I firmly believe that just like every woman needs a little black dress, that we all need a “go to dessert”. You know when someone calls at the last moment to invite you for dinner and you run around your kitchen trying to figure out what to bring? Yes, I know at times like this we may simply stop off at the local bakery and pick something up, PRETENDING we made it ourselves and hoping no ones asks for the recipe, but fret no further, because I have the perfect, easy, no fail dessert for you that can be put together in mere minutes and takes less than 30 minutes to bake. I am presently living in Umbria, where every Nonna on the block has their own special crostata recipe, but this one can easily hold it’s own in any crostata bake-off. In fact, I have served this dessert in many variations to a number of Italians who have all raved about it. I even used Nutella as a filling recently when my grandchildren were visiting and I have never seen kids gobble up a dessert quicker.
What makes this dessert so great is simply the crust, and I must give complete credit for that to David Lebovitz. I stumbled across the recipe for this crust on his website a while back and have not looked back since, and have in fact made it in many variations countless times after first trying the recipe. I have always appreciated the simplicity of a buttery crusted basic jam crostata which can be found in every pasticeria across Italy and I myself used to make my own version with the basic “chill it & roll it” crust until I discovered this one. This crust can be thrown together quickly, and is then simply pressed into the tart pan. No more chilling and rolling, worrying about cracks, or trying to stretch the dough to fit your tart pan. And what is great is that the crust is tender and buttery, and the addition of cornmeal adds just a little extra crunch. Now I do believe David Lebovitz does chill his dough before he uses it, but quite honestly in my opinion, it does not require chilling. The addition of corn meal in the dough gives the crust a really great rustic texture, and for this specific recipe I also added some finely chopped walnuts. This recipe is so easy, that I even taught my 6 year old granddaughter how to make this crostata on her recent visit, and she too is now thinking up endless new variations to try out. I do believe her last idea included peanut butter, pears and chocolate, but I think I’ll leave THAT combination for her to try.
Our rental farmhouse is now ready for it’s first guests, and my plan was to perfect a number of quick apple treats (the farmhouse name is Il Casale di Mele ~ Mele is Italian for Apples!) to offer to our guests. I decided recently to use my new favorite crostata crust and create an apple version. Since the crostata only bakes for about 25 minutes, I pre-cooked my apples first to ensure they were tender when the tart was finished baking. I also added some finely chopped walnuts to the crust and the topping which really worked out well. You could also add some raisins to the apples, or add a splash of liqueur such as Amaretto to the apples while they are cooking. I simply diced my apples and cooked them in a little butter, sugar and cinnamon. Before baking, I also tossed the apples with 1 cup of quince jam but you could even leave that step out if you prefer. I do apologize for the quality of the photo but IPhoto recently lost over 1,500 of my recent photos, including ones for this crostata. That will teach me the importance of backing up my images regularly!
Deborah Mele 2011
- 4 Baking Apples, Peeled, Cored And Cut Into 1 Inch Dice
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 Tablespoons Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
- 1 Cup Quince Jam (Optional)
- 9 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
- 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 Large Egg
- 1 Large Egg Yolk
- 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour
- 1/2 Cup Finely Ground Cornmeal
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Walnuts
- In a heavy frying pan heat the butter until melted and then add the apples, sugar and cinnamon.
- Toss together and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat until the apples are tender.
- Mix together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until well blended.
- Add the egg and egg yolk and continue to mix just until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder and cinnamon.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix just until the dough comes together.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Take about 3/4 of a cup of the dough mixture, mix it with the chopped walnuts and set it aside.
- Press the remaining dough into the bottom and up the sides of a 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
- Spoon the apple mixture into the crust and use a spoon to smooth across the bottom crust.
- Using your fingers, break up the remaining crust mixture into small pea sized pieces and drop along the outer edges of the tart, leaving the center section of jam uncovered.
- Bake the tart in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until it is lightly browned.
- Remove from the oven and cool 10 minutes before serving.