Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rustic Apple Crostata

Earlier this week I had gone out to dinner with several friends and by time dessert came around I was the only one too full to order any. Our server brought the desserts ordered with extra spoons and forks, just in case, anyone wanted to have just a taste. (Always the sign of a very observant server.) And ever since taking a bite of the hot apple crisp topped with cinnamon ice cream (my mouth said no dessert, but my eyes said yes dessert when it came to the table) I have been craving the taste of a warm apple concoction of some sort. Having immersed myself in Italian cookbooks as of late, my thoughts immediately went to thinking I would make a Rustic Apple Crostata. I had some leftover streusel from the Blueberry Muffin Cake I didn't want to go to waste and thought it might go perfectly on top of it.

So what is not to love about a tart dough having butter and cream cheese as two of its' ingredients? Alison Pray and Tara Smith share their recipe for a Rustic Tart Dough in their most recent cookbook "Standard Baking Company Pastries". This is a dough they use for their hand formed galettes (otherwise known as Rustic Tarts). It is a dough recipe I have been wanting to make for awhile now but I just needed an incentive to make it. As much as I bake, I have genuinely avoided, with a few exceptions, making desserts and pastries requiring a homemade dough. But finally, I had a reason to work on overcoming my 'dough making aversion' habit. Just one bite of a friend's apple dessert was enough to push me into the dough making arena. Who knows a whole new world of pastry making opportunities could be in my future.

With the dough decision made, I had to figure out what the filling would be or more specifically what apple I would use. Some crostatas are made with McIntosh or Macoun apples, however, for me there is nothing better than a crisp or tart made with Granny Smith apples. I love their crispness, their tartness. Next to Honey Crisp apples, Granny Smith apples are the only other apple I eat. So with the crostata filling decision made, all I needed to do was to begin the process of making the dough. "Breathe" I told myself, you can do this!

What I love about this dough recipe is that the butter and cream cheese need to be chilled. Which means there is no planning ahead to have either of them come to room temperature. I used an 'American-made" unsalted butter as that is what I had in the refrigerator. Next time I make this crostata I will try using one of the European unsalted butters as they are little more flavorful in pastry dough (due to their higher fat content). 

And I can already tell you there will be a next time as this dough comes together so nicely. If you too have been suffering from the curable malady known as dough making aversion, this is a dough that will make you wonder why you suffered for so long. And this a dough that gets easier as you can use either a pastry cutter or your finger tips (i.e., no food processor).  I used my finger tips as I wanted to get a feel for the dough (both literally and figuratively). Once the flour, salt and baking powder are whisked together you blend in the butter first. You are looking to get a consistency of pea sized chunks. The cream cheese is then blended in (again I used my fingers) and the texture changes to a coarse meal. At this point you add the cold water and use a fork or your fingers to gently toss the ingredients together.

When the dough comes together, you carefully form the dough into a loose ball and flatten to a disc. After wrapping the dough into plastic wrap, you chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour (I waited three hours) or overnight.

On lightly floured surface you roll out the dough to a diameter of approximately 11 inches. This will give you a tart dough about 1/8 inch thick. It rolls out beautifully. I mean really beautifully. Placing the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, it is wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled for at least an hour before you bake it.

For the crostata filling you will need 1.5 pounds of apples. These Granny Smith apples were on the large size so I only needed three of them. If you are using medium sized apples, you will need four.

The apples are peeled, cored and then cut into half inch slices. The easiest way to get half inch apple slices is to first quarter the apples and then cut each quarter into three slices. 

The apples are tossed with a mixture of flour, sugar, Kosher salt, Saigon cinnamon, and ground allspice. To give the baked dough a little more color and a surface for some sprinkled sugar to adhere to it, a egg wash using one egg and a pinch of salt is make.

Once the apples are completed coated, remove the dough from the refrigerator and pile apples up leaving a 3 inch border around the edge. 

