It’s the 4th of July, and we are ending our culinary celebration of Independence Day with Crostatine di Frutta, or fruit tarts.
The Italian pasticceria is delectable; delicate, not too sweet, as pleasing to look at as to eat. Le Crostine di Frutta are off-spring of the classic Crostata di Frutta, a tried-and-true tart made with the biscuit-like pasta frolla crust covered with crema pasticcera, or home-made pastry cream, topped with fresh seasonal fruit and glistening with a gelatin glaze.
This recipe is from our sister-in-law and splendid cook, Valentina, who once wrote all of her family’s favorite recipes into a small little book for me. It is my most treasured “cookbook” and each year I tell myself that I need to have the pages laminated so that they will endure.
We opted for individual tarts, which are easier to manage today as we are eating outside on the patio at the lake, with kids out-numbering adults nearly two to one. For more formal events, nothing is more spectacular than an entire crostata, with the glossy fruit arranged in swirling patterns of color.
It’s said that one travels in order to get to know one’s own country better. Stefano and I have lived in three different countries on two different continents. I was born in the United States, and moved away for a decade. Stefano was born abroad, and moved to the United States a decade ago.
There is no perfect place, and our nation certainly has its flaws. However, despite its imperfections the United States truly is a remarkable country, made up of generation after generation of peoples from all parts of the world, each coming to America in search of freedom of religion, democracy, political freedom, and pursuit of a better life, and in doing so making the fabric of our nation richer and stronger.
Happy Birthday to the United States of America!
Crostatine di Frutta
makes 12 tarts
*Individual pastry shells
3 egg yolks
3 heaping Tbls. flour
3 Tbls. sugar
3 cups milk
Seasonal soft fresh fruit:
**2 bags of powdered gelatin glaze
Arrange your pastry shells on a large baking sheet. Set aside. Prepare the crema pasticcera by adding the egg yolks and sugar to a medium size pot. Mix until homogenous. Gradually add the milk, and then the flour, mixing continually. Squeeze the juice out of the quartered lemon and insert a fork into it peel side down. Place the pot onto the stove on low heat, and stir continually with the lemon-tipped fork until the mixture thickens into a creamy, pudding-like consistency. Allow it to boil for two minutes, stirring continually, and then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Wash your fruit and lay it out onto a clean dishcloth to dry. Cut into small, uniform pieces any fruit that requires cutting, such as peaches, kiwi or strawberries.
Once the crema is warm but not hot, stir it well with a wire whisk while still in the pot in order to smooth out any agglomerations and to remove the film that will have formed on top, and then spoon the crema into the pastry shells until full.
Prepare the gelatin as per the directions on the package. If it calls for liquid, use water. Do not add lemon or orange juice, this will cloud the gelatin. Set aside to cool. We add a spoonful or two of sugar to sweeten it slightly.
Add the fruit on top of the cream, arranging it however suits your fancy. When the gelatin is cool enough, spoon it generously over the fruit, covering as much of it as you can.
Allow the tarts to sit at room temperature until the gelatin solidifies some. Remove them from the baking tray, which will have collected the gelatin spills, and transfer to a different serving platter. Refrigerate at least 1-2 hours before serving. These are best eaten same day. They will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but the pastry shells will absorb the moisture of the cream and gelatin, and will become quite soft.
*We buy large dessert-size sweet tart shells from Clearbrook Farms, which come in boxes of 12. You will need two boxes for this recipe.
**We use Tortagel from the Italian producer Paneangeli and prefer powdered gelatin to gelatin sheets. One brand available in local grocery stores is Dr. Oetker Powdered Gelatine. However, any gelatin product will work just fine.