27 December 2010

Christmas Stollen

The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book.........and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

Fresh from the oven Stollen loaf... sans rum and sugar coating
Being of more French heritage than German, I've never actually tasted Stollen. I've seen it occasionally at the market, but have never felt compelled to try it, probably because there are so many treats at every turn during the holidays. Now, I don't have the best track record when it comes to yeast breads (remember the brioche incident?), but I was still interested to give it a try. After all, I've got to conquer this thing at some point.

Because I have never tasted stollen, it was not until I actually read through the ingredient list that I noticed the similarities between this and the traditional hot cross buns we enjoy at Easter. A mildly cinnamon spiced bread dotted with candied citrus, cherries and almonds, the biggest difference between the two seems to be the rum and sugar coating that is typical of stollen.

nuts, candied citrus, raisins and cranberries - all in a spiced bread.  mmmmm.....
I used the recipe suggested by Penny, and it was really pretty straightforward. Make the sponge, let it rise, punch it down, add the fruit and let it rise again before baking. For a little bit of personality, I added some chopped candied ginger to mixture of candied citrus, and substituted dried cranberries for the cherries I didn't have in the house. As soon as the stollen loaves were in the oven, the kitchen took on the familiar smell of fresh hot-cross buns - all cinnamon and citrus peel. I took the freshly baked loaves from the oven and headed off to pack for our holiday vacation at my sister's in California.

As we had an early morning flight the next day, there was no time to taste my very first stollen. So, I wrapped it up with the rest of the cookies and baking I was bringing, and packed it all in my carry-on, wondering what, if any hassle I would get as I passed through security. It was only once we were at the airport that I realized I had forgotten to brush the loaves with rum and sprinkle them with sugar. I had two very naked loaves of stollen with me. {sigh}

We arrived in LA a few hours later, thankful for the uneventful trip. For breakfast the following morning, we sliced up the stollen and toasted it. It tasted exactly like cross buns. Had I not forgotten the rum and sugar coating, I imagine it would have tasted noticeably different, but we were more than pleased with the finished bread. I'm not sure if this will make it into my Christmas repertoire the way other new treats have over the years, but I suspect I will be returning to this recipe in a few short months for Easter, when I can enjoy it again in bun form.

Happy holidays to everyone. I wish you a Happy Hanukah, a Merry Christmas, and a Fantastic New Year!

Happy Baking!

Stollen Wreath
Makes one large wreath or two traditional shaped Stollen loaves. Serves 10-12 people

¼ cup (60ml) lukewarm water (110º F / 43º C)
2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (22 ml) (14 grams) (1/2 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) milk
10 tablespoons (150 ml) (140 grams) unsalted butter (can use salted butter)
5½ cups (1320 ml) (27 ozs) (770 grams) all-purpose (plain) flour (Measure flour first - then sift- plus extra for dusting)
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gms) sugar
¾ teaspoon (3 ¾ ml) (4 ½ grams) salt (if using salted butter there is no need to alter this salt measurement)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 grams) cinnamon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (very good) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (5 ml) lemon extract or orange extract
¾ cup (180 ml) (4 ¾ ozs) (135 grams) mixed peel (link below to make your own)
1 cup (240 ml) (6 ozs) (170 gms) firmly packed raisins
3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
12 red glacé cherries (roughly chopped) for the color and the taste. (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (3 ½ ozs) (100 grams) flaked almonds
Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
Confectioners’ (icing) (powdered) sugar for dusting wreath

Note: If you don’t want to use alcohol, double the lemon or orange extract or you could use the juice from the zested orange.

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange) and set aside.
To make the dough, pour ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast completely.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup (240 ml) milk and 10 tablespoons (150 ml) butter over medium - low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl (4 qt) (4 liters) (or in the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment), stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests.
Then stir in (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.
Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate. Here is where you can add the cherries if you would like. Be delicate with the cherries or all your dough will turn red!
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing with the dough hook) to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour if needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The full six minutes of kneading is needed to distribute the dried fruit and other ingredients and to make the dough have a reasonable bread-dough consistency. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn't enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

Shaping the Dough and Baking:
Let the dough rest for 2 hours after taking out of the fridge in order to warm slightly.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
Punch dough down, divide equally and shape into 2 loaves
Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof for approximately 2 hours at room temperature, or until about 1½ times its original size.
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot.
Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter.
Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first.
The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar.
Let cool at least an hour before serving. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh - especially if you intend on sending it in the mail as Christmas presents!

