It’s buttery. It’s easy. It’s Italian. The crostata is my last-minute sweet savior. What else do y’all need to hear?!
Granted, there are times when my crust-making and fashioning looks “homemade” at best (see picture #2… okay, and picture #3). Other times, I want to kiss my crust and download an application for Le Cordon Bleu’s Pastry Arts. Either way, I’m passionate about dough–filling it, fashioning it, loading it up with the season’s freshest fruit and then enjoying it–warm and golden, straight from the oven– with a cold glass of milk.
My mother got me hooked on dough. It happened around the time I could peak above the kitchen counter. We’d turn out the most pies during blueberry and blackberry season but, really, we never needed an excuse to work a bowl of flour, butter, Crisco, pinch of salt and sugar. She was as devoted to her pies as she was to her daughters. I think our teeth turned a pale of shade of blue’ish gray June through August. There was no turning down an afternoon with her in the kitchen (or a hard-earned slice of sweetness).
Now I’m the one elbow-deep in a batch of dough, teaching my daughter about the importance of well-iced water, cool hands, a cold countertop and fresh, seasonal fruit filling. Life is circular and delicious that way.
But here’s the scoop– I prefer the crostata to the pie. It’s free-form, it’s fun, it’s manageable… and it’s a little more continental. (I’m in a continental/mediterranean mindset leading up to my Roman holiday.) Now don’t go calling me a snob! And don’t think I’ve forsaken my Southern roots! I just happen to prefer the Italian take on the Southern classic. I also love a base of frangipane–ground almonds mixed with butter and sugar and egg–for my crostate. The almonds perfume and sweeten the fruit just so.
Here are my three, early fall takes on the crostata. Parker thinks the plumb variation will be your favorite.
Crostata 3 Ways: Plum, Apple & Fig
Makes 2 10-12inch crostate
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup ground almonds
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons cold waterParchment paper or aluminum foil
- 1 egg, beaten
Combine the flour, almonds, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the chilled butter and quickly work into the dry ingredients with your fingers, leaving the butter in small chunks. Add the cold water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture gathers into a ball. Transfer to a floured surface and knead lightly so the dough just comes together. Divide into 2 balls. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap then press into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.
Roll the dough into a large circle. Don’t worry if the circle isn’t perfect. Transfer the circle to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Spread 1/3rd of frangipane on dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange your fruit (plumbs, apples or figs) on top of the frangipane, still making sure to leave the 2-inch border of dough. Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit toward the center. The dough should come in approximately 2 inches from the edges; the fruit will be mainly uncovered. Ball up a piece of papertowel and dip it into the small bowl of beaten egg. Brush the folded edges of the crust with the egg wash.
Bake until the crust is golden and the fruit has softened, about 40 to 50 minutes. After the crostata has cooled on the pan for 5 minutes, remove to a baking rack and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Serve warm. (Though I never turned down a room-temp pie!)
Heaven is homemade frangipane!
Makes enough frangipane for 3 10-12 inch crostate
- 1 cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1/8th teaspoon almond extract (optional)
Add almonds, sugar and salt to food processor and pulse until the almonds have reached a fine past. Remove the mixture to medium-sized bowl and add softened butter. Beat with an electric mixer on high until the butter is nicely whipped, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and almond extract and continue beating on high until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- 2 medium-sized apples, cored (we like jonagolds, crispins, macoun) or 3 plumbs, pit removed, sliced into medium-sized wedges
- Zest of 1 small lemon
- Juice of 1 small lemon
- 1 TBSP corn starch
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a medium bowl, combine apples, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir and allow to apples to macerate for at least 20 minutes. Arrange on top of prepared dough and frangipane.
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/4th teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ¾ lb black Mission Figs, stems removed and quartered
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, salt, honey and thyme until smooth. Add the figs and toss gently to coat. Arrange on top of prepared dough and frangipane.