Friday, September 13, 2019

Is It A Cookie Or A Tart?

Recently our local newspaper, the Press Democrat, has a delicious sounding recipe in the Food Section. It was for a Crostata with jam. A crostata is sort of a cross between a cookie and a tart. It's baked in a tart pan, but uses a dough for the base which is cookie-like and fluffier than a usual tart dough. The filling is usually jam. I used a combination of good quality apricot jam and fresh, cooked peaches, lightly mashed and scented and flavored with almond extract. It made for a delightful dessert which I served for afternoon tea yesterday. With a topping of pieces of some of the tