Nowadays, recipes are available like never before. Pinterest boards are full of pumpkin spiced pie crusts, Instagram feeds are swimming in #bakinglife #foodporn. And that doesn’t even touch on the innumerable recipe collections available as eBooks and hard covered books.
In a world saturated with food blogs, you may wonder why I bother sharing my food on here when there are so many other topics I enjoy writing about as well. Well, I wondered this myself at the end of last week when I was deciding what to write about next. But I realized something. Sharing recipes on this blog makes me genuinely happy. It allows me to reflect on what I’ve enjoyed making in the kitchen, and to keep track of cooking skills that I need to improve on. It also facilitates a cross-Atlantic connection between me and my dad.
As I may have mentioned on here before, my dad is an outstanding cook. He can whip up a gourmet dinner party for twenty people, complete with creamy lobster bisque, rustic bruschettas, roast tenderloin with seasonal vegetables, and creme brûlées for the whole crowd without breaking a sweat.
Over the years, I graduated from sitting on the edge of a bar stool watching him filet a fish on our kitchen island in elementary school, to helping him prep dessert for his dinner parties in my teens, to texting him frantically for help when I started to host my own friends over for meals in college. A lot of my inspiration for what to cook for Mike and our friends, and then share with you on here, comes from the meals he made for me growing up.
One of my all time favorite dessert recipes of his is the crostata. The crostata is basically the chameleon of desserts. Traditionally, it’s an Italian short crust tart filled with fruit preserve. But my family uses it as a catch all term for a free form short crust pastry filled with seasonal fruit, or really, whatever fruit is in the fridge at the time that someone’s craving a dessert.
For such a simple dish, it’s a real crowd pleaser. Sometimes simplicity is best, anyway. So pick up some seasonal fruit, keep your cabinets stocked with ingredients for the short crust pastry, and you’ll be able to whip up your own crostata the next time you have guests over. And if you’re like my husband and you tend to crave dessert last minute, you can pre-make several balls of the dough and keep them in the freezer for even easier prep when the mood strikes!
Seasonal Fruit Crostata
- Prep Time: 25-30 minutes, plus 30+ min for dough to chill
- Bake Time: Approximately 35 minutes
- Total: Approximately an hour
- Makes: 4-6 people
- 2/3 cup white flour
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, plus 1 small spoonful for sprinkling on top of the crust
- Pinch salt
- 5 Tbsp butter, softened
- 2-4 Tbsp cold water
- 1 egg
- Seasonal mixture of fruit (fig and plum; strawberry and rhubarb; strawberry, raspberry, blackberry; apple, cinnamon, and raisin; possibilities are endless)
- Lemon juice squeezed from half a lemon
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Large mixing bowl
- Pastry knife (or can simply mix with your hands)
- Small knife
- Small cutting board
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cup
- Small mixing bowl
- Small saucepan
- Wooden spoon
- Rolling pin
- Baking tray
- Baking paper
- Cut the butter into small cubes and set aside.
- Place the flour in the large mixing bowl, and mix in the sugar and salt.
- Add the butter in two or three increments, and mix with the pastry knife or simply with your fingers. Ensure the butter becomes coated with the dry mixture.
- Add the first 3 tbsp cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, to the mixture. As it slowly comes together, stop to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl and bring everything together. If the dough becomes a firm ball, you do not need the fourth tbsp of water. If there are still remnants of dry mixture that need to be incorporated, carefully mix in the last tbsp water. The dough should become moldable, but not sticky.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible. (The dough can be frozen and then thawed for later use if you’d like to save it for another day.)
- While the dough is chilling, chop up whatever fruit you’ve chosen for your crostata (if required, obviously some berries do not require chopping).
- Add your selected fruit to the small sauce pan, along with the lemon juice, vanilla, and sugar. Cook covered, on low to medium low heat while your dough is chilling, stirring occasionally. (You CAN skip this step altogether and bake the fruit in the dough uncooked – still adding the lemon juice, sugar, and vanilla to it, though. I’ve simply found that making a compote out of the food beforehand results in sweeter flavors and of course, a softer filling.)
- While your fruit is cooking and the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
- Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and set it on a flat rolling surface.
- Lightly flour the surface, and the top of the dough.
- Roll out the dough to be about 1/4 inch thick. The shape can be relatively free-form, as long as it’s big enough to hold the filling.
- Put your baking paper on top of your baking sheet. Move the flattened dough to the baking sheet, placing on top of the paper.
- Spoon your fruit filling on top of the dough.
- Fold the edges of the dough around the fruit, keeping the center open.
- In your small mixing bowl, add the egg. Beat it lightly with a fork. With your fingers or with a pastry brush, brush the egg wash on the top of the crust. Sprinkle the sugar on top.
- Bake the crostata for 35 minutes, keeping an eye on it after 25.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream, clotted cream, whipped cream, or whipped mascarpone.