Monday, August 10, 2009

Simple Rustic Fruit Crostata

Though I truly don't consider myself a lover of sweets, preferring another helping of whatever potato or cheesy concoction is on the menu, I've been a bit of a baker/dessert maker lately. I even got together with a friend of mine a few weeks ago to test ALL the no-churn ice cream recipes that our local paper had featured in one of their weekly food sections...a welcome distraction from the heat wave we were having at the time. And, not being a gadget girl, the no-churn element (versus hauling out the ice cream maker) was very attractive. Other than this ice cream making diversion, my dessert obsessions of late have been baked.

Perhaps the fact that summer is such a time of gatherings has contributed to my baking frenzy. When you have friends or family over, it seems that dessert is always on the menu. For everyday nights, however, we try to refrain!

With simple and delicious being my "go to" objectives when it comes to dessert, especially, I've turned to my super simple Crostata more than a few times this summer. Not only is our fruit selection amazing right now, this dessert is just SO simple (and delicious) that it's especially perfect when you have an entire meal to plan. While I've definitely made the more involved tarts, cakes and breads, I "cheat" with this one by using a prepared pie crust dough (specifically Pillsbury's rolled pie crusts that you can find in the refrigerated section of the grocery store). Honestly, they turn out so great that you get over the guilt of cheating on the crust fairly quickly.

I've made this Crostata with a variety of fruits...pear/blueberry, nectarine/raspberry, apple/raisin, peach/strawberry...the combinations are limited only by your own imagination and preference. Given that I love blueberries, I ended up with a two-pound container while grocery shopping yesterday. Knowing that we are on the final fringes of blueberry season, I'm trying to get as many of these little gems as possible. Apart from desserts, I toss them in salads, cereal, oatmeal...or just enjoy them by the handful. Considered a "superfood," blueberries are an excellent source of I suppose my Crostata might qualify as a health food???? 

For this particular Crostata, I chose white nectarines to pair with my blueberries (one of my favorite combinations). Though I only made one Crostata this time, this is a perfect dessert to take to a potluck because you can easily make two, four, or more, with no more effort than prepping a few more fruits and pulling out a few more crusts.

To get started, take your pie crust(s) out of the freezer (or fridge, if you've just purchased them) and let them sit out a bit to thaw. While your crust is thawing, you can prep your fruit (slicing the nectarines and mixing them with the blueberries, flour and sugar). Once thawed, just unroll the crust onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and place your fruit mixture in the center of your crust, leaving an edge of about two inches for folding up. You just lift the edge and pleat and press as you go, creating a little crimped "basket" around your fruit.  

Then baste the crimped edge with a little egg wash (left) and dust with a little sparkling sugar (right). The sugared edge makes for a nice presentation...and a little sweetened touch.

This whole process comes together so quickly, I've often done this an hour before getting ready to go out and jumped in the shower while it baked. It's that simple!

You can serve this alone or with a little whipped cream or ice cream. Yum!

Simple Rustic Fruit Crostata
serves 6

4 white nectarines, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups blueberries 
1-2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (depending on juiciness of fruit)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
squeeze of lemon (approx. 1/2 teaspoon) 
1 Pillsbury prepared, refrigerated, "rolled" pie crust 
1 egg
1 teaspoon milk
2 tablespoons sparkling sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam (or any that you prefer)
1 tablespoon water

1. Take pie crust out of freezer or fridge to thaw. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine nectarine slices and blueberries in a medium bowl. Add flour, sugar and splash of lemon. Mix to combine.

3. Unroll pie crust on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place fruit mixture in center of crust, leaving an approximate 2-inch edge to fold over fruit. Lift edge and pleat and pinch to create a "basket" around filling.

4. Whisk egg and 1 teaspoon milk to create an egg wash. Brush wash onto "folded" edge of crust only. Sprinkle "washed" edge of crust with sparkling sugar. Place cookie sheet with Crostata into a 375 degree oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes.

5. Remove Crostata from oven and let cool for approximately 10 minutes. Over medium heat, mix jam and water to create a liquified wash for fruit. Brush jam mixture on fruit portion of Crostata to glisten fruit (which will appear a little dry when baked). Serve alone or with whipped cream or ice cream.