Peach & blueberry crostata

Italians are inordinately fond of crostate, simple short-crust tarts made with jam and/or fresh fruit.  Large crostate are a common dessert, and tiny ones even make an appearance at breakfast.  Throughout the country, crostate are as ubiquitous as brownies in the U.S.  Sadly, I have no local bakery source for these simple sweets, so I’ve been working to perfect my crostata.

Thanks to Carol Field’s The Italian Baker, I can quickly and easily replicate the crust.  By making a  single batch of pasta frolla crust and dividing it into four, I can freeze dough portions just large enough to cover an 8-inch, removable bottom tart pan.  The frozen dough defrosts at room temperature, achieving roll-ability, in 30 to 45 minutes.

(See Carol Field’s pasta frolla recipe online at Jessica’s Biscuit.  And buy the book anyway, because it’s excellent.)

The filling–usually nothing but jam straight out of a jar–turned out to be the hard part.  Italian jams contain less sugar and more fruit than their American counterparts.  Even the “better” brands of supermarket jam turned sticky-sweet and runny after baking.  Eventually, I found that D’Arbo brand Austrian jams have enough fruit content to hold their own once baked into a tart, but I don’t have a consistent source for D’Arbo.  But certain flavors of Bonne Maman brand worked well; the wild blueberry preserves are the top crostata performer in my kitchen.

Back to the tart:  once the dough is pressed into a pan, partially bake it at 350 for 10-15 minutes until it just begins to brown around the edges.  Remove it from the oven and spoon on 3-5 tablespoons of good quality jam, spreading it nearly to the edges.  Top with a layer of thinly sliced stone fruit.  Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes (or longer, for a more deeply browned crust).  The peach-blueberry tart pictured above was baked in a $40 convection toaster oven, so I didn’t even have to heat up my kitchen to turn out this treat.

With minimal active time, the tart goes from freezer to table in an hour and a half, with minimal active time.  Pretty enough for guests, yet simple enough for breakfast, and an ideal way to use up summer’s peaches and plums.


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