Ciao! Cara here. Today on my way to work I found myself behind a car sporting a simple bumper sticker with the message “Love People. Feed Them Tasty Food.” This, I thought, sums up why I cook and bake. Nourishing people with good food is one of the things I find most pleasurable.
The act of preparing food nourishes my spirit, as well. Much of my day is spent in the intellectual, analytical realm. Preparing food is a much more primal activity, involving taste, smell, and often, touch. It requires a balance of process and experimentation, structure and improvisation.
La Crostata di Marmellata is a perfect expression of this. With my KitchenAid mixer still and forgotten in the background, I work the dough by hand right on my kitchen countertop, kneading it until the butter warms to the right temperature and the mixture comes together into a golden, elastic sphere.
There is nothing better in the world than the smell of a crostata baking in the oven.
La crostata can be paired with Vin Santo, an Italian dessert wine with a thick, viscous texture and nut, toffee, caramel and raisin flavors. Vin Santo has a crisp acidity that balances the sweetness of the jam and goes well with the crostata’s shortbread-like crust.
Vin Santo, which means Holy Wine, reportedly acquired its name during the 14th century in the Tuscan countryside near the city of Siena when wine left-over from mass was used to cure illness and disease.
La Crostata di Marmellata
250 grams flour*
100 grams sugar
A pinch of salt
100 grams butter
2 eggs (one whole, one yolk)
Zest of 1 lemon
Fruit jam of your choice
if available: **Lievito di Pane degli Angeli, made by the brand Paneangeli
Pour the flour, sugar and salt onto a clean work space, or if you prefer into a large mixing bowl. If you are using Pane degli Angeli, pour half of one packet into a tea strainer, and then sprinkle the contents of the packet through the strainer onto your dry mixture, eliminating any clumps. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add one whole egg and one egg yolk to the center of the well, followed by the butter cut into thin slices, and the lemon zest. Using your hands, mix the dough quickly, working from the wet center and gradually incorporating more dry ingredients. As you mix, the warmth of your hands will soften the butter and eventually the dough will come together into a smooth, elastic sphere. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the dough refrigerates, butter and flour a 9-inch tart or shallow round cake pan, and preheat the oven to 350° F. When the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and unwrap it, spreading the plastic wrap out on your countertop and placing 2/3 of the dough on top of it. Roll the dough out to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Using the plastic wrap to help you, turn the dough into the prepared pan. Press the dough tightly against the edges of the pan, trimming the excess.
Spread the jam evenly over the base of the dough. Use enough jam to cover the surface, but avoid excess. Use your hands to roll the remaining dough into thin strips that can be placed on top of the crostata in a lattice pattern. Trim the strips even with the edge of the pan, and use a fork to create fluted edges.
Bake for 40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the jam is bubbling.
* See Methods section for more information on measurement units, including a link to conversion tables
**Lievito di Pane Degli Angeli is an Italian leavening agent. It renders the crust soft and light, but is not necessary – crostata can be made without it and many recipes do not call for it. If you decide to try it, you can find it on Amazon.com by searching the brand name, Paneangeli. The image below will help you know what to look for.