crostata di marmellata
Sometimes, when looking through a cookbook, you come across a recipe that you just know you have to make. For me, this seems to happen with above-average frequency when I am flipping through something from the people at Cook’s Illustrated, and half the time it is something totally random that I’ve never even thought of cooking but that I now know I must cook. This crostata di marmellata, from the Italian Classics cookbook, was one such recipe. I had no particular occasion in mind, but it needed to happen; a “weekend” type recipe to be sure.
Now that I’ve tasted this fanciful cross between a giant jam thumbprint cookie and a raspberry tart, I’ve figured out the perfect occasion for this dessert–tea! Do people have afternoon tea anymore? Tea parties? If you taste this tart you’ll realize how much you secretly want to have one, and it’s lattice top and non-tart-pan shape make it perfectly homey and elegant for such an occasion.
You can make this tart with your choice of jam. I am of the “raspberry-is-king-of-the-jams” persuasion, so I loved the taste of raspberry and the way the subtle lemon flavor complements it. I can’t wait until next summer’s raspberry season; I bet this tart would be fabulous with fresh freezer jam. Blackberry would probably also be a tasty choice.
This was my first experience with pasta frolla dough, and I’m happy to say I found it delightful. It is sweeter and more flavorful than a traditional american crust. Pasta frolla means “tender dough” in Italian and it really was tender–light, soft, but still with enough structure that you can pick up a slice with your fingers and just eat it without a plate. It was also fairly forgiving in the rolling out and shaping process, compared to traditional pie crust–no need to worry about it staying super cold or over-working (well, within reason). I did learn, however, that you shouldn’t be shy about flouring the parchment paper when you’re rolling it out–especially at the latticing stage, if you haven’t floured adequately, all your careful rolling, shaping, and cutting can go to pieces when you try to pull pieces of dough off the parchment paper.
Crostata di Marmellata
Adapted from Italian Classics, a Best Recipe Classic from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated
Makes one 11 inch tart
Start with one recipe Pasta Frolla:
1 whole egg plus one yolk
1 tsp vanilla
2 T water
2 1/3 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
Grated zest of 1 lemon
12 T cold butter (a stick and a half), cut into small cubes and re-chilled if starting to soften
1. Whisk egg, vanilla, and water together in small bowl. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest by pulsing once or twice. Drop butter cubes and pulse eight to ten times, until you reach the coarse meal stage. With the processor going on low, stream in the egg/vanilla/water mixture and mix until it’s all incorporated. The dough should be moist; if it’s crumbly, add a little bit more water.
Remove dough from processor, and work with your hands a bit into a cohesive ball. Split into two halves; shape the first into a circle and the second into a rough square, and wrap them in plastic wrap. If you’re in a hurry, pop them into the freezer until they are firm but not frozen, about 30 minutes. If you’ve planned ahead, stick the halves in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
To make jam filling, mix in a small bowl:
1 cup raspberry jam
1 T lemon juice
Assemble tart: remove dough from fridge or freezer. If it’s firm or too cold, let it stand at room temperature until it’s malleable. Cut a roughly 12×12 square of parchment paper and generously flour it.
Starting with circle of dough, flour its surface and a rolling pin, and roll until you have an even circle. Trim the circle to 11 inches–if you happen to have a pot lid or bowl of that diameter, hooray, otherwise you can just estimate it–I used a tape measure to remind myself what 11 inches looked like and then freehand cut it. Save your scraps to make the rim crust. Slide the circle on the parchment paper onto a baking sheet or stone to fit it. Then spread it with the jam and lemon juice mixture, leaving a one inch border around the edge.
Roll the second, square piece of dough out on another square of parchment paper, remembering to generously flour the paper beforehand. Roll until you have at least an 11-inch square, then tidy up the edges. Use a pastry cutter or pizza wheel (awesome suggestion from Cook’s Illustrated for those of us without pastry wheels) to cut the square into ten one inch strips. Place strips in a diagonal lattice pattern over tart–if you’re feeling fancy, brush them with egg white for a shinier finish. Add scraps to the rim crust pile.
Knead the rim crust scraps together until smooth. Roll out into a rope long enough to stretch around the tart. Place the rope around the edge of the crust, and use the tines of a fork to press the dough together. Refrigerate the tart for 1 hour before baking.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Slide the crostata on the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool; cool for a few hours or until crostata has reached room temperature. Enjoy with tea and pinkies raised!