Jul 10, 2012

Mixed Berry Crostata

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Call me an Ina Disciple (no, seriously, I wish you would, it’s my truth), but I’m a big believer in getting a few good classic recipes down, and then putting your own twists on them. Take My Favorite Pie Crust, for example. I love the stuff. I use it pretty much for any recipe that calls for pastry, adjusting the sugar as necessary to match the filling, whether it be sweet or savory. I use this dough for pies, quiches, pot pies, tarts, crostatas, homemade pop-tarts–whatevs. It’s basically foolproof, works for me, and I haven’t thought to rock the boat. Until last week.

See, I’ve gone through a bit of overhauling in the home, as of late. Working on a shoestring budget (and really, is there another kind of budget?), I was determined to make our living space not feel like we were living in a dorm. (I suppose it really wasn’t THAT bad, but you know that feeling when you wake up one day and just suddenly want to throw a grenade at your whole house? Well, THAT.) So I traipsed around the Bay Area looking for effortlessly chic home accents, all the while swearing under my breath about how maddening it is, the freaking effort it takes to make something look effortlessly chic. Anyway, it took some doing, but I spruced things up around here, after many trips to IKEA and various TJ Maxx stores and Pier Ones.

(Sidebar: Can we talk about the headiness of Eau de Pier One? All the stores smell the same, and STRONGLY so. Is it, like, some kind of Pier One hallucinogen designed to make us buy more wicker things? See more beauty in tapestries and elephant-shaped candle holders? I don’t get it.)

So why am I talking about Pier One? Oh, yes. Pie crust. My perennial pie crust and how I recently decided to spruce that up, too. Not permanently, mind you, but with all the HGTV-ness up in here, I was inspired to try something different when I came into a boatload of discounted, flawless, organic summer berries and a had hankering for encasing them in pastry.

I found this recipe in the LA Times that made me go, hmm! and oh!, and before I knew it, I was making a pastry crust for a mixed berry crostata that involved cake flour. Cake! Flour! Major.

Turns out, it’s a grand idea. Maybe not as all-purpose of a pastry as my favorite pie crust, but especially for fruit desserts, this crust RULES. It straddles somekind of space I never knew existed–something between a pastry and a shortbread, with a hint of cakey-ness. Lots of crunch to the top, a bit of a flaky, crumbly quality, almost cookie-like. Sweet and golden and perfection with cooked fruit. In truth, I didn’t just make this mixed berry version. I made another one three days later using white peaches and blueberries, and experimented with a stand mixer instead of the food processor for the crust, and it was every bit as smack-the-table good as the first one I made.

There’s a lot to love about crostatas, but for me, the best thing is that they’re perfect in their imperfections. Don’t worry about making the perfect dough circle, rolling it out just so, so doing lots of fancy pleats. “Rustic” may be one of the most overused food words ever, but here, rustic is the jam. The rougher looking the better, really, because it makes for addictively crunchy edges, especially when you sprinkle the whole thing with coarse sugar. Awww, yeah.

I have a feeling this will be the Summer of Fruit Crostatas, in addition the to Summer of Bargain Home Furnishings, of course. I am currently in the process of turning an old door into a headboard. No, I’m not kidding. Good times.

Mixed Berry Crostata
Adapted loosely from the Los Angeles Times
Serves 6 to 8

Just about any combination of summer fruits will work here–just use about 3-4 cups of fruit. If there’s more than a few tablespoons of syrup in the bottom of the bowl after the fruit has had a chance to rest, I avoid adding it all into the crostata, just so the crust doesn’t get too soggy. I also find that spraying the parchment lightly with nonstick spray or a light brushing of oil on the paper helps to crisp and brown the bottom of the whole thing.

I really like to jazz up pie and tart fillings in interesting ways. Peach schnapps is one of my all-time favorite liqueurs to have on hand for fruit desserts. Rather than keeping a bunch of pricey liqueurs like Framboise or Grand Marnier or Kirsch for specific recipes, I find peach schnapps is a great all-purpose ingredient that gets the job done and matches the flavors or many different fruits for a fraction of the price. Maybe I’m white trash, but that’s my truth.

This crostata absolutely must be served with vanilla ice cream. No exceptions.

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (or 1/8 teaspoon table salt)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4-5 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Turbinado or other coarse sugar, for sprinkling

For the filling:

3-4 cups mixed berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon peach Schnapps
1 tablespoon cornstarch

For the crust, in the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar and salt. Distribute the butter over the top and mix until the butter is broken down into about the size of peas.

