Saturday, November 03, 2007

Crostata


There is something to be said for simplicity. Ricotta tart, creme brulée, pear bruschetta, baked pineapple with caramelised vanilla sauce and ice cream.. the list for simple but stunning desserts is endless. But for breakfast, in the land where the dark brown spread of choice is Nutella, and the Christmas panettone has yet to arrive, only a jam tart (or crostata) will do.

This tart is a bargain on the effort versus enjoyment scale. A bonus to the time constrained lovers of home baking.

The pastry. A simple shortcrust, chilled butter cut into flour.. it's sweet but with the grated zest of a lemon mixed with the egg. It has a slight tartness that balances the sweetness in the crust perfectly. This shell is NOT baked blind and the filling is quickly spread over the base adding to its ease of preparation . Before filling, however, use a fork to make sure the rolled dough is sufficently dotted with holes.

The filling. The filling is easy as. Although I have gone through the reduction process for apples, rehydrated figs and used other high maintenance fruits, any good quality jam will do. All the better if it is a fruit forward product (conserve) that might cost a bit more.. it's all worth it. There are also home-made quality tinned pie fillings that perform well in this crust. Not overly sweet, they are made to be baked down as a filling so the end result is less cloying. They'll suffice in a pinch.

And the recipe:

Dough

115 g butter, chilled
200 g flour
50 g sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
lemon zest (of half a lemon)
1 egg and 1-2Tbsp cream for wash

Cut cold butter into flour, salt and sugar until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

I use a fork and quickly move the mixture around the bowl to get an even texture. Grate the lemon zest over the 'dough' and add the egg. Combine until dough holds together, if it does not, add a little water. This should be no more than 1-2 Tsps.

Roll dough onto 2 disk shaped portions. (One slightly larger for the bottom layer an the other to be rolled out and cut into strips for the lattice top.) Set in fridge to chill for 30 miuutes.

Once dough has chilled, place bottom crust portion on floured board and dust rolling pin with flour. Roll out to even thickness (approx. 3mm) and drape around the rolling pin to carefully lay over a lightly greased 23cm tart pan (I like a round with a removable bottom section to assist with transfer to plate). Gently press corner sections down into pan without stretching dough too much, gently trim the edges to fit and patch any tears with trim. Cover dough with holes.. i.e. poke all over with fork.


Filling

350 g of conserve, jam or tinned pie filling (choose a good quality product with concentrated flavours). I'm quite keen on raspberry. Alternatively, any fruit that has been reduced down to a concentrated 'jam' will work here. Raw fruit and all their liquid will ruin the pastry.

Pour and spread evenly the filling of choice into the tart shell.

Roll out remaining dough and cut it into strips. Fashion into a lattice pattern over filling and trim edges again to be evenly matched to the shell. Press lightly to ensure a good seal and no shrinking. Use pastry brush to glaze lattice with egg/cream mixture.

Bake at 190C for about 30 minutes or until crostata is well browned. At gas 5, my oven takes 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. A wedge served with espresso is a nice after mass breakfast. As for how well this tart keeps, I can't say. There is never any left.

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