Crostata, crostata, where have you been all my life? I discovered this Italian classic on Letizia Mattiacci’s website. I recently shared a post about her cooking school and writer’s retreat . On a mountaintop in the rugged Italian region of Umbria, Letizia and her husband Ruurd run a B&B with a cooking school, Alla Madonna del Piatto.
I can make Greek filo – those paper thin leaves used for sweet and savory pies – blindfolded, but sweet short pastry has eluded me. I was a pastry klutz. Until now. And following Letizia’s instructions, the pastry even rolled out without breaking. I think I’ve passed a basic pastry IQ test. Although it traditionally may not include a pastry topping, I couldn’t resist a simple lattice, using the leftover pastry.
I made two minor adjustments to Letizia’s recipe – I used 1/4 cup sugar (instead of 1/2 cup) and organic spelt flour instead of pastry flour. I didn’t know making this pastry was so easy: 1 3/4 cups flour, sugar, one egg, 125g butter, a little salt and a tsp of vanilla. The secret to melt-in-the-mouth pastry is not to overknead the dough – just 1 minute is enough.
- Berry crostata recipe: I spread a layer of St Balfour’s Strawberry Conserve (sweetened with grape juice rather than white death) and then added a handful of fresh raspberries (or use frozen).
- Because delicious liquid oozes out of the berries while the crostata cooks, I made sure the tart had rested for 15 minutes after I took it out of the oven, so the berry juice had melded with the strawberry conserve.
I served it with light ricotta and a sprig of chocolate mint leaves. This is a herb one of my daughters bought me two Christmases ago, and I confess I haven’t used it much. But it has an incredible ZING and goes perfectly with this dessert. The chocolate and mint flavours are so intense and fresh, it’s like having a party in your mouth.
Crostata is versatile. Letizia recommends fig jam. Peaches, apricots (tried this, works perfectly) are equally as delicious, as is spiced apple. And the moral of the crostata story is: If you can’t go to Italy right now, bring a little Umbria to your table…
For more recipes and info about her cooking classes, go to: Alla Madonna del Piatto