Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day Very Berry Crostata

Weeks ago I made a rustic free-form berry tart, but never shared the recipe because it was ugly. Delicious, but a visionary disaster.

Still, because it tasted so great, I haven't been able to accept the idea of keeping it off this blog just because it didn't present a nice photo-op. I'm still working on (drastically) improving my food photography skills, so why not share the good, the bad, and the really @#%$ ugly during this learning period?

With all the buzz about Veteran's day going on in my office this week, I thought now would be as a good a time as ever to share the ugly and tasty Berry Crostata I've been withholding.

A crostata is essentially a free-form tart or pie. Depending on where you look on the web, these tarts may be called crostatas or galettes - the Italian name or the French name. Since I spent a semester in Florence, I'm sticking with the Italian!

Inspiration and recipes for this particular crostata came from several sources: one for the pie crust, one for the filling, another for general tips/ideas, and one more for an almond frangipane recipe that I decided to layer under my berries. (pictured above)

All Butter Crust (from Simply Recipes)
Makes one pie crust
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes 
  • 4 to 6 Tbsp ice-cold water
  • The minute you even think you might want to make a pie crust, cut up a stick of butter into smallish (about 1/2-inch) cubes, and put it into the freezer — the colder the butter, the better luck you'll have with creating a flaky crust. Freeze for at least 15 minutes, but an hour or more if you have time
  • Pour flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and pulse until well combined
  • Add half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 time 
  • Add the other half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 more times — by now, you should have a mixture that resembles a coarse meal, with many butter pieces the size of peas 
  • Add a couple of tablespoons of ice cold water (without the ice!) to the food processor bowl and pulse a few times
  • Add more ice water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just barely begins to clump together — If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again
  • Remove the crumbly mixture from the food processor and place on a very clean, smooth surface
  • Using your clean hands, press the crumbly dough together and shape into a disc
  • Knead only enough to just bring the dough together — Do Not over-knead or your crust will end up tough - You should be able to see little bits of butter, speckling the dough. When these bits of butter melt as the crust cooks, the butter will help separate the dough into flaky layers
  • Sprinkle the disc with a little flour on all sides, wrap the disc in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (At this point you can freeze the dough disk for several months until ready to use. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.) 
  • When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove the disk from the refrigerator and place on a clean, smooth, lightly floured surface
  • Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to take just enough of a chill off of it so that it becomes easier to roll out
  • Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk and using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 12 inch circle, to a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch thick
  • As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below — add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking

For more great tips on making pies, check out David Lebovitz's How-to Guide for Making Rustic Tarts — this is what inspired me to make an almond frangipane, because David Lebovitz said it prevents the crust from soaking up the berry juices and getting mushy.

Frangipane (adapted from
Makes twice as much as you need for this Crostata
  • 1/2 cup finely ground almonds
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 egg 
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened 
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor until a smooth paste is formed

Berry Filling (adapted from Eat Drink and Be Merry):
  • 2 1/2 cups berries (I used 1 cup blackberries, 1 cup raspberries, and 1/2 cup blueberries) 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch 
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • Toss berries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a large bowl — Do Not make ahead or the berries will become too juicy and leak 

CROSTATA assembly and extra ingredients:
  • egg glaze made from 1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon butter, sliced into small pieces
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  • On lightly floured surface, roll out the dough, working from the center in all directions until you have a 13 inch round — Do not trim the edges, as they are supposed to be ragged
  • Fold the pastry in half, then transfer it into a large rimmed baking sheet, patching any tears by pressing the dough together with your fingers
  • Brush the pastry with some of the egg glaze and spread on frangipane paste 
  • Spoon the fruit filling onto the dough, mounding it slightly higher in the center and leaving a 2 inch border all around the edge
  • Fold the border of the crust in, pleating it as necessary to make and uneven 1 1/2 inch wide edge
  • Scatter the butter over the fruit and brush the edges of the crust with the egg glaze. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake 25 to 30 minutes longer, until the pastry is golden brown, and the fruit is soft, and juices bubbly
  • Remove from oven and allow it cool completely before serving

There are a few possible reasons for why my crostata fell apart in the oven. It could be that I didn't leave enough room to fold the edges of my crust over the filling or that I piled my berries too high. I could have rolled out the dough to much or not enough. I could have ripped through the pastry as I was creating the crostata, causing it to weaken and rip apart in the oven. I could have let my berries sit for too long before assembling my crostata. Who knows?

Ugly as it was, I would DEFINITELY do it all over agin, using all the same recipes. It made for a perfect post-dinner delight (and even looked quite nice after I cut off the ugly bits and served it).

And, as an extra bonus — the combination of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries form a VERY patriotic color scheme. I couldn't help but think of it.

Because my work inspired me to share this yummy ugly dessert with you, I thought it fitting to share some of my work as well. For Veterans Day, I wrote up a blog post on behalf of my company that shares many stories from recent Veterans Day events and words of wisdom and gratitude our residents wanted to share with veterans.

I also spent the better part of today compiling this short video featuring all of my coworkers reading quotes that residents sent in.

Happy Veterans Day and Happy Crostata Baking!!

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