More’s the pity, I haven’t an Italian bone in my body — unless drinking a lot of Chianti counts? But I love to cook Italian food and nothing makes this baker’s heart sing like making a crostata for dessert. A crows-TAH-tah (plural: crostate) is a freeform pie — no pie or tart pan necessary — and, filled with jam, is often the homemade dessert of choice in an Italian kitchen. There is occasionally a lattice pastry top, though not often. The French word for such a pie is a gallette and the two terms are often used interchangeably here in the states where we bake this pie full of whatever fruit happens to be ripe and in good supply. I’ve taught crostate making in both my Italian Christmas Day Dinner Class and in one-on-one pie classes. Without exception, everyone who makes it loves the finished product and feels terribly accomplished because who doesn’t like to look at and eat pie?
The term “rustic” is used a lot when discussing crostate, and it generally means you needn’t fuss with appearances–in this case meaning a beautiful fluting on a pie crust or a filling so perfectly neat it all quietly stays put within the pan, thank you. No, a crostata can look a tad messy and, no worries, all is still well. In fact, all is better and even right if the dough is folded instead of crimped, looks extra-crispy in spots, and is gently weeping sticky juices around the edges. We’re talking homemade here. We’re talking dragging an index finger across the pan to taste any run away syrupy goodness.
While I’m not always happy to crank up the oven come summertime, that is when the best fruit arrives, right? So I get up at o’dark early, turn that sucker on, and pray for the best while the windows are wide open from the cool Colorado night. It’s usually worth it. Especially if you’re married to a pie lover as am I.
I make crostata a lot in the fall when the apples and pears are falling to the soft earth, wanting a home in warm tummies rather than in the dirt. I love pairing either fruit with toasted almonds or cinnamon ice cream on cold, windy nights when friends come to dinner for roast pork or veggie lasagna. But I’ve rarely brought out the crostata pastry dough in July. This year, it just felt differently. We’re in a hot mess worldwide, but especially in our country. We don’t know what’s next and the news it difficult to hear, much less make sense of or bear. No matter. The Fourth of July comes despite everything. And maybe it’s the time to make hay while the sun shines. To put on the ritz. Make a scene in the kitchen. Make happy at the table. While a left winger all my life, that doesn’t negate my patriotism and love of the holiday! If you agree to celebrate, maybe you’ll take a chance and bake a crostata. I’ll give you a bunch of photos to help. You can email me if it’s still a bit fuzzy. I’ll answer. I think a little sweet stuff is in order here. Let’s celebrate all the goodness. Not feeling up to making the dough? Use the chilled (not frozen) dough from the grocery store; there’s no sin in taking the easy way. Whatever, it’s time to be brave and try this:
- Pastry for one crostata–recipe below on blog or use your own or purchased pie dough
- 3 cups sliced strawberries
- ½ cup blueberries
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar — plus one teaspoon for sprinkling on pastry before baking
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting counter
- Pinch kosher salt
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
- 1 egg – well-beaten with a teaspoon of water for brushing pastry before baking
- Make pastry according to directions. Chill one round of dough for at least an hour and freeze the other if not using.
- While the pastry chills, in a large bowl, stir together the berries, 2 tablespoons each sugar and unbleached all-purpose flour, the pinch of salt, and the lemon juice. Let rest and macerate at room temperature while you wait for the pastry to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place rack at center.
- Sprinkle the counter or board lightly with flour. Roll out the chilled pastry dough into an 11-inch round. Roll up the dough onto the rolling pin (or carefully fold into fourths) and move the dough to a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet. Spoon the berry mixture into the center of the pastry, leaving 1 – 1 ½ inches around the edges. Bring up the edges of the dough around the berries, folding gently as needed to go around in a circle. Brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the reserved teaspoon of granulated sugar.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and fruit is tender. Don’t worry if some juices have escaped onto the parchment paper. Remove pan to a cooling rack. When it has sat for 15-20 minutes, move the pan off the rack. Using both hands, lift the parchment paper off the pan (keeping crostata level), and place it back onto the rack with the pie still on it. Carefully slide the crostata off the paper and onto the rack while pulling the paper from underneath it. Serve warm or at room temperature. (You can also use two spatulas to get the crostata off the paper and onto the rack, but I think the sliding method works better.)
CROSTATA PASTRY RECIPE FROM INA GARTEN AVAILABLE HERE (Makes two. Freeze the extra for another day.)
I don’t usually include a slew of prep photos, but I’m doing it here.
MIXING THE DOUGH IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR (LEFT) AND DUMPING IT OUT ONTO A FLOURED COUNTER (RIGHT):
MAKING THE DOUGH INTO A BALL, CUTTING IT IN HALF, AND SHAPING INTO TWO ROUNDS AND ROLLING OUT:
STIR TOGETHER THE BERRY FILLING AND SPOON INTO THE CETNER OF THE DOUGH. FOLD THE DOUGH UP, PLEATING AS NECESSARY, AROUND THE FILLING. BRUSH PASTRY WITH EGG MIXTURE:
BAKE. ENJOY THE HAPPY AROMAS. COOL AT LEAST FOR A WHILE. CUT AND SERVE WARM OR AT ROOM TEMPERATURE.
LIFE GOES ON...
I had a little unsolicited job interview today. I haven’t interviewed for a job since 2011. If someone wants me to do something, they ask and I say, “Yes,” or “No.” Like putting on a drinks spread for a fundraiser or a 50th birthday party. Like teaching someone to bake pie. This was a little different and a tish scary. When I know more, I’ll share if I can since it’s cool. In the meantime…
More lettuce growing in pots on the deck…
and Dave made pizza on the grill using my recipe and a new Father’s Day Gift—a grill pizza stone. YUM!
Sundays look a bit differently than they used to. We’re brunching out on the deck and drinking Bloody Marys before church on line.
The formerly only herb garden that now contains a plethora of plants is coming on:
I know there’s a shaky feeling with the Covid-19 numbers increasing in many states; the news is jittery. I listen to just some and try to let the rest go a bit despite the unhappiness and fear. I’m better off spending my time on things for which I can make a difference. I’m praying for a surge in wellness continuously. Today I cut my bangs since I haven’t had a hair appointment since February. I played the piano. I read an (almost) sleazy novel. Played with the dogs. Loved my husband. Chatted at distance with neighbors. Texted with both my best friend and my daughter-in-law. Voted in the mail-in/drop off Democratic primary. And now I’m going to pull greens for a salad for dinner since Dave’s pulling the big weight of roasting a whole chicken on the grill. I might even dream up a new vinaigrette. We’ll be fed and we’ll be ready to do what needs to be done tomorrow. There might even be a pan of my Easy Chicken Enchiladas. Who knows?
Wishing you love, health, wealth, and happiness over this Fourth of July and always. I hope there are fireworks in your heart. XXOO
5 Movies to Lift Your Spirits from the blog EAT LIVE ESCAPE with Melinda Healy