Inspired by a friend’s recent trip to Italy and my own desire to be in Italy right this minute, I adapted a crostata recipe found in Gourmet Italian Kitchen Issue and made it a bit different with citrusy flavors and vanilla aromas. The pâte brisée or pasta frolla as the Italian call it will remind Americans of shortbread. If you’re not used to deal with pâte brisée aka sweetcrust pastry, you will need to know that it breaks easily but can be patched back together very well.
Ingredients for the dough:
2 cups (200 g) of flour
1/4 cup (50 g) of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1.5 stick (170 g) of butter (cold and cut in cubes)
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
In a big bowl, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter cubes and mix well with your hands, warming the cubes, and creating small lumps of butter. The mixture should be coarse. Dig a well in the center and add the yolks and vanilla extract. Slowly, start filling the well with the flour around and gently stir with your fingers. The dough should start to form at this point. Knead gently. Once the dough is formed and rolled into a ball, divide the dough in half with a sharp knife and wrap in plastic. Keep in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Ingredients for the filling:
10 oz. or 1.5 cup (280 g) of soft dried Calimyrna figs (stemmed and cut in half)
1 cup (150 g) of dried apricots
1/2 cup (100 g) of brown sugar
1 1/4 cup (30 cl) of water – replace some of the water by Cointreau or Grand Marnier if you feel like it
1 cup (25 cl) of grapefruit juice
1 stick (115 g) of butter (melted and cooled)
3 eggs (beaten)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 teaspoons of lemon zest
1.5 cup (170 g) of walnuts (chopped) – or mix with some almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C).
Cook the figs and the apricots in a saucepan with the water, grapefruit juice and sugar. Stir often and let simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Pour the mixture in a food processor and blend. You should get a thick mixture. Transfer to a bowl to cool a bit. Stir in the butter, eggs, vanilla, zest and walnuts.
Remove 1 dough ball from the fridge. Roll it out into a 11-inch disc. I used a 9-inch pan for this recipe. If you are having issues with rolling the dough, try rolling it between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Place the dough in the pan and adjust with your fingers pressing it onto the bottom. Trim excess dough on the sides. If it broke in the process, patch it together with left over dough. Put the pan in the fridge to chill some more.
Roll out the second dough ball – same process. When the 11-inch round disc is ready, cut 10 strips of dough (about 1-inch-wide) and place on a tray. Put the tray in the fridge for 20 min.
Assemble the crostata by removing the pan and the tray from the fridge. Pour the fig/apricot filling into the tart shell and arrange 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart on the filling. Do the same with the remaining 5 strips so as to create a lattice. Trim the excess dough if needed from the strips. Sprinkle the crostata with a bit more sugar and bake for 50-60 min. The crostata should be pale golden with a tiny bit of brown when ready.