The past couple of months for me have been busy, busy with work and travel and travel for work. Cooking, cooking, cooking. So busy cooking, in fact, that I’ve hardly had time to breathe and take pics and write. Those of you who have been keeping up with my posts over the past few months will have noticed a distinct and unnerving drop in my output over the past six weeks or so. Prior to November I was averaging something like four posts a week, but since the Holiday onslaught began in earnest I’ve really only posted a handful of times. Sorry, dear reader, if I’ve let you down (I hear you, Jonathan Tye!), but with the new year comes new inspiration, new foods, and yes, new resolutions. I resolve to make a whole bunch of fun, interesting, and delicious foods to share with you. And I resolve to be more attentive to my blogfans. You guys are awesome, and you keep me writing. Thanks so much and Happy New Year!
A crostata is essentially a flattish, free-form Italian pie, made with a simple pastry crust, with a filling of fresh fruit and sometimes jam. I knocked out this superb version with some fresh, tart apricots and a basic, homemade crust. I didn’t take specific measurements or notes this time around, so I’ll just walk you through the recipe in a general way.
To make the crust put two and a half cups of of all-purpose flour in a big bowl with a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt whisked into it. Into that dump two sticks of cold butter (one salted, one unsalted) that you’ve cut into little pieces. You can cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or use your hands by rubbing with your fingers through the flour and crumbling the butter into smaller pieces. Either way, do it quickly so the butter doesn’t soften too much. When the buttered flour resembles coarse meal pour in a third of a cup of ice-cold water. Use your hands to gently ball the flour until a rough dough comes together. You might need another tablespoon or so of cold water to make this happen. Now gently press the dough into a rough disc about an inch thick. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
Make the filling. Cut six or seven small apricots into thin slices and toss with a teaspoon of corn starch, a half-cup of dark brown sugar, and a quarter-cup of apricot preserves. You can add a pinch of nutmeg and a dash of peach schnapps if you’re feeling sassy!
When the dough is cold, lay it on a well-floured cutting board and roll it out with a rolling pin into a big, rough disc about fourteen inches across. It’s best if the center of the disc area (let’s say a circle about 8-inches in diameter in the middle) is a little thicker than the rest, maybe a half-inch thick. Don’t worry if the edges of your crust are unsightly; in fact, they should be rough.
Now take three ginger snaps and put them in a small ziploc bag. With the rolling pin, break the cookies into small, uneven pieces. Sprinkle these rough cookie crumbs into that center 8-inch circle. Top the crumb with the apricot filling, spreading it around evenly. Now, using several folds, lift up and fold the edges of the crust to slightly overlap the filling at the edges of that circle, thereby creating a two-to-three-inch crust area around a central filling “zone” of about six inches in diameter. These measurements, if you haven’t figured it out yet, are guesstimations of worst kind. So just wing it, folks.
Transfer the crostata to a piece of parchment paper and then transfer the crostata and paper onto a sheetpan. Preheat the oven to 350° F and position a rack in the middle.
Take and egg and whisk it in a small bowl. Lightly brush a little of the egg all over the crust. Now refrigerate the whole crust, on the sheetpan, for about fifteen minutes.
Pop the crostata into the oven on that middle shelf and bake for about forty-five minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling is cooked and slightly browned. Wait until it cools for a few minutes before you cut it into wedges.
Serve the crostata wedges with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream or whipped mascarpone. I accompanied this particular crostata with some whipped cream to which I’d added a pinch of ground cardamom and powdered sugar.
It was fantastico! And it was a great, sweet way to start the year. I hope your 2012 is full of joy and full of food!