Saturday, November 16, 2013

La Crostata

Nothing says fall to me more than apples! One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to make Ina Garten's "Apple Crostata!" A crostata is a rustic free-form Italian tart, which can be sweet (filled with fruit jams or fruit) or savory (filled with meat and/or vegetables), all tucked into a shortcrust pastry and then baked. This recipe, from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties!, is so simple and wonderful that I make it all the time! The addition of orange zest and a dash of allspice gives it that "je ne sais quoi." I've never served it to anyone who didn't love it!

This recipe makes enough pastry for two crostatas, but you can halve the ingredients for just one. Although, it's so delicious you might as well have the other half waiting in your freezer to make another, or fill it with your favorite jam and top with powdered sugar for a more traditional Italian version. In addition, the most important thing to remember is to keep the pastry COLD or it can melt while baking. Sometimes, I even fill and shape the crostata ahead of time and store in the refrigerator, to be popped in the oven 30 minutes or so before serving. Whether you serve this at a dinner party, casual family meal, or even Thanksgiving, this recipe will not disappoint!

Apple Crostata

Serves 6

For the Pastry (enough for 2)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 pound very cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water

For the Filling (enough for 1)
1 1/2 pounds (about 3-4) McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire apples
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

For the Pastry
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Be careful; the blades are sharp! Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the 1/4 cup ice water all at once through the feeding tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board and form into 2 disks. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate one of the disks for at least an hour. Freeze the rest of the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Roll the pastry into an 11" circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (I actually prefer to roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap and then store it in the refrigerator while I prepare the apples. Remember: cold, cold, cold!)

For the Filling
Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Cut each quarter into 3 chunks. Toss the chunks with the orange zest. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (remove the plastic wrap) and then top with the apple chunks, leaving 1 1/2" border.

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into  a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples, pleating it to make a circle.

Bake the crostata for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Let the tart cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack.

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