Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What I Dream About At Night: Crostatas

....and now that I've answered that question, you can all go about your lives again, fuller with knowledge.....
What can I say, titles aren't my strong suit.

The truth is, the other night I was reading a food-related article (by which I managed to gain 2 pounds, I swear) and in passing the author mentioned crostatas. I was distracted from that point on. Only by mentioning it to some of my girl friends on facebook was I able to divert my energies from heading down to the kitchen at 10 at night to make a batch. But I still had a dream about them.

Appropriately (as crostatas are an Italian pastry, a form of a pie), I was suddenly Italian and in a rustic kitchen, yelling after more children than I have and rolling out buttery dough to fill with figs...the rest of the dream turned into some sort of crazy Oceans Eleven plot, with my husband in George Clooney's role--I won't bore you further.

Needless to say, I'm in the kitchen today preparing a batch. My recipe yields 18 pies and is suitable for almost any fresh or frozen fruit--I wouldn't, however recommend bananas for this recipe-they just don't bake up pretty. If you don't happen to have any fruit about, use a can of pie filling; it's not as authentic but it certainly will get the job done (try the lemon pie filling if you want a real treat).  Frozen fruit should be thawed and any excessive juice drained off.

Meanwhile, let's prepare the dough:

In a large bowl, combine the following:

4 cups AP flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar

Stir these together before blending in

1# cold butter, diced small (um, yeah, it's a lot of butter but it's worth it; if you don't want to use that much butter, you can substitute up to half of the amount with cold shortening but NOT MARGARINE-YUCK!!)

Using your hands to blend in the butter to pea-sized chunks in the dough is the really the best way to form this dough. When the dough is the consistency of wet sand, with some chunks of butter here and there, add in anywhere from 4 to 8 tablespoons of ice water. Go slowly with the water-some days your dough will need more and other days, less. You need enough to bring the dough together. I like to form mine into two even balls because they are easier to work with. Wrap both in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for at least an hour (on a hot day, give more time for chilling).

thawed mixed berries
with flour and sugar
I also used some fresh plums,
sliced thinly and
tossed with flour and sugar
While the dough chills, you can prepare your fruit. If you are using fresh or frozen which you have drained, toss the fruit lightly with a little flour and sugar, just enough to coat it. This will help the fruit thicken some while it cooks. The crostatas are more of a shallow hand pie and some juice will cook it's way through.

When you are ready to prepare the crostatas, pull one ball of dough at a time to work on a lightly floured surface. It is important to use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your work surface but not so much that it dries the dough out or you over-work the dough, which will make it tough.

Roll the dough into a square-don't worry that your edges aren't sharp. You will be cutting the dough into 9 smaller squares with a sharp knife.

Place a square on a prepared baking sheet, and put a couple of  tablespoons of filling  or a couple of slices in the center of the square. Don't be tempted to over-fill. It might seem like a lot of dough for a little fruit but the dough is somewhat like a sugar cookie and pleasurable eating.

step 1: pinch
step 2: lift
 I admit, the next step is kind of the tricky part because you are now going to turn your square into a triangle. It takes a little practice but once you do it, you won't forget how.

Taking the roughest looking side of the square, pull it up and pinch it together to form a point. This also causes two sides to come up to form the sides, leaving the last side of the square.

step 3: fold

Bring this last side up to meet the fruit. Fold over the ends and pinch them together. Now you have a triangle. If any sides tear a bit, just pinch it back together.

Crostatas are a rustic dessert so don't panic.

Also, it may seem like the sides are very high but as they bake, the tart will sink and relax. You want the height now to compensate for the way the butter will react at such a high temperature.

Repeat the steps until you have 6 on a bake sheet. Return the bake sheet to the fridge to chill while you continue with the next ball of dough. Chill the second pan while you preheat your oven to 450. Place the remaining 6 on a third sheet and chill it.


Sprinkle the uncooked crostatas with a bit of sugar before baking.

Depending on your oven, they will bake for 20-28 minutes. You want them to be more golden around the edges. Rotate your pans if any one pan seems to be baking faster than the others. You want the tarts to fully bake on the bottoms as well so don't yank them from the oven the moment they start to brown up  but don't let them go unsupervised for long.

Remove and cool somewhat before handling or serving. You can drizzle these with a bit of powdered sugar glaze, dust them with powdered sugar, top them with vanilla ice cream or unsweetened real whipped cream.

Crostatas make for good breakfast, brunch or dessert. Wrap any leftovers.


Mother B said...

These look absolutely divine!

Billy Boy said...

Whats good for getting slobber off the keyboad?

Mrs. V said...

more butter? :)