autumn apple crostata

by ALLISSA on September 25, 2011

Golden Autumn Apple Crostata

Things I fear: 1) Snakes. Any kind, anywhere. Especially in bodies of water. 2) Writer’s block. For me, it equates to lots of wasted time and unending pushing of the backspace button. 3) Loss. You know, losing stuff. Mostly, the really big stuff. 4) Making pastry dough.

There. I said it. I am afraid to make make pastry dough. Pie dough and pizza dough, too. Any kind of dough, actually. I buy it at the store, in a neat little box. Pathetic, I know. But, eventually, we all come face-to-face with our fears, or at least we should if we ever want to grow and develop and become wise and stuff. So, you know, I kind of dabbled in pastry dough today. All in the name of apple crostata.

I’ve long had my eyes open for different ways to use the abundance of apples that I bring into my home every fall. I can’t help myself. The selection is stellar, at both the orchards and the farmer’s market. The taste is decidedly autumn, especially in pies during the holiday season. In my eyes, apples are perfect little spheres of simple, honest goodness.

Last weekend, I picked up a quart of apples, the Ozark Gold variety, at the market. These are particularly tart apples, but I like them that way. I got caught up with work and put them aside all week, until I found an interesting recipe for an apple tart-like pastry called crostata. According to Google and my cookbook, a crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart filled with fruit. It’s kind of like pie, but it’s more free-form, a little rustic bundle of doughy, fruity genius. I was sold. Except for that homemade pastry dough part.

Ozark Apples for Crostata

Sliced Butter for Apple Crostata

Pastry Dough for Apple Crostata

Sliced Ozark Apples for Crostata

Apple Crostata Pastry Dough

Turns out, it’s pretty simple to make pastry dough. There aren’t many ingredients and it doesn’t take long to mesh it all together. So, turns out, there was really nothing to fear. I mean, if you forget the part when I read, but obviously did not comprehend, the recipe for Deluxe Butter Pastry Dough and added vegetable oil instead of vegetable shortening. OIL instead of SHORTENING. Do you see what I mean about fearing loss? I’m clearly losing my ability to read. ‘Cuz the recipe very obviously listed vegetable shortening.

Surprisingly, the mistake (which – since we’ve known each other for a few months now, I need to confess – I didn’t even realize until I sat down to type this post) didn’t totally screw up this recipe. I still managed to make a nice little dough, though it was a bit gummy at times. I added a dash of flour here and a dash there (repeatedly) as I rolled it out onto the baking stone. I was eventually able to wrap it up and over the apple slices.

Ozark Apples on Pastry Dough

Pastry Dough with Sliced Apples

I suppose my lack of ability to read directions also contributed to the rather un-golden brown color of this particular crostata, but that didn’t affect the taste, which was almost like apple pie, but not quite as sweet or flaky. I would have liked to top this off with some vanilla ice cream, but it was (im)perfectly fine on its own. The good news – I have conquered my fear of making pastry dough. The bad news – I think I’ve found a replacement. Fear of messing up pastry dough, again.

Autumn Apple Crostata

Autumn Apple Crostata

(adapted from the Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition)

Ingredients for deluxe butter pastry dough:

  • 1  1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 stick of cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/8 cup of chilled vegetable shortening
  • 3 tablespoons of ice water
Ingredients for crostata:
  • 3 large tart apples, peeled/cored/sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons of melted, unsalted butter cooled to room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Directions for deluxe butter pastry dough:
  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt.
  2. Add half of the butter and half of the shortening and work both into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or your fingers.
  3. Add the remaining butter and shortening and continue working it into the dough until the dough is pea-sized.
  4. Add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time and blend it into the dough until the mixture barely holds together. (Note: you can add another 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of ice water if the dough is too dry.)
  5. Shape the dough into a disc and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Directions for crostata:
  1. Move a rack to the lower third of the oven.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Roll out the pastry dough on a baking sheet or a pizza stone (I chose the latter) until it is 11- or 12-inches in diameter. (Note: I sprinkled flour on both sides of the dough and on my rolling pin, as necessary, to prevent any sticking.)
  4. Brush the pastry with a thin coat of the melted butter.
  5. Position the apple slices in a concentric circle about an inch from the edge of the dough. Fill in the circle with more slices until it’s packed fairly tightly.
  6. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the apple slices.
  7. Drizzle some of the melted butter over the apples and the dough, saving about 2 teaspoons for later use.
  8. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle about 3/4 of it over the apples.
  9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pastry begins to turn color.
  10. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and remove the baking sheet from the oven, just briefly, to add the rest of the butter and sugar mixture to the pastry.
  11. Slide the pastry back into the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it turns golden brown.
  12. When finished, remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Slice like pie and serve.

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