Crostata is a simple country dessert or breakfast in Italy.
We have been in lockdown in Italy for over two months now because of the corona virus and so, as you can imagine, I’ve had plenty of time to play in the kitchen and perfect this recipe to my liking.
A fresh crostata is delicious especially if made with good homemade jam. The crostata is made by spreading a thin layer of pasta frolla (a close relative of shortbread) over the bottom of a pan, topping it with homemade jam, and baking it.
I personally tend to be very picky so I’ve modified my pasta frolla and choose make it with a mix of both all-purpose and whole wheat flour. Also, keep in mind that baking the jam concentrates its flavor and can make it quite sweet so be selective about the jam you use.
Pasta frolla is a sweet pastry dough, Italy’s version of sweet short pastry. It is used as a base of just about every Italian dessert tart. There are many variations to this recipe, some use whole eggs and some only yolk, some substitute lard for the butter. The dough is typically flavored with fresh lemon or orange zest, or a little of both. If you omit the zest and add cacao you can easily turn it into chocolate pasta frolla. And you can substitute whole wheat for some of the all-purpose flour. I tend to prefer a mix of 50 % whole wheat and 50% all purpose flour in my dough.
My version calls for powdered sugar in place of granulated sugar as it creates a super silky pastry dough that bakes beautifully, but is still sturdy enough to hold the filling without becoming soggy.
- 1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose or a blend of whole wheat and all purpose)
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- a dash of sea salt
- Finely grated zest of lemon or orange
- 1 stick of unsalted fine butter cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
For the topping, you’ll need 3/4 cup of good quality fruit jam – in Tuscany, the most commonly used are blackberry,apricot, strawberry, raspberry, fig and plum depending on what is in season.
Mix the flour and sugar and pinch of salt, then in the center add the butter cut into little pieces, the egg and yolk and quickly blend, handling everything as little as possible to keep the butter from melting too much. Mix until you have a smooth ball.
If you have the time, or if it is more convenient for you, you can make the dough a day ahead of time because it improves with age. In any case, you need to let it rest, covered, at least for an hour.
Once your dough has rested, take a flat-bottomed 12 inch round pan and layer with baking paper. Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C). Roll the dough out to about between 1/4 and 1/2 inch (about 1 cm) thick on a lightly floured surface.
You want to do this quickly, without working the dough too much otherwise it becomes crumbly after baking. Set the dough over your pan and work in the corners, cut the extra pieces around the edge off and spread the jam on the dough.
With the extra pieces of dough, reroll and cut into half an inch strips and lay them over the jam in a cross-hatch pattern. Save enough of the dough to add a thin ring around the border to create a rim, fluting with your hand a little or with the back of a fork. Or you can get creative with the design.
I don’t have a fancy cutter and simply do this with a knife. Makes for a more rustic crostata but delicious just the same.
Brush the dough with a little milk and bake the crostata for about 20 minutes, or until the dough begins to brown, at the most 30-35 minutes.
Don’t overbake the crostata or the pasta frolla will become hard and the jam will become sticky.