When completely cool, store in a plastic bag. Or leave it out uncovered overnight to dry out slightly, German style.
The stollen tastes even better in a couple of days and it toasts superbly…. so delicious with butter and a cup of tea….mmmmm

25 December 2010

Merry Macarons to you!

Parmesan Pancetta Rosemary Macarons

This holiday season has been a busy one for me, but I am not complaining. It's incredibly flattering to have people hire you to do baking for them. This means, prior to leaving for vacation, most of my nights have been spent happily up to my elbows in sugar and flour and butter and eggs... and almonds. Yes, I made quite a few macarons this month, and even spent an evening with my friend Shannon, "teaching" her how to make these finicky french cookies, or rather, teaching her how not to. The evening led to the discovery that macarons are *not* one of those kids-can-help recipes. Shannon's adorable 4 year old son, who loves to cook, and 6 year old daughter, who loves chocolate mousse, were excited to help out in any way he could. But sadly, this is what our macaron shells turned out like that night. It's not pretty, but at least we had fun.

Major macaron fail... NOT a kid-friendly recipe

Well, back in my kitchen, I was back at the mixer, fingers crossed that I could finally get feet on my little macs. Shells of various colours and flavours were prepared, and {whew} batch after batch turned out as hoped - feet and all. And what better time to bake up my MacTweets Challenge macs... Savory Sweet Holiday Macs!

It's true that there are limitless flavour combinations that can be made in a macaron. The delicate flavour of almonds makes them compatible with just about everything under the sun. From tomatoes to pork to fish to olives, almonds can be accompaniment to any of them, though not necessarily in a sweet application. Contemplating the possibilities, and flipping through Pierre Hermé's Macron, I finally settled on Parmesan Pancetta Rosemary Chocolate Macarons.

Festive red macarons with Pancetta, a sprinkling of Parmesan and Rosemary infused ganache

Hubby and I attended a wine and chocolate tasting evening several months back, and one of the treats that was better than we expected was Pancetta and melted chocolate. Yes, bacon seems to be popping up in all kinds of dessert applications, but pancetta is bacon with the flavour volume turned way up - and it really works with the tannic bitter undertones of dark chocolate. One thing I was not prepared for, when baking my macaron shells, is the effect that a sprinkling of parmegiano reggiano cheese would have on them. Baked on the same sheet and from the same batch of regular macaron shells, the parmesan shells somehow "erupted" and cracked, while the regular shells were perfectly shaped and domed. I'm not sure just what it is about the addition of cheese that causes this, but that's the only variable that can be the cause.

The mystery of the erupting parmesan mac shells

So, with my less-than-perfect Parmesan mac shells, I made a simple chocolate ganache, first infusing the cream with a bit of fresh rosemary. With the addition of some finely minced pancetta, and topped it off with a larger ruffle of the cured Italian bacon. The result? While it's not my favourite flavour of mac, it is definitely a good one. The salty and sweet mix of chocolate, almonds and pancetta, and the earthy flavour of the rosemary, made for a nice combination.

Parmesan Pancetta Rosemary Macarons
makes approximately 36 cookies, but is easily doubled
adapted from Pierre Hermé Macarons

100g almond flour
150g confectioners sugar
55g egg whites
150g granulated sugar
37g water
55g egg whites (yes, another 55g of egg whites in a separate bowl)
1/2 tsp food colouring
2 Tbsp grated Parmegiano Reggiano cheese

Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the almond flour and confectioners sugar together into a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix the food colouring with the first 55g of egg whites. Stir the coloured eggs into the almond sugar mixture until well combined and set aside.
In the bowl of standing mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the second bowl of plain egg whites until they are foamy but do not yet hold a peak. Turn off the mixer and prepare the syrup:
Pour the water into a small saucepan, and pour the sugar into a mound the centre of the pot, but do not stir.
Place the pan over medium high heat, and keep your thermometer handy.
As the sugar begins to dissolve, gently and carefully swirl the mixture around to distribute any sugar that has not yet melted.
Once the syrup begins to boil, periodically check the temperature until it reaches 115˚C (239˚F).
Remove the pan from heat and check the temperature again - the syrup will continue to cook.
When the mixture reaches 118˚C (244˚F), turn the mixer up to medium speed and carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites in a steady stream.
Once all of the syrup has been added, turn the mixer to medium-high and whip for another 2 minutes until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks.
Using your thermometer, check the temperature of the Italian meringue - it should register about 50˚C (122˚F) or slightly cooler.
Fold the meringue into the coloured almond mixture until no white streaks remain, and has a consistency similar to cake batter.
Fill a piping bag with the macaron batter and pipe small rounds onto the prepared baking sheets.  Sprinkle a small amount of cheese onto each of the macaron shells while they are still wet.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F and place rack in the centre of the oven.
Allow the piped cookies to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to form a dry "skin" while the oven comes to temperature.
To make sure the cookies are ready to bake, gently touch one with your finger, if any batter sticks to your finger, they are still too wet. You should be able to lightly press your finger to the top and have it come up clean.
Bake one sheet at a time, for 12 minutes. You should have nice puffy macaron shells with the loveliest feet you have ever seen. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.

