The crostata is one of those much-loved homemade baked goods that comes in many forms and varieties that many Italians grew up with. These days you can find them in every single bar or café in Florence and Tuscany, usually a version filled with apricot jam or blackberry jam, to be eaten with a cappuccino for your breakfast or mid-morning snack.
The crostata di marmellata is one of those things that every now and then the sweet tooth in me totally gives in to – the industrial ones that you find in shops give you a sugar fix that rivals that of any chocolate bar, but a rustic homemade crostata is a whole different thing: tasty, jammy, sweet and so comforting you begin to believe it’s good for you. And it’s the perfect thing to get you through a slow afternoon, if you ask me. I still can’t do crostata for breakfast, but many I know would.
My husband grew up with the homemade variety and looking at my mother-in-law’s copy of Artusi, this I can tell – the page that lists his pasta frolla recipe, the pastry base for crostata, is the page that the well-read book automatically opens to. In it are also scraps of paper with my mother-in-law’s handwriting of other versions of crostata, perhaps scribbled down from friends or a cooking show.
The thing about the homemade crostata is that it is so incredibly easy, so don’t skimp out on making your own pastry or not using anything but the nicest quality, organic ingredients you can find. The pastry recipe is taken from Artusi’ cookbook (no. 589, Recipe B – he gives 3 different variations):
- 250 grams of flour
- 125 grams of cold butter
- 110 grams of sugar (icing sugar is the best, otherwise fine caster sugar)
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- zest of 1 lemon
For the filling, use your absolute favourite jam: if it’s homemade, even better (about 200 grams should do it).
To make the pastry, chop the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour and sugar. I always use my hands for this next bit but you can do this in a food processor if you like. With your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until you get a crumbly mixture and there are no more visible pieces of butter. Mix in the lemon zest and beaten egg plus an extra yolk until the pastry comes together into a smooth, elastic ball. Let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Artusi says if you do this the day before, even better.
After resting, roll out about ¾ of the pastry to cover your pie dish. The rest of the pastry, roll out to make strips, about 2cm wide to create a lattice for the top of your crostata. Fill the pie with your favourite jam and place your lattice strips over the top. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about 25 minutes or until it is golden brown. You’ll earn instant Italian kitchen credit worthy of any Nonna with this recipe.