Jam-Filled Italian Crostate (or crostata if you prefer). It’s hard to walk into any bakery or pasticceria in Italy and not notice these little hand-pies right away. They are usually lattice-topped. But the lattice is typically a bit different in appearance than what we North American’s might expect on a lattice-topped pie.
That’s because Italians roll out thin strands of dough for the tops of these sweet pastries. They’re typically among the most rustic and humble of all the treats these shops offer. But there’s a mighty wallop of flavor packed into them.
The crust is often just as sweet as the jam, making this little tart seem more like a big cookie than a pie. In general these sweet doughs are called pasta frolla and they are rich and buttery. I use a recipe adapted from Dominica Marchetti that’s enhanced with a little lemon and orange zest. It has a crumbly, shortbread texture when baked, and should not be handled too much in the preparation as it can get rather tough with too much work.
I have seen other interesting versions too. Nancy Silverton uses sesame seeds in the pasta frolla dough in her new book, The Mozza Cookbook with Matt Molina & Carolyn Carreno. I have never seen sesame seeds in the crusts during my travels, but there’s something about the idea that just feels right to me. So I have added her version to my must make list.
However, as an introduction to crostate I have decided to bring you a style as close in feeling to the the version I first experienced in Italy. That means the simplest of crumbly, sweet dough filled with the very best jam I can get my hands on.
I don’t usually make the jam specifically for crostate. Crostate are often made on a whim, so I use what ever I have on hand– straight from the jar. My advice is always have some good jam around the house. Or better yet, put aside some of your own homemade jam, as I do every summer with the figs from my neighborhood. GREG
- 3 c unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1 c confectioners sugar
- 1 pn kosher salt
- 1/8 t baking soda
- 1/8 t baking powder
- 1 t lemon zest
- 1 t orange zest
- 1 c cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 oz large egg
- 2 oz large egg yolks
- 8 heaping tablespoons jam. I used fig
Make the crust: Put the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and lemon and orange zests in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter pieces around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together. Knead it briefly and shape it into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine, as is frozen up to 1 month).
Form the crostates: Thaw dough in the refrigerator if frozen. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it is just pliable enough to roll, but not too soft to work with.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
Dust a cool flat working surface with flour. Dust a rolling pin with flour. Cut the dough in half then roll half to about 1/4-inch thickness. Set it aside in the refrigerator as you roll out the other half. Use a plate about 6-inches in diameter as a stencil and cut out four rounds. Save the scraps for the lattice. Repeat the process with the other half of the dough. You should get eight 6-inch rounds. Place four on each prepared baking sheet. Chill the scraps.
Roll the edges of each round inward forming a 1/2-inch rim. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of jam into the center of each round, then smooth the jam right up to the edge of the rim. Repat with all the rounds.
Remove the scraps from the refrigerator. Then pinch of a ping pong ball sized piece and roll it out with your fingertips to create a long, thin noodle like strand about 1/4-inch in diameter. Continue to roll the remaining dough then cut the strands into forty-eight 6-inch pieces.
Lay three strands evenly spaced across each jam-topped dough round. Then lay three more at an angle, creating a diamond-shaped lattice on each jam-topped dough round. Trim the strands with your fingertips, pinching them into place to stick.
Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to one day.
To bake: Adjust the oven racks so that one is on the top third and the other is on the bottom third of the oven. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the baking sheets from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap and bake about 25-30 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until golden. Remove the sheets to cool on a rack to room temperature.
Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining for The Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in Panama & Costa Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network.