Combine 4 tablespoons ice water and vanilla and sprinkle over the top of the dough. Mix until the dough comes together and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. (Add another tablespoon of water if needed to help the dough come together.) Remove the dough from the bowl to a plastic wrap-covered work surface. Pat it into a disk, then wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

In a medium bowl, toss together the berries, sugar, Schnapps, and cornstarch and stir gently until they are well-coated. Set aside.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the crostata dough out to a roughly 16-inch-diameter circle, about 1/4 inch thick, a little thicker than you normally would roll out pie dough. Transfer the dough to a cookie sheet. Place fruit mixture in the center, leaving a 2-inch border.

Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit, with the fruit showing in the center: Fold one edge over, then fold the second edge over, pleating the dough as necessary as you work around the circle–perfection is not necessary, here.

Lightly brush the surface of the dough with a little water, milk, or cream, and and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until the crust is brown and the fruit is soft and bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes (or a little longer, depending on the fruit you use–the main thing is getting a crisp, browned crust). Rotate the crostata halfway through baking for even coloring. Remove the crostata from the oven and cool 10 minutes before cutting and serving with vanilla ice cream.

  • Did I miss something here… are you working with hgtv?? On separate note, I couldn’t help but laugh, we’ve been to IKEA 4x in one week! Okay, I miss you and this crostata looks amazing. xoxo

  • loveee summer berries 🙂 this looks yummy!

  • This sounds very yummy. 😀

  • I’ve actually never tried a crostata, but seen many and this has made me want to make one myself. It look so delicious! And summer berries is like my favourite combination of berries all together ever. Fact.

  • Hi, I’m in the UK – do you know what the equivalent of cake flour is here? We have strong flour (high gluten) for breadmaking, or plain / self-raising flour, which is used for everything else (s-r flour just has leavening agents already in it), but it sounds from your description that cake flour is different again. Can you help?! I’ve tried googling but people just seem to mix it up with self-raising flour, which doesn’t seem correct. Thank you!

    • Hey there Pip, I’m sure Shauna could answer this one for you, but cake flour is the opposite of strong flour; it’s a low-protein, therefore low gluten flour, that makes baked goods particularly tender. It’s not that commonly used in pastry, as there is a chance of the pastry being so tender it won’t hold as a crust, which is what makes this recipe so unusual. I live in New Zealand, where unless you buy from a wholesalers, in 40 kilo sacks, cake flour is unobtainable, so I use a fairly common replacement, which is to use some cornstarch ( here in NZ we call it cornflour) to lower the protein. For every cup of flour in your recipe,remove a tablespoon of flour, and replace it with cornstarch, or by weight, for every 8oz. of flour in a recipe, use 70z. of regular flour and 1oz. of cornstarch. Make sure that you whisk the two types of flour together really well. This kind of substitution works well for me.
      I’m keen to try this recipe, crostata always feels like easy-breezy to me, and this dough intrigues me. Although, being in the depths of winter here, the choice of fruit is severely limited. Maybe pear and raisin, or a mix of apple varieties. Cheers from the South Seas, Karen

    • Thank you, Karen! Pip, she’s got the right idea–my suggestion was going to be similar. The only difference is that I use a slightly different ratio of plain or all-purpose flour and cornstarch. I take a cup of flour, take out two tablespoons of it, and add back in two tablespoons of cornstarch. Actually, making my own cake flour this way is something I do quite often, much cheaper than the packaged kind. Hope that helps!

      • Thank you Shauna and Karen! I’ll give that a go.

  • Oops, That should have read 7 oz. of regular flour, NOT 70!! Sorry about that, Karen.

  • I often want to throw a granade at my house…I get it! And effortlessly chic…ha…it’s an enigma. It’s easy to make it look effortlessly like crap…but chic….much more work.

    But this recipe…it does look effortlessly chic…yum.

  • Great job. I really like this presentation and enjoy to this post. Crostata looks awesome. Thanks for share.

  • I hear you about the whole dorm room feel. Since January, we are temporarily living in campus housing (townhomes) where my husband teaches, until we can scope out the area and save up for a house later this year. I haven’t taken much time and effort to decorate, because I know it’s temporary. But, man, I probably should just to enjoy our time here more! 🙂

    As far as the crostata…I am all about something that doesn’t have to look perfectly round. Although, yours looks pretty perfect to me!

  • wonderful..
    keep it up…

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  • How beautiful is that?! Ohh I’m gonna have fun making all different fruity variations of this for the rest of the summer…

  • […] And guess what? You can place your crostata on a piece of foil and grill it.  If your mouth wasn’t already watering, try Shauna Sever’s mixed berry crostata. […]

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