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This is definitely pie baking for those who are intimidated by making traditional pies. Think rustic tarts — they don’t even require a pie plate. First, you roll out just one sheet of dough (since there’s no top) as perfectly or imperfectly as you like. Then you add the fruit filling in the center and fold over the edges of the dough. There you are – ready to bake.

A crostata is an Italian baked tart or pie, also known as coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombardy. The earliest known use of crostata in its modern sense can be traced to the cookbooks Libro de Arte Coquinaria (Art of Cooking) by Martino da Como, published circa 1465, and Cuoco napoletano (Neapolitan recipes), published in the late 1400s containing a recipe (number 94) titled “Crostata de Caso, Pane,” etc. The French version is called a Galette.

A modern crostata is a “rustic free-form version of an open fruit tart that may also be baked in a pie plate. Crostatas have a status as being one of the premiere Italian pastries. A crostata can be made with just about any type of fruit filling, the pastry can be prepared with fruit that is in season, as well as any range of home canned preserves and even with canned fruits and jams that are purchased in the supermarket. The fact that the crostata may be prepared as an open-faced dessert or be covered with a top crust allow this Italian pastry to easily adapt to all sorts of occasions.

Since peaches looked absolutely beautiful this week, I bought some for eating and some for baking. So I am making a peach crostata for you here and recipes for other types of fruit fillings follow. Just follow the directions for the peach crostata for the other fruit fillings. Take your pick. Not only is this dessert easy to prepare but if you serve it to guests, they will think you are a pastry chef.

The traditional pastry in Italy is pasta frolla but you can also use 1 large sheet of defrosted puff pastry or 1 refrigerated round pie crust dough. The traditional pastry recipe is below, if you would like to use it. I keep it simple and use the refrigerated store-bought pastry crust. I don’t peel the peaches either.

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Peach Crostata

I like to brush the bottom of the crust with a little jam or marmalade to keep the crust from getting soggy and to add an additional layer of flavor. Traditional recipes do not call for this step.

Ingredients

  • One refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons apricot or peach preserves or orange marmalade
  • 3 large peaches, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour, cornstarch or tapioca flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Water or cream
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Remove the pie crust dough from the paper pouch and place flat on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the crust with the preserves.

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In medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the peaches and vanilla. Mix well.

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Rather than spooning the fruit mixture onto the center of the crust, I prefer to arrange the fruit in a decorative pattern to within 1 1/2 inches of the edge. Use tongs to arrange the fruit and pour any juice left in the bowl over the arranged fruit. If there are any slices that don’t fit just arrange them in the center on top of the first layer, as I did for this crostata. Dot with the butter.

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Fold the crust edge over the filling to form a border, pleating the crust as necessary. Refrigerate the tart until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush the crust edge with water or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is tender. Serve warm. This dessert is sometimes served with sweetened mascarpone cheese or whipped cream.

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Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks

Directions

Put the flour, sugar, salt, lemon and orange zest in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is 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). 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. Roll out into an 11 inch circle.

Blueberry Crostata

  • 18 oz blueberries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Blackberry Crostata

  • 12 ounces blackberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Plum Crostata

Note: For this recipe you want firm but slightly ripe plums, and preferably freestone, such as the Italian prune plums.

  • 2 pounds firm ripe Italian prune plums, cut into sixths or eighths
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or other flavored liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Fig Crostata

Use fig jam for the crust, if you can.

  • 1/2 lb of ripe figs
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Apricot Crostata

  • 1 1/2 lbs of fresh ripe apricots
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Coarse sugar

Cinnamon Apple Crostata

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples or 3 large apples
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans or walnuts

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