack.

Cut into rectangles or squares once cool.


Not to enable or anything, but a pouring of unsweetened, unwhipped heavy cream over the top moistened the pastry beautifully and added just the right holiday-inspired note of overindulgence.

The original recipe used a food processor, which I do not currently have (sob!). The Kitchenaid works fine, or you could use a pastry cutter and good old fashioned elbow grease if you’re so inclined.

If you don’t have a quarter-sheet pan, you could still cut the pastry to the right size and lay it on a larger parchment-lined sheet pan, but the smaller sized pan is easier and more forgiving. They’re exactly the right size for bar cookies, including brownies, and they’re supremely handy for toasting nuts and other small-scale baking endeavors.  So go get one!

Do not skip the second refrigeration step, since it will keep the dough from spreading and ruining all your hard lattice-building work.