Friday, June 22, 2007

RECIPE! Pear & Blackberry Crostata

PRIOR TO MAKING this recipe I'd never before heard of crostata. Or so I thought. Apparently, I've eaten them with some frequency. After some online research, crostata turns out to be little more than an Italian quick-fix recipe for a more labor-intensive pastry--a tart. Score another point for Italian home-cooking.

Truth be told, this recipe looked anything but easy when I first saw at it. Making a pastry crust from scratch seemed like an awfully intricate and complicated task, and not one I thought myself ready for. The result, however, was a surprisingly simple process so very far less daunting than it seemed and a terrifically impressive dessert that's fairly hard to mess up. It's really worth a shot for anyone who doesn't bake often but wants to look good doing it. Locate the following:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar

+ 1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup butter
+ 2 tbsp butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp shredded lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup blackberry preserves or jam
4 medium peeled, sliced pears

1. In medium bowl, stir together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and baking powder. Using a pasty blender (or: two knives cutting in opposite directions--it helps if the butter is not too cold for this but it absolutely cannot [read: cannot] be warm and/or melting), cut in 2/3 cup butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.

2. In small bowl, mix egg, 1/3 cup milk, 1 tsp lemon peel, and vanilla. Pour mixture into flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Knead gently until smooth (keep hands well- floured). Separate one-third dough, set aside; pat remaining two-thirds into bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan. Spread blackberry preserves evenly over pastry in tart pan.

3. If you have the space and a rolling pin, turn out the remaining dough on a well-floured surface into a 9-inch circle. If you live in New York City (read: have a kitchen the size of a shoebox), sprinkle flour on a plate, covering it well. Take up the 1/3 remainder of dough in well-floured hands, and work dough into a flat circle as large as is easily obtained, attempting for 6-7 inches in diameter. Set on floured plate and lightly work outwards to full-size; place in freezer.

4. In a large bowl (this can be the now-empty dough bowl), toss together pears, 1/4 sugar, and 1 tsp lemon peel. Arrange pear slices over preserves in tart pan. Drizzle with melted 2 tbsp butter. (Tip: wait to peel/slice pears until this step--the dough firming in the freezer will be easier to work with next step.)

5. Remove your chilled, flattened dough on well-floured plate from freezer. Cut into 1/2-inch wide strips. Arrange strips over pears in a lattice pattern. (Looks fancy, right?) Brush lattice with additional milk; sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees.

Cool tart in pan for 30 minutes, serve warm.
(Tip: if particularly juicy, you can chill your crostata fully in fridge after allowing it to sit out its 30 minutes in pan.)

I felt like adding those notes in italics within the body of the recipe instead of here post-recipe as is MEF! custom because some of those points are rather important--they make working the recipe significantly easier, cleaner, and more successful. So, there you go. The crust of this thing is ridiculously rich (almost a cup of butter will do that), tastes like you spent way more time on it than you did, and the lattice-work looks like you are way better at baking than you are. Not too bad for not too much work.

1 comment:

Marc said...

Those things are so delicious. That reminds me, you and the blog should take a trip down to Grandaisy Bakery on Sullivan Street.

Their crostata di limone is one of the best things my mouth has ever encountered. A little on the sweet side, but perfect with coffee. Though, I don't see it on the website.