Rosemary Infused Chocolate Ganache with Pancetta

120ml (1/2 Cup) heavy cream
2 stalks fresh rosemary
120g (1/2 Cup) dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
50g thinly sliced pancetta

Pour the cream into a small saucepan.  Using your hands, firmly bend and "bruise" the rosemary, to help release the fragrant oils.  Add the rosemary to the cream, and gently heat the cream until it is steaming but not boiling.  
Place the chopped chocolate and salt in a medium bowl.
Remove the rosemary from the cream and pour the mixture over the chocolate, and allow it to sit for 3-4 minutes.
Gently whisk the chocolate and cream together until it is thick and silky, but be careful not to incorporate any air into the ganache.
Set the bowl aside and allow the ganache to cool to room temperature.

Set a few layers of paper towels over a shallow bowl or plate and set it near the stove.  In a frying pan or skillet, quickly fry the pancetta until it is ruffled and crispy.  Pancetta has a much lover smoke point than regular bacon, and also cooks much much faster, so there's no time to turn your back.  As soon as the pancetta is ruffly and shrunken, remove it to the paper towel to drain.  

Once the ganache has cooled to room temperature, fill a piping bag with the ganache and pipe a generous amount onto the underside of 1/2 of the macaron shells.  Place a small piece of pancetta on top of the ganache, and then add another small dot of ganache and top them all with the remaining macaron shells.
Refrigerate the macarons for at least 24 hours.  Remove the macarons from the fridge about 2 hours before serving so they can warm slightly.


10 December 2010

A Sticky Toffee Pudding Send-Off

If you happen to follow me on Twitter, lately you have seen me gushing a lot about @darrenstravels.  The owner of that twitter handle is my hero, and lucky for me, he also happens to be my uncle.

@darrenstravels  (aka "Uncle D")  My hero
"D", as he is affectionately called by nearly everyone in the family, is my mom's baby brother - "baby" by enough that he is only 12 years older than me, and I'm the baby of all the grand-daughters.  As such, he often babysat my sister and I a lot when we were little, and he's always seemed more like a big brother to us than an uncle.  Helping cement his "brother" image in our minds, he used to absolutely torment us as kids, as brothers tend to torment younger sisters.  For example; to this day, my sister won't step on a drain of any kind - not even in a shower - for fear that she'll be sucked down the drain (she was always a skinny kid).  Me?  I have vivid memories of him threatening to put me in the freezer (geez, that looks *wayyyy more menacing on paper than it was in real life) -  it was really just one of many ways to make me squirm and scream "nooooooo!", and it was as fun for me as I think it was for him.  As much as he tortured us, I know we always looked forward to nights when our parents would go out and Uncle D would come over to babysit, because we'd laugh a LOT and even get to stay up late :)

As Darren went on to his career in radio, and later television, he moved away.  I've always missed him since he moved, but at the same time, proud of who he was and what he was doing.  When Sis and I took Mom to Paris for her 60th birthday a couple of years ago, we convinced D to come along and join us for a few days - and we had a blast.  As a television producer in Toronto, he was always working incredibly long hours, and vacations were always short, but travel has always been one of his passions.  A few years ago, he made it even more of a priority, taking short trips to New York City whenever he could, and training for life-changing treks like his climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.  Still, at a certain point in life, a handful of brave and incredibly smart individuals realize that we don't get to live forever, and decide to take life by the horns and go off to actually *live* their dreams.  My Uncle Darren is one such individual.  There is a price for all of this, however, and I don't just mean airfare.  He's purged himself of almost all belongings, ended a withering 23-year relationship, left his two beloved dogs, sold his home and quit his job - things few of us would have the guts to do - all so he can go and Live The Dream. For the first time since he was 14, he is now officially Unemployed, not to mention Homeless.... scary things to be when you're 50. Still, this is part of what it costs to follow your dreams.

