September 3, 2014

Blueberry Crostata

Every year, the night before the first day of school, I make my son's favorite foods for dinner. He always chooses salmon for dinner. And this year, blueberry pie for dessert.

Usually, I take the easy way out and buy blueberry pie from Whole Foods. I say it's because they make a good pie that we all like. But the truth is that pie crust scares me. Cutting the butter until the pieces are just the right size. Not overworking the dough. Rolling it out. And then, somehow getting it into the pie dish.

Then last week the New York Times ran a piece about fruit galette. That's the same as a crostata, which I prefer to call it, because it's sounds more casual and less perfect. The article described the crostata as a good entry point into pie making. You still have to make dough. But you don't have to roll it out perfectly. Or get it into a pie dish. In fact, it's supposed to look rustic (read: messy).

So I set out to make a crostata. On a day that was 90 degrees and humid, no less. It took some time and effort. But it wasn't as hard as I'd imagined. And it turned out even better than the Whole Foods version  tasty, flaky, delicious. And homemade.

Start with the dough. Lightly whisk together the egg and heavy cream.

Then measure the dry ingredients. This recipe gives weights for the dough ingredients. That's a much more accurate way to measure, and it seriously increases the chances of success.

Pulse the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt) in a food processor.

Add cold butter to the food processor and pulse until you have chickpea-size pieces of butter. (The butter pieces will look larger than you expect.) Don’t over process.

Drizzle the egg/cream mixture and lemon juice and zest over the flour/butter mixture. Pulse just until the mixture starts to come together, but stop pulsing before it becomes a big ball of dough.

Put the dough on the counter and shape it into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least a couple of hours.

When the dough is done chilling, place it on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Roll it into a 12-inch circle. You should still see large chunks of butter in the dough. The butter will help keep the dough nice and flaky when it bakes. Don’t worry about making it look perfect, anything vaguely resembling a circle is fine. Transfer the dough (with the parchment paper) to a baking sheet and put it back in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling, combine the fruit, sugar, lemon juice and zest (if you’re using it) and cornstarch. Yes, that’s it.

Pile the fruit on the dough.

Fold in the edges of the dough. You can try to pleat them to make them look pretty.

Brush the top of the dough with any leftover egg/cream mixture. (I forgot to save the rest of mine so I used an extra egg and some cream for this.) Then sprinkle with sugar. A larger grained sugar like turbinado is nice for sprinkling, if you have it.

Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes. The fruit will bubble and the juices will thicken. And the pastry will be golden brown and beautiful.

Admire your handiwork.

Then dig in. (Around here, we’re partial to pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.)

Blueberry Crostata

Recipe from The New York Times


For the dough:

1 ⅓ cups/165 grams all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp/15 grams sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1 large egg
Heavy cream, as needed
1 stick/113 grams unsalted butter, cut into big pieces
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp grated lemon zest (optional)

For the filling:
3 cups summer fruit of your choice (berries, stone fruit, figs), sliced or cubed if necessary
½ cup to 3/4 cup/100 to 150 grams sugar, to taste
Pinch of salt
Juice and grated zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
3 to 4 Tbsp/25 to 35 grams cornstarch

Make the Crust:

1.   In a measuring cup, lightly beat the egg, then add just enough cream to get to 1/3 cup. Lightly whisk the egg and cream together.

2.   In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or in a large bowl, pulse or mix together flour, sugar and salt.

3.   Add butter to flour mixture and pulse or use a pastry cutter or your fingers to break up the butter. If using a food processor, do not over-process; you need chickpea-size chunks of butter. (This is important. You want to be able to see large chunks of butter in the flour.)

4.   Drizzle the egg mixture (up to 1/4 cup) over the dough and pulse or stir until it just starts to come together but is still mostly large crumbs. Mix in lemon juice and zest if using.

5.   Put dough on lightly floured counter and pat it together to make one uniform piece. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

6.   Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

7.   Roll the dough out to a 12-inch round (it can be ragged). Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill while preparing the filling. (I rolled out the dough directly on the parchment paper. That made it easier to transfer to the baking sheet.)

Make the filling:

1.   Toss together fruit, all but a tablespoon of sugar, the salt, the lemon juice and zest, and the cornstarch. Use more cornstarch for juicy stone fruit and less for blueberries, raspberries and figs.

2.   Pile fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Gently fold the pastry over the fruit, pleating to hold it in (sloppy is fine).

3.   Brush pastry generously with leftover egg and cream mixture. Sprinkle remaining sugar on the crust. (If you have a larger grained sugar, like turbinado, use that for sprinkling.)

4.   Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling bubbles up vigorously and the crust is golden.

5.   Cool for at least 20 minutes on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 9-inch crostata.