I’m going to pass on making excuses for the absurdly long absence. Instead of subliminally threading in mentions of the big happenings over here without actually saying a thing, let’s cut to the crostata.
I spent three whole days relaxing and doing exactly what I wanted to do which was most certainly in order. Summer is officially here in Philadelphia and the change in seasons is all it took for me to get my cooking mojo back. That and watching Anthony Bourdain tour Sicily and Andalucia and be fed by cooking-obsessed mammas and mamas, respectively.
Sunday morning I woke up early to avoid the rapidly increasing (blessed be for the shop-owners but not for the locals, mind you) crowds at the Italian Market. I happily marched into my regular spots, picking up cheeses that have been missing from my fridge from too long and perfect steaks for our informal Memorial Day festivities. I spotted a hipster looking patron loading a flat of blackberries on his bike. You see, if you are going to utilize The Market, you must first learn the vendors. And I knew there was only one that forked over deals like that. Sure enough, as I walked further south down 9th Street, I spotted 6 more flats of blackberries with a $5 sign stuck in one. I did my best to find the flat with limited exposed mold (part of the charm, hey?) and handed over my cash. Always cash. I was positively giddy and even more so when I, after washing the whole lot, discovered only 5 moldy berries.
Searching for inspiration I flipped through my trusty Flour Cookbook and landed on a crostata recipe that looked too good not to try. The one in the book uses pears and cranberries, but I of course was determined to put the blackberries to good use. I prepared the Pâte brisée (aka 1 9 inch pie crust…make this from scratch and I promise you won’t regret it!) according to the directions in the book as well as the Frangipane (oh my god, Frangipane ). For the rest of it, I was on my own. But you know what? Using the techniques I’ve used in past pie-making efforts, it turned out incredibly well. It felt so good to pull together the Pâte brisée so easily and fly through the rest of the preparations. It wasn’t so long ago that the effort to make a crust resulted in a sloppy heap of glistening dough and me storming out of the kitchen. No more!
A crostata is basically a messy, forgiving open-faced pie. This one in particular is not overly sweet and perfect for breakfast the next day.
My own warning to you all… don’t skimp on the chilling time! My crostata spread a little more than I would have liked because I was impatient and we were hungry. And don’t be put-off by the looks of the crostata when it emerges from the oven… top it with some almonds and you have a pastry that’s just as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside.
1 recipe Pâte brisée (Flour Cookbook recipe below- **4 hrs chill time, can be prepared ahead)
1 recipe Franzipan (Flour Cookbook recipe below, can be prepared ahead)
~4 cups fresh blackberries (rough estimate…I cupped my hands together and scooped two scoops of that quantity… so I’d say 4 cups)
~1 T cornstarch
2 T sugar (more if you want it sweeter)
2T water(if needed)
1 egg whisked
coarse sugar (~1T) for dusting
handful of almond slivers to top finished tart
Place about half of the blackberries (I scooped a big handful in both hands) in a small saucepan and toss with cornstarch and 2 T sugar and heat over medium heat until bubbling. Turn down, stirring regularly as it becomes a jam-like substance, adding water if necessary. Mix with another big handful of blackberries, Set aside and let cool.
Roll out the chilled Pâte brisée into circle ~12 in in diameter.
Top with the franzipan, leaving a 3-inch border uncovered.
Next, add the jam combination, topping with extra blackberries if you’d like.
Now, starting at one side of the crostata, fold the 3-inch border of dough up and over the fruit, forming loose pleats around the perimeter and pressing the pleats firmly together onto the fruit. The center of the crostata will remain exposed.Pop the entire pan in the fridge for at least 1 hr.
Preheat the oven to 350. Remove the crostata from the fridge and brush the top with the egg and a hearty sprinkle of sugar. Bake for about 45 minutes until the pastry is a beautiful golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 1 hour. Sprinkle with almonds and serve.
Note: Both of these can be made ahead of time. That, and this Pâte brisée is my go-to recipe.
Makes enough for one 9-inch single-crust pie or 10-inch crostata
1 cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (1 stick plus 1 Tablespoon/128 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons cold milk
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer), mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Scatter the butter over the top and mix on low speed for about 45 seconds (until the flour is no longer bright white and holds together when you clump it and pecan-size lumps of butter are visible throughout).
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and milk. Add the mixture to the flour-butter mixture all at once and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, until the dough barely comes together. It will not look like the finished product just yet.. still messy and waiting for you to…
Dump the dough out onto an a silpat or piece of parchment (you’ll keep it on this for baking) or countertopand gather it together into a tight mound. Working quickly, using your palm and starting on one side of the dough, smear the dough bit by bit until most of the butter chunks are smeared into the dough and the dough comes together. Do this once or twice on each part of the dough, moving through the mound until the whole mess has been smeared into a cohesive dough with streaks of butter.
Gather up the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and press down to flatten into a disk about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before using. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month (if doing this, I’d slip it in an airtight container).
Makes about 1 cup
1/3 cup (50 grams) blanched whole almonds
¼ cup (1/2 stick/56 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
In a food processor, grind almonds as finely as possible without turning them into paste. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or hand-held mixer or wooden spoon), cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until light. Add the ground almonds or almond flour and beat on medium speed for 1 minute, or until thoroughly incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
On low speed, beat in the egg. Add the all-purpose flour, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined.
Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, then let sit for a few hours at room temperature before using. Or, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks, then thaw it in the refrigerator before using.