(for those of you who crave a little adventure without the sacrifice, you can live vicariously through Darren by following his blog on rtwtravels.com)

So, a little more than a year ago, he began planning his Round The World Adventure, a two year journey to go around the world and see and do all of the things he has always dreamed about.  A 17-day bike tour through Vietnam, bungee jumping in New Zealand, working in an Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, and participating in as many of the countless cultural festivals around the world as he can.... these are just a few of the things he has on his agenda for the next two years.  Thankfully, the boy who is "chasing summer" for the next two years is kicking off his journey with 10 days freezing his butt off to hang with us here in Edmonton.  (lucky for him, the -33 cold snap ended before he arrived! but he's still freezing...)

Bon Voyage!  Have some Coconut Cake!

In addition to taking a full day off work just to hang with my uncle (because some things in life are more important than spreadsheets and paperwork.  No, make that ALL things in life...), I also baked up the desserts for his Happy Birthday & Bon Voyage fête last weekend.  What were his requests?  My Coconut Cake (aka my "When Harry Met Sally Cake), because he loves coconut, and his favourite dessert: Sticky Toffee Pudding. Done and done! Into the kitchen I go!

My hugs in luggage tag form
Nothing makes me happier than to bake for people I care about, so I was especially happy to see how much D loved these desserts.  Between groans of delight, he was gushing with compliments ("Oh my god, this is the *best* Sticky Toffee Pudding I have ever tasted!" and "This Coconut Cake tastes better than any Bounty Bar, and they're my favourite!") - all of which makes me grin from ear to ear.  I'm so incredibly proud of him that I just want to spoil him as much as I can before tomorrow, when he literally heads off into the world, and I don't know exactly when (or where) I will see him again.... To remind him that I love him and that I'm proud of him, I also gave him these gorgeous luggage tags from Of The Fountain on Etsy.  The quote is absolutely perfect, and they don't add too much weight to the 60 litre backpack that he will be living out of for the next 730 days.  (can you imagine?)  Hopefully, if he ever finds himself a little heartsick for family and old friends, he will look at these luggage tags and smile, and know they also carry all the love and hugs and kisses that I have for him.

So, to my darling uncle... Thank you for being such an important part of my childhood, and my adulthood,  for walking me down the aisle on my wedding day, and for every time you made me laugh until my cheeks hurt.  Thank you for being my hero and my inspiration.  I love you with all my heart.  To quote E.E. Cummings.... "I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)".  Go live your dreams......

Oh yeah - and Thank You for including one winter destination and freezing your butt off just so we can all wish you Bon Voyage in person.  XOXOX

Sticky Toffee Pudding Send Off

Sticky Toffee Pudding
from Cook's Illustrated
serves 8-10

250g (1 1/4 Cups) whole dates, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch slices
180ml (3/4 Cup) warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
178g (1 11/4 Cups) unbleached all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
150g (3/4 Cup) brown sugar, light or dark
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
60g (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

Toffee Sauce
113g (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter
200g (1 Cup) brown sugar, light or dark
180ml (2/3 Cup) heavy cream
1 tablespoon rum
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-inch square baking dish and set it in large roasting pan lined with clean towel. Bring kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat.
Combine half of dates with water and baking soda in glass measuring cup (dates should be submerged beneath water) and soak for 5 minutes. Drain dates, reserving liquid, and transfer to medium bowl. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in another medium bowl.
Process remaining dates and brown sugar in food processor until just blended, about five 1-second pulses. Add reserved soaking liquid, eggs, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, pour melted butter through feed tube in steady stream. Transfer this mixture to bowl with softened dates.
Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined and date pieces are evenly dispersed. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides and cover pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until outer 2 inches develop small holes and center has puffed and is firm to touch, about 40 minutes. Immediately remove dish from water bath and set on wire rack.
For the toffee sauce: Meanwhile, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly pour in cream and rum, whisk just to combine, reduce heat, and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover to keep warm, and set aside.
Liberally poke top of pudding with paring knife or wooden skewer; pour toffee sauce over pudding and allow the sauce to be soaked up by the sticky toffee sponge.   Cool for 10 minutes, cut into squares, and serve accompanied by crème anglaise or vanilla ice cream.

As this dish is best served warm, re-heat it briefly in the microwave before serving if need be.

05 December 2010

Apricot Crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

I was pretty excited when I saw the challenge for November, because I've actually made this dessert a number of times, even though I haven't posted about it yet.  Crostata is essentially the Italian version of the French tarte, the most noticeable difference being the pastry shell itself.  While the French Pâte Brisée is a flaky pastry made of flour, butter, egg yolk and water, the Pasta Frolla of Italy is more of a shortcrust pastry, but much more flavourful.  It uses the same building blocks as the French pastry, but adds a generous amount of sugar, fresh lemon zest and vanilla, elevating the crostata shell from a mere vessel for filling, to an actual flavour component for the entire dessert.  What's more, a common filling for crostata is jam, meaning  you can create a killer dessert in under 15 minutes when you have last minute guests and are pinched for time.  You can't get much more appealing than that, can you?

