My grandmother told me never, under any circumstance, apologize for kitchen mistakes. Sunken cakes, burnt soup, even simply not enough food to go around, it doesn’t matter. If you are feeding people, don’t make excuses. Get on with it.
So what do you make of this?
Do I apologize?
It is deeply black in parts. Also, part of the crust has had a major structural failure, resulting in large pieces of fruit trying to escape. (I can see why!) There are juices running all over, dripping right off the parchment even, and although it makes no difference in the eating, it is sticky all over the floor of the oven and the blackly caramelized scent permeates the air in the kitchen. Thank goodness it is warm enough to eat dinner outside!
Would you believe I tried again? And again. Three times in four days. And it never got any better. Looking. The reason I kept at it, building this ravaged looking beast, even though I know a few more reliable ways to make a pretty dessert with peaches and plums, is that none of them even come close to this edge-of-burnt, caramel-sweet concentrated wonder. This crostata should be the official emblem of August – flying on a flag!
A crostata is supposed to a rustic exercise anyway. I have read many recipes and tried several. Am I to believe though, that I am the only person who can’t manage to get it together? Literally? Even if the crust doesn’t fail, the juices, no matter what I try, leak out all over the place. When the crust does fail and I rescue the mess from the oven, it would seem that there is no hope and (godforbid) I will have to apologize to someone. It looks ruined. If I were a hand wringer, now would be a perfect moment for hand wringing.
If I listen carefully though, I can hear my granny whispering urgently in my ear in her heavy Norwegian accent: Don’t worry darling. Just don’t SAY anything to anyone! No. Shhhhh! We can fix it. So I set the sheet pan on a cooling rack and walk away. When the crostata has reached room temperature, everything seems more manageable and I take my largest sturdiest spatula and confidently (a huge key to success in these matters) whisk it from parchment to platter.
Ta – daa! It is suddenly gorgeous – rustic and perfect. The saturated colors, the rustic flaking crust. This is what an August dessert is all about. When I pull it off the parchment, failure and those dramatic black juices are left behind. I thought I made three of these in a row because I wanted to see if I could get it to hang together, but that is not real reason. For me, this crostata is the best expression of August, of heat, of warm tree ripened stone fruit, of the end of the summer. Which is nearly over, so I make it again. And again.
So, if you want to know, I did NOT apologize. Of course not.
Plum and Peach Crostata
(minimally adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen – where it goes by Rustic Apricot Gallete)
- 1 1/2 lbs mixed plums and peaches (not excessively ripe!)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
- 1 egg white beaten with 1 tsp of water
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar for sprinkling
- 1 1/4 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter in small cubes, cold
- 3-5 tbsp ice water
- Start the pate brisée early in the day. It needs to rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours at least before you roll it out.
- In a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients to combine.
- Add the butter, scattering it evenly over the flour. Pulse until the largest piece of butter is the size of a large pea.
- Dribble 3 tbsp of water over the flour/butter mixture. Pulse a few times until it is incorporated. The dough will not look like dough AT ALL. It will look like dry powder. This is not important. Pinch a little of this dough together with your fingers, if it holds together you are done adding water, if not, add another tablespoon or two until it does. It might help to know that I always add all 5 tablespoons.
- Take two pieces of plastic wrap, about 18″ long, and lay them a cross formation on the counter. You will use them to wrap the dough and chill it before rolling it out to make the crostata. Dump the contents of the food processor onto the center of plastic wrap.
- Then, quickly pull up each side of the plastic wrap cross over the dough to make a tightly wrapped 1/2 thick package. Compress and compact the dough quickly with your hands until it forms a flat circle 6 or 7 inches across. The dough will look like pie dough when you are done, all the dry crumbs will be incorporated. Place the package in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to three days.
Forming and baking the crostata.
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- Remove the dough from the fridge 1o minutes before you want to begin. It will need to warm up slightly so it won’t break and crack when you roll it out. Don’t let it warm up more than that or you’ll really have some structural problems. (I found this out on a day that was 90 degrees. You couldn’t even really call it a crostata when it was done. It was still very delicious though.)
- While the dough is warming up slightly, cut each piece of fruit into 8 even slices and toss with the sugar and corn starch. No need to peel it!
- Take a large piece of parchment and draw a 12″ circle on the back with a pencil.
- Lightly flour the parchment and the rolling pin. Place the dough in the center of the 12″ circle. Roll it out so that it is 12″ in diameter.
- Move the parchment over to a half sheet pan.
- Mound the fruit in the center of the dough, leaving a 1 1/2″-2″ border. Try very hard not to drip juice all over the edges. Leave any extra juice in the bowl.
- Roughly pleat the dough around the edge of the fruit and brush with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle sugar over the dough.
- Place the sheet pan with the crostata on it, in the oven.
- After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 375, and continue to bake for another 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool on a rack before serving.
Although this is lovely with vanilla ice cream, you might want to serve it with honey sweetened mascarpone – 3 tablespoons of honey whisked into a cup of mascarpone. Even lovelier.