There are many things unspoken by a crostata. It whispers of times past. It comforts in times of disarray. It proves that simplicity is, indeed, beautiful. Its elegance does not come from perfection, but rather from its blemishes: the oozing jam, creating a jewel-like sheen; the uneven lattice, reminiscent of the baker; the crumbly pastry, unpretentiously soft and buttery.
Dating back at least 500 years, the crostata is a tried and true recipe in Italian baking (or, pasticceria). It is found all over Italy, from north to south, in the home, the restaurant, and the local bar (in English, café). It is also found, of course, in the homes of Italian immigrants all over the world. For me, this crostata is a symbol of my heritage and a manifestation of my passion.
Is there something, for you, that is simple, comforting, and traditional? Let me know in the comments below!
For this recipe, I have consulted a recipe given to me from my Nonna and one of three recipes from La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene by P. Artusi. If you are interested in Italian cuisine and have not read this book, I would strongly encourage you to add it to your list. It is a sometimes confusing, often overwhelming, yet never disappointing read, that has truly stood the test of time.
Crostata di marmellata
the sweet shortcrust pastry (pasta frolla)
- 180 g flour
- 60 g sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 90 g butter, cold
- 1 egg, beaten (50 g)
- 200 g jam (one that you really love)
- 10 g ground almonds
Mix together all the pastry ingredients, except the butter and egg. Add the butter in small cubes and rub them into the dry mixture until sandy or crumbly in texture. Then, add the egg and combine.
If the pastry is too dry, add cold water (one teaspoon at a time) until it comes together. The texture should be less crumbly than a shortbread cookie dough, but still quite dry. Roll into a ball, press flat, and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and remove the pastry from the fridge. Oil a pie (or tart) dish.
Using a piece of parchment paper or a floured work surface, roll out two thirds of the pastry until it is about 5 cm wider (in diameter) than the dish. Place it into the dish (if you use parchment, turn it upside down and then peel off the paper). Press down evenly on the bottom and the sides to rid of air pockets. Any excess can be trimmed and used for the lattice.
Mix together the jam and ground almonds, and spread evenly over the pastry.
With the remaining pastry, roll it out until it is about the diameter of the inside of the baking dish. Using a pastry cutter or a knife, cut long strips to an even width (mine are about 1 cm, but wider strips will be easier to handle). Place the strips over the jam in a lattice (criss-cross) pattern, making sure that they reach all the way across.
Brush the pastry only (not the jam!) with an egg wash or some milk. Or, just leave it alone. Bake for about 25 minutes, checking earlier to ensure it doesn't burn. Leave to cool for at least 2 hours before removing it from the dish or cutting into it. Ideally, overnight is best. A light dusting of cocoa (after it has cooled) balances the sweetness in just the right way.