After mounding all of the apples, you will bring up the sides of the dough, folding (or pleating) over the apples. Brush the sides of the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

The streusel topping is optional but I thought it would add to the rusticness of the tart. I used one cup of the streusel topping I had made for Blueberry Muffin Cake.

In a preheated 425 degree oven you bake the tart for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes you reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate the tart and bake for additional 35 minutes (or until the pastry is a dark golden brown and the folds of the dough no longer have a translucent appearance). My baking time was 33 minutes. You remove the baked crostata from the oven and place onto a wire rack to cool slightly. After 10 minutes you can transfer to a platter and serve warm with or without ice cream or whipped cream. It is delicious all on its' own, but I would suggest serving it with either vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. The tart is equally delicious at room temperature, making it a perfect dessert to bring to a picnic or gathering.

Rustic Apple Crostata (adaptations from the Standard Baking Company "Pastries" cookbook and Ina Garten's "Parties"cookbook)

Crostata Dough
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur Flour)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/3 cup cream cheese, cubed and chilled
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ice cold water

Apple Mixture
1.5 pounds of a tart baking apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices (recommend Granny Smith apples)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar (plus additional for sprinkling on egg washed tart dough)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (recommend Saigon cinnamon)
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Egg Wash
1 large egg
pinch of Kosher salt

Streusel Topping
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar1/2 teaspoon salt3/4 cup pecans, toasted6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1" cubes

For Dough
1. In large bowl, whisk together the flour, Kosher salt and baking powder. Blend in butter using a pastry cutter or your fingertips getting the butter reduced to the consistency of pea-sized chunks.
2. Add the cream cheese, blending with either a pastry cutter or your finger tips getting the dough reduced to the consistency of coarse meal.
3. Add water. Using a fork or your fingertips, gently toss until most of the dry ingredients are moistened. Note: It will still look a little crumbly.
4. Pour dough mixture out onto a board forming into a loose ball and gently flattening it to a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
5. After dough has chilled, roll out to an 11 inch circle on a floured surface. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour or until ready to assemble the crostata.

Crostata Filling
1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, all-spice and salt. Toss apples into mixture and mix until all apples are evenly coated.
2. On the chilled tart dough, pile the apples leaving a 3 inch border.
3. Gently fold the dough border over the apples, pleating it to make a circle.
4. Brush egg wash over the dough. Sprinkle with sugar.
5. Top apple mixture with 1 cup of streusel mixture.

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake crostata for 10 minutes. 
2. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate tart and continue baking for up to 35 minutes or until pastry is a dark golden brown and the folds of the dough no longer have a translucent appearance.  
3. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting if serving warm. 
4. Optional: Serve with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

There have been some spectacular evening summer skies here lately. I am not sure if or how the ocean changes the colors of the sky, but I don't think I have seen more incredible colors in the skies as of late or from my memories of midwest skies. From pinks to purples to blues to oranges, the skies look like works of art done by Impressionist artists who have painstakingly captured and layered the various hues of color. 

If these blazing colors were not enough to take in, rainbows can be regularly seen here after an afternoon or early evening quick rain storm. Recently when my childhood best friend was visiting we were out in the yard as she was creating a video of the property I live on as well as the farm next door. As we were outside we experienced a light, quick rainstorm lasting only about five minutes. I said we need to look for the rainbow. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind. But like with most great friends, she followed me as I went from the back to the front of the house. And much to her surprise and delight (and my personal satisfaction and redemption) was a beautiful rainbow. Certainly a rainbow wasn't planned image in the video she was taking back home to share with family and friends. If she posts this video to YouTube someday her rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is quite interesting.

Sometimes our friends tell us things that we don't believe, don't want to believe, don't hear, selectively don't hear, or change what we hear. Yet we always know when someone is or is not really listening to us by what they say or how they respond. I have been more than a thousand miles away from my family and friends for the past two years and for those that really listen to me, the distance or my time away has not mattered. Sometimes listening is all the validation we need to know that someone genuinely cares about us. And when two people listen to each other, both become more strengthened as individuals and in the friendship. Do you know who strengthens you?

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