Pasta Frola: The Pasta That Isn’t
Although the name “pasta frola” no doubt conjures up images of fine strands of spaghetti or one of its fancifully-shaped relatives such as bow ties, pasta frola, in fact, has absolutely nothing to do with pasta.
A staple offering at Argentine bakeries, pasta frola (sometimes written as pasta flora) is a simple tart featuring a filling of ruby-red dulce de membrillo or quince paste. On occasion, it can be found with dulce de batata (sweet potato paste) instead. Pasta frola is a popular choice to accompany an afternoon round of mate with friends or a cup of coffee.
Like so many beloved Argentine recipes, pasta frola owes its existence to the innumerable Italian immigrants who made Argentina their home during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Italian, the term “pasta frolla” refers to the short crust pastry used as the base of the crostata, a rustic, free-form jam tart considered by most to be the forerunner of Argentine pasta frola. Some experts think that the Argentine presentation of pasta frola, with its typical lattice pattern, may have been influenced by the famed Austrian Linzer torte, a jam tart that traditionally uses the same design.
This recipe for pasta frola comes from my husband’s godmother, Hilda Segura. She’s been making it for close to 50 years, so I’m fairly certain that she has the recipe down by now.
Tips: Dulce de membrillo and dulce de batata can be purchased online or at Latin grocery stores. You can also make the fruit pastes from scratch using these recipes for dulce de membrillo and dulce de batata.
Pasta Frola | Quince Tart
Yields 1 deep-dish 9” tart
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks butter, chilled and cubed
2 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. milk [if necessary]
1 lb. dulce de membrillo or dulce de batata, cut up into small pieces
2 Tbsp. water
egg wash: 1 beaten egg + 1 tsp. milk
apricot glaze [optional, see recipe below]
dried, shredded coconut [optional]
Equipment: Deep tart pan [9” x 1.5”] with removable bottom
Place the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine ingredients. Add the butter, and using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the whole eggs plus the yolk and the vanilla extract, and mix until the dough begins to come together. If the mixture seems too dry and crumbly, add the milk a tablespoon at a time. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until combined [do not overwork the dough]. Shape the dough into a disc, and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.
Add dulce de membrillo or dulce de batata to a small saucepan, with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat over low heat, stirring and mashing the quince paste frequently, until the mixture has melted to a smooth and spreadable consistency. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of the tart pan.
Remove the disc of dough from the refrigerator, and set aside ¼ of the dough. Pat the larger piece of dough out into the pan, gently pressing and spreading it evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
Lightly flour both a rolling pin and the work surface, and roll out the small piece of dough into a disc just slightly larger than the tart pan. If the dough is difficult to work with, add a small amount of flour to it, knead it lightly and re-roll it. Cut the dough into strips about ½-inch wide.
Spread the filling evenly over the bottom layer of dough. Carefully place the strips of dough over the filling, forming a crisscross or lattice pattern. Press the edges of the dough strips into the rim of the tart pan, removing any excess. Brush the dough strips and the edges of the tart with egg wash.
Bake the tart until the top turns golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow the tart to cool on a wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. Let the tart cool to room temperature before serving.
If desired, brush the top crust of the tart with apricot glaze and decorate the rim with shredded coconut.
For the glaze [optional]:
1 Tbsp. apricot jelly
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. water
Bring the apricot jelly, sugar and water to a low boil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often. Let the glaze reduce until it has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.