Seasonal 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fold the dough up and over the berries. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges with water and sprinkle on sparkling sugar.
- Bake in a 375* oven for 30-35 minutes. Crust should be golden brown. Let cool.
- 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.