Two things that you should definitely make sure of when you are making a crostata; use fresh lemon zest in the pastry and whatever jam or filling you like best - doesn't matter if it's homemade or store-bought, if you like it on toast, it will be incredible in a crostata.  I have even used some pretty mediocre jams, just to use them up and clear some space in the fridge, only to hear groans of delight when our friends get a taste (it's a magical dessert that way).  This time, I had my eye on a tangy apricot jam, though a seedless raspberry also

I followed the pasta frolla recipe that Simona posted for us (pasted below), but as always, I used my food processor to combine everything.  If you, like my friend Shannon, happen to be one of those who struggle with pastry because you have warm hands, the food processor is the only way to go.  If you struggle, like I do, to roll out a pastry shell that doesn't shrink every bloody time, no matter what you do, then I highly recommend that you skip the rolling process entirely and simply press the crumbled dough into the tart shell and be done with it.  The number of hours I have wasted on rolling out dough and reading up on how to make sure the shell doesn't shrink, and rolling out more dough, and blah blah blah.... let's just say I could have done a LOT with those hours.  Well, since I pressed it directly into the shell and then let it chill in the fridge, I haven't looked back.  I get reliable results every time, with a lot less time, and a lot less cursing.  I doubt I will ever go back to rolling....

Press-in method for tart shells.  Perfect every time.

Pasta Frolla
1/2 c. minus 1 tablespoon [105 ml, 100 g, 3 ½ oz] superfine sugar (see Note 1) or a scant 3/4 cup [180ml, 90g, 3 oz] of powdered sugar
1 and 3/4 cup [420 ml, 235 g, 8 1/4 oz.] unbleached all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
1 stick [8 tablespoons / 4 oz. / 115 g] cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
grated zest of half a lemon (you could also use vanilla sugar as an option, see Note 2)
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl

Note 1: Superfine sugar is often also referred to as ultrafine, baker’s sugar or caster sugar. It’s available in most supermarkets. If you cannot find “superfine” sugar, you can make your own by putting some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or blender and letting it run until the sugar is finely ground.

Put sugar, flour, and salt in the bowl of the food processor and pulse a few times to mix.
Add butter and pulse a few times until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal.
Empty food processor's bowl onto your work surface.
Make a well in the center of the mounded flour and butter mixture and pour the beaten egg and vanilla extract into it.
Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients then use your fingertips.
Knead lightly just until the dough comes together into a ball.
Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the dough in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours. You can refrigerate the dough overnight.

OK, here's where I go off recipe and do my own thing....
I add the lemon zest in with the butter, and pulse it a few times until it has the consistency of coarse meal.
Pour the egg, yolk and vanilla into the food processor and pulse a 5 or 6 times until the liquids are fully incorporated and the mixture holds together when squeezed together.
Dump 3/4 of the dough mixture into the bottom of a tart pan, and press it firmly and evenly into the shell.  Start by concentrating on the edges of the tart, making sure they are even, then press the remaining dough into the bottom of the pan.
Place the pan in the fridge to chill for about an hour or so.
Take the remaining 1/4 of the dough, and roll it out {sigh} to about 1cm thickness.  Using a ruler and a sharp knife or pastry cutter, cut the dough into 3cm wide strips.  It is ok if not all the strips are the same length, as they will be criss
Place the strips onto a cookie sheet or flat tray, and move them to the fridge while you fill the tart shell.

For the filling:
Open your pantry or fridge
Pull out a jar of really good jam (about 600 ml), such as apricot
Open it.
Dump the jam into the crostata shell.
Spread it evenly around the shell using the back of a spoon.
Now take a bow - Ta-Daaaaaa!

Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC)
Take the beautifully rolled strips of dough, and criss-cross them over the filled crostata, making a nice pattern.
Press the strips firmly into the edges of crostata shell, to make sure they adhere (the sugar in the dough will help that happen).
Bake the crostata in the now-heated oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
Once baked, allow the crostata to cool to room temperature, about 1-2 hours.  Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, creme fraiche, or just on it's own.
Sit back, enjoy your tasty dessert, and contemplate all the flavours of jam that you can use next time....

Jam Crostata... endless flavour possibilities