Crostata di Marmellata - Jam Crostata
Very simple country fare, a jam crostata is delicious especially if made with good homemade jam. The crostata is made by spreading a thin layer of pasta frolla (a close relative of shortbread) over the bottom of a pan, topping it with homemade jam, and baking it. I personally tend to be very picky with crostata, as baking the jam concentrates its flavor and can make it cloying sweet. My husband, on the other hand, absolutely loves it and wherever we go, if he sees crostata is available, that is what he picks to end the meal (he also loves any dessert with ricotta in it!)
Makes: 1 crostata which can serve 6-8 slices
To make a crostata, you need to start with the pasta frolla with is pretty standard:
- 200 gr (about 1 1/2 cups) flour
- 100 gr (about 1/2 cup) sugar
- 100 gr (about 1/2 cup less a tsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg and 1 yolk
- pinch of salt
For the topping, you'll need 2 cups good quality fruit jam - in Tuscany, the most commonly used are blackberry and apricot, but strawberry, raspberry, fig or plum are also delicious.
To make the crostata:
Mix the flour and sugar and pinch of salt, then in the center add the butter cut into little pieces, the egg and yolk and quickly blend, handling everything as little as possible to keep the butter from melting too much (a pastry blender makes this part easier). Mix until you have a smooth ball. If you have the time, or if it is more convenient for you, you can make the dough a day ahead of time because it improves with age. In any case, you need to let it rest, covered, at least for an hour.
In the meantime, prepare your jam. By baking it the flavor gets concentrated so if you start with a very sweet jam, you should warm it in a saucepan and add a little bit of lemon juice to make it less sweet. If it is thick, also warm it and add a little water to help dilute it. It should be easy to spread but not too watery and not too sweet.
Once your dough has rested, butter a flat-bottomed 12 inch round pan and preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C). Roll the dough out to about between 1/4 and 1/2 inch (about 1 cm) thick on a lightly floured surface. You want to do this quickly, without working the dough to much otherwise it becomes crumbly after baking. Set the dough over your pan and work in the corners, cut the extra pieces around the edge off and spread the ham on the dough. With the extra pieces of dough, reroll and cut into half an inch strips and lay them over the jam in a cross-hatch pattern. Save enough of the dough to add a thin ring around the border to create a rim, fluting with your hand a little or with the back of a fork. My attempt above was without a cutter, you can tell but it was delicious in any case!
Bake the crostata for about 20 minutes, or until the dough begins to brown, at the most 30-40 minutes. Do not let it overbake or the pasta frolla will become hard as stone and the jam will become as sticky as glue.