La crostata (it means ‘crusted’) is oft made in my family in Italy.
It’s usually a thing of some precision, the pastry laid out, put in a tart or pie tin, filled with fruit or, sometimes, jam, and then criss crossed with thin, fluted strips of pastry.
This crostata is different in that it makes a virtue of its pulled together-ness and the pastry is, anyway, too fragile to handle much (this is because of the lard, which also gives it its deliciousness..). It has become my new favourite tart.
You can use any suitable soft fruit for this – peaches, berries, plums. I used plums as that’s what the original recipe called for. It’s really easy but, as I’ve said, beware because the pastry is very tricky to handle but that’s okay cos it’s all about a rustic look!
This is adapted from a Donna Hay recipe.
225g plain flour
55g caster sugar
the rind from half a lemon
60g butter, fridge cold and chopped
40g lard, fridge cold and chopped
2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
60ml ice cold water – but you may not use all of it
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
500g of suitable tart fruit, sliced if necessary.
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
10g cold, chopped butter
1 beaten egg
some demerara sugar
(some juniper berries if you like and you remember)
40g ground almond
Put the flour, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl and mix together lightly – you can do this by hand or in a food processor (I used the latter, work lightly). Add the butter and lard and mix to resemble the famous ‘fine breadcrumbs’. Now add the vinegar and vanilla and just enough water to bring it all together. If using a food processor, pulse and stop before the pastry has come together but looks clumpy. Bundle together and put in the fridge to rest for fifteen minutes or more (until you are ready to work with it, you can do it overnight).
When ready, roll out onto baking parchment, either into a round shape or, as I do, an oblong. I must confess to half rolling, half pressing the pastry to shape with ice-cold fingers (cold hands, cold heart). You want to get it to about 3-4mm thickness. When you’ve rolled it out so it’s at it’s final dimensions, put it back in the fridge for ten minutes.
Preheat oven to 200C.
In the meantime mix together the (sliced) fruit, sugar and vanilla.
(Note: you can make the fruit bit in advance and keep it in the fridge, but bear in mind the sugar will leach water from the fruit and you don’t want to put this (the juice) onto the pastry, so if you do make it in advance, just pour off any excess juice and serve separately over the tart, there isn’t much.)
Slide the baking parchment onto a baking tray, so the pastry base sits on the tray it will cook on.
Spread the ground almonds on the base – leaving a rim of about an inch. Now plop the fruit on top, spread it out as far as you’ve put the ground almonds, dot the butter on and fold the sides over. I find the pastry really hard to handle at this stage: do your best. Don’t worry if it looks very home made, it all adds to the charm. Brush the pastry edge with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.
Place in the oven for 15 mins, then reduce temperature down to 175C for 30-40 mins until the pastry is nice and golden and the fruit is bubbling. (Check after 30, I have two ovens and both vary hugely, one was perfect after 40 mins one was more than done after 30.) Let cool for ten minutes. I served it with this ice cream and let me tell you, it was a magical moment.