After testing the recipe for crÃªpes Suzette for Mrs. B of Eating Suburbia, the next recipe on my list was crostata. Now I should tell you that crostata is a type of pastry that is near and dear to my heart. My father’s family, who hail from Le Marche in Italy, are master crostata makers. My grandmother’s recipe for crostata is a much-treasured possession that we turn to again and again when we’re craving the comfort of a sweet dough smothered in jam.
With the high standards of my grandmother’s crostata in mind, I set about testing the recipe Mrs. B sent to me from The World is a Kitchen. For those of you who are unfamiliar with crostata, it’s a typical Italian sweet that consists of a sweet dough that has been topped with jam. The dough for crostata is called pasta frolla in Italian. It’s a dough made of butter, flour and egg. Often lemon or orange zest will be added for that extra bit of flavour. Crostatas can be fancy affairs, baked in tart pans, or they can be free-form, which is how my family usually makes them. The one characteristic of crostata that is constant, however, is the lattice top. The lattice can be very wide or very thin and intricate. But you will rarely find a crostata that is not topped with a lattice design so that the jam can ooze through while baking.
Mrs. B’s recipe comes from the forthcoming cookbook, The World is a Kitchen, due to be published in August 2006. The first time that I tried the recipe, I made the dough in the food processor and ran into some problems. I overmixed the dough and as a result, found it difficult to work with. It kept falling apart and was far too soft to work with even though I repeatedly refrigerated it. While I eventually was able to turn out a crostata, I wasn’t happy with the results.
The second time I tried the recipe I made the dough by hand and was able to control the consistency of it by controlling how much I worked the dough. I had a soft yet far sturdier dough and found working with it to be much easier.
The recipe indicates that the crostata should be baked in an 8-inch round pan but I didn’t have one so I improvised with an 8-inch square pan and I found it worked just fine. I used plum jam for the filling but cut down the amount I used from the original recipe which called for 2 cups. And while I did sprinkle the crostata with chopped nuts, I’m not sure if I would repeat that step in future. I like my crostata simple and unadorned. The end result was impressive. The dough was sweet and buttery with a hint of lemon zest and the plum jam complimented the dough very well.
In an e-mail to me, Mrs. B explained that The World is a Kitchen isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a book about people’s experiences travelling through the world and the foods that they encounter during those travels. The book takes a look at how food and experience shape our view of the world. I know that when I take a bite of crostata, my first thought is always of my grandmother in Italy and the time I spent with her.
What will you think of when you take your first bite of crostata?
Adapted from the The World is a Kitchen.
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 1/2 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- grated zest of one lemon
- 1 cup jam (I used plum)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and sugar.
- Add the butter, egg and egg yolk and mix well until the dough gathers into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness and fit into a 8-inch round or square pan.
- Spread the jam on the dough.
- Reroll the scraps and cut into strips. Using the strips, form a lattice top for the crostata.
- Sprinkle with the nuts and bake for 30 minutes, or until the dough becomes golden.
- Cool completely before serving.
Note: The crostata will serve 8. Instead of walnuts, you can use pecans or hazelnuts.