Wednesday, December 17, 2014
A few years back when I was last in Rome, we lived in the neighborhood of one of the best biscotterias in town. Amongst display cases stacked with amazingly buttery cookies in the shop were cakestands with cloches covering beautifully made jam crostatas. There were only two flavors to choose from: "light" and "dark," which denoted the differences in jam filling. The "light" crostatas were usually filled with something like apricot jam or an apple or citrus marmalade, while the "dark" crostatas usually featured a core of dark berry jam. The crostatas wouldn't be pre-sliced. The proprietress behind the counter would ask us to indicate how large of a slice we want, then she would take a bench scraper and cut the desired slice, charging by weight. Along with the cookies, those slices of crostata were some of my favorite dessert items in Rome.
Since Rome, I've been increasingly infatuated with crostatas and jam tarts. As someone who is a bit obssessive-compulsive in collecting good jam and marmalade, jam tarts are some of the easiest ways for me to finish off large amounts of jam quickly. A while ago, I happened to be visiting at Blue Chair Fruit when Rachel Saunders (jam maker extraordinaire) was serving up slices of her take on an Italian crostata, and I've been hounding her for the recipe ever since. And finally, at last, the crostata recipe appears in the latest Blue Chair Fruit cookbook: Blue Chair Cooks. Naturally, it's the first recipe I turned to.
With a few tweaks on Rachel's recipe, I made an apricot-poppyseed version of the crostata, adding some meyer lemon zest, a sprinkle of lavender buds, and some orange blossom water to the crust for some extra floral flavor against the apricot. The poppyseeds add a satisfying crunch to the top of the crostata. In true Roman biscotteria fashion, I proudly presented the crostatas as my contribution to the annual holiday cookie swap this year. Because, if crostatas have a place in Italian biscotterias, they are more than good enough "cookies" for me.
Read on for recipe....
Apricot & poppyseed crostata
makes one 9-inch crostata, or two 6-inch crostatas
adapted from Blue Chair Cooks
220 g "00" flour
90 g sugar
pinch of salt
2 tspn baking powder
7½ Tbspn unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 egg yolks
zest of 1 meyer lemon
2 tspn dried lavender buds
1 tspn almond extract
1 tspn orange blossom water
2 Tbspn + 1 tspn water
1 egg white, stirred
1 cup apricot jam
1. Combine the 00 flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter, yolks, lemon zest, lavender, almond extract, and orange blossom water. Pulse to combine. Slowly add the water 1 tspn at a time, pulsing briefly between each addition, just until a crumbly dough begins to form. The dough should hold together when pressed between two fingers.
2. Remove the dough from the food processor and form it into a disc. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease one 9-inch tart ring (or two 6-inch tart rings), and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (Or, if using a tart pan instead, lightly grease the inside of the pan, and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.) Set aside.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Reserve one-third of the dough, and set aside. On a floured surface, roll out the remaining two-thirds until about 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer to prepared tart pan(s), press into the pan, repairing any holes, and then trim off the excess dough.
5. Lightly brush the inside of the tart crust with egg white. Spoon in the apricot jam.
6. Roll out the reserved dough on a floured surface and cut into strips with a pastry cutter. Use the strips to form a lattice top on the jam. Brush the lattice top with egg white. Sprinkle generously with poppyseeds.
7. Bake on the center rack for 35 to 40 minutes. When the tarts are golden brown, turn off the oven, and open the oven door completely. Let the tart cool inside the oven with the oven door open for 30 minutes. Then, remove the crostata from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. To unmold, gently run a knife around the edge of the crostata and release from the tart pan or ring.
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