Blackberry Balsamic Crostata

IMG_8658Seasonal fresh fruits are nutritious and delicious any time of the year but, I find the berries of summer to be a special treat. They can be added to yogurt, cereal or granola, used in or on your favorite pancakes, transformed into jams or baked into scones.

I usually just serve them plain or with a dab of sweetened whipped cream.  However, the fresh blackberries I recently purchased  were less than the flavorful, sweet berries I was expecting. The solution? Make a pie. Crostata is an Italian free-form pie. It’s easy to prepare and turns not-so-sweet fruit into a delicious dessert.

When I lived in California, a favorite family activity was to pick berries at a family farm in Watsonville. Gizdich Ranch has a variety of berries but, it was the olallieberries that we enjoyed most. These berries are a cross between a Logan and a Young berry. They are tangy yet sweet and are perfect for making pies.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups blackberries (or olallieberries), rinsed
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 2 cup flour, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, cut into pieces, chilled
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • Sparkling sugar (course)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the berries, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and lemon zest. Allow to macerate while you prepare the crust. This technique draws the moisture out of the fruit creating a syrup as it combines with the sugar. The drained syrup is then used to make a quick balsamic sauce to add after the crostata is baked. This method results in a perfectly-baked crust rather than one that is soggy.
  2. Using a food processor, combine 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar and salt. Place the cold butter into the processor and pulse until it is thoroughly incorporated. Mixture should resemble cornmeal.
  3. Add the vanilla and ice water and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten out the dough and then roll it into a rectangle. A crostata can be round, as in peach crostata or caramelized onion, fig and Gorgonzola crostata, but, sometimes I make them oval or rectangular. The reason for this is nothing more than the “shape” of the dish I want to serve it in. However, I am partial to the rectangle because there is more crust with each bite, which is why the end slices are my favorite.
  4. With a slotted spoon, remove the berries (save the syrup) and place on the unbaked crust. starting in the center, leaving about a 2-inch border around the edge.
  5. Fold the dough up and over the berries. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges with water and sprinkle on sparkling sugar.
  6. Bake in a 375* oven for 30-35 minutes. Crust should be golden brown. Let cool.
  7. When you are ready to serve, place the reserved syrup and the balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer just a minute ( you don’t want it to thicken too much). Drizzle the sauce on the crostata and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

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