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Monday, August 8, 2011

Fig and Blackberry Crostata

A couple of weekends ago, I had invited a few friends over for brunch. I wanted to make this a special occasion. Sometimes, it feels good to turn an ordinary day into something special by inviting friends over and cooking something special. Of course, I started planning the menu as soon as the invitations were sent and finally decided on waffles with mixed berry syrup, hash browns and home made bread along with assortments of jams and preserves. But, I was still missing that something which would make the menu all the more special. So, I finally asked my husband for suggestions. He reminded me about a crostata that I had made earlier and I decided to make it. A crostata, I believe is a type of Italian pie and it seemed the perfect addition to the menu.

I had just bought some fresh figs and decided to make a fig and blackberry filling. The recipe is from the "Baking with Julia" book, and I made some modifications based on the fruits I had on hand.  The end result was delicious. The pie made sixteen medium servings and we enjoyed the pie for dessert  over the next couple of days as well.

For the crust
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp lemon zest
8 ounces/2 sticks/ 16 tbps butter, cut into small cubes, and chilled

For the filling
16 ripe fresh figs, cut into quarters
12 ounces (1.5 cups) blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1.5 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp unsalted butter

For the egg wash and topping
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1-2 tbsp granulated sugar

To make the crostata crust
Lightly toast the almonds. Then toast the sesame seeds. Cool both before using further. Grind together the almonds, sesame seeds and 1 tbsp of sugar. The resulting mixture should be powdered and not overly processed to the stage where the oils are released. In a bowl, add the vanilla extract to the eggs and whisk them together. In another bowl, mix together the almond and sesame powder, flour, remaining sugar, cinnamon, salt and the lemon zest. Then add the butter a little at a time and mix till the mixture becomes crumbly. There maybe some pieces of butter still remaining. Do not overmix the dough. Add the eggs and them mix till the dough comes together. At this stage, take it out onto a floured surface and knead gently a couple of times to bring all the ingredients together. Any pie crust should not be overworked as it will impact the flakiness of the crust. Then cut the dough into two unequal pieces. Wrap each piece up in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

To make the filling
Mix together half of the figs and blackberries, both sugars, butter, flour and lemon zest and heat it over low heat. Cook till the mixture reaches  a boil and starts to thicken. Stir occasionally. Turn off the heat and add the remaining fruit to the cooked mixture and set aside.

To assemble the crostata
Remove the smaller piece of the crust dough and roll it out to get about a 10 inch diameter. Use a well floured surface covered with parchment paper to roll it out. Then cut this into half inch strips. Slip the parchment paper onto a plate/baking tray and refrigerate. Then roll out the larger piece of dough to about an 11 inch circle or to cover the entire pie dish or tart pan, with a bit of dough as overhang. Now, using your rolling pin, roll the rolled out circle onto the pin and transfer gently to the pie dish. Then using your fingers gently press down the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pie dish. Trim the dough that is over the sides leaving about 1/8th of an inch. You can shape the side of the pie if you want. If using a tart pan, press it well into the ridges of the pan and then remove the excess dough that comes up the sides.

Next, make the egg wash, by beating together one egg with one tbsp of water.

Next, pour the cooled fruit filling into the pie dish and make sure that it is spread in an even layer. Then brush the sides of the pie shell with the egg wash. Remove the strips from the fridge and arrange these onto the top of the pie in the form of a lattice. Use half the strips in a vertical direction and the remaining to form the horizontal strips. Based on the length of the strips, place them onto the edges or the center of the pie dish. Place on horizontal strip and then the vertical strip. Do this till all the strips are used up. Based on the number of strips you have cut, decide how far apart you will need to place them to cover the entire top surface. Now chill the assembled crostata in the fridge for at least half an hour.

While the pie chills, preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the crostata from the fridge and brush the top lattice with egg wash. Then sprinkle some sugar on top of the strips. Bake for about 45 mins to an hour till the crostata is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Transfer to a cooling rack and then you can move the crostata out of the pie dish upon cooling. You can also serve it from the pie dish. Serve at room temperature. 

Plan to start the process of making the dough a few hours before you plan to bake it. Serve it the day you cook it. It keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. Reheat in the microwave or in the oven before serving. You can toast the almonds and sesame seeds in the microwave. Heat it for a minute at a time till you can get the toasted smell. I lined the pie dish with parchment paper before assembling the pie, for easy removal. You can also use a pan with a removable bottom to make this. Use a spatula to easily remove the strips and place them onto the pie. You can chill this overnight and then bake this a couple of hours before you plan to serve it. You can refrigerate the egg wash. Cover it with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Keep the pie dish on a larger baking sheet before putting it in the oven. This way if the filling bubbles over, it will not fall onto the heating elements in the oven.
Store leftovers in the fridge and reheat in a 350F oven till brought up to room temperature before serving.


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