Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pasta Ciotti....Happy Fat Tuesday!

In the past, I've shared my family's Mardi Gras traditions here on Half Baked. My Pennsylvania Dutch side of the family always makes doughnut for Fastnacht Day. A couple of years ago I changed it up a bit and made these beignets instead of our traditional doughnuts. This year I thought I'd try an Italian twist to tradition and made Pasta Ciotti which means "little custard tarts". Little pastries filled with cream....I think they are the perfect indulgence for Fat Tuesday!

The original recipe has them being made in 3" tart pans but they can also be made in a muffin pan, which is what I used to make mine.
The recipe may look a little intimidating but I found they were actually quite easy to make. The dough is very forgiving and fairly easy to work with.

Pasta Ciotti; Little Custard Tarts\
Recipe adapted from: CELEBRATIONS ITALIAN STYLE by Mary Ann Esposito

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, well beaten

3 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups whole milk or half and half
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)

Egg Wash:
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons milk, for the egg wash

In a large bowl,whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the milk, vanilla, and egg and use your hands to mix the ingredients into a smooth ball of dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside while making the filling.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar, making sure there are no lumps. Gradually whisk in the whole  milk or half and half. Whisk in the egg yolks. Place the sauce pan on medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 8-10 minutes. When the cream thickens, remove from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and bourbon, if using Set the custard aside and cover with plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap onto the top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming.

To Assemble and Bake:
Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll one piece into an 11-inch circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Using a 3-inch round cutter, cut out circles of dough and press each one into the bottom and about 2/3 of the way up the sides of each cavity of the muffin pan.  Reroll scraps as needed to cut out additional pieces. If you get a tear in the dough just use a small piece of the leftover dough to make a patch. Just as a note, this dough is wet compared to most so don't worry if it seems a bit sticky.

 Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling into each tart shell.

Roll out the second piece of dough and cut out 3-inch circles. Place a circle over each tart and push the dough down along the edges to seal. Try to make sure the dough is pressed in well at the sides so there are no leaks when baking.

With a pastry brush, paint the top of each tart with the egg wash. Refrigerate the tarts for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Bake the tarts on the middle oven rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove the tarts to racks and let cool completely. 
I made a glaze from 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. alternatly, just dust with powdered sugar/

Best if eaten the day they are made but can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 dozen (3-inch) pastries.



grace said...

yummy filling! i don't know if i've come across these before, but they're excellent!

G. Guy said...

These look scrumptious, I will be trying them out this weekend!

Naples Appliances said...

Oooo! I would love to try those fresh out of the oven. My parents came from the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and I think these fit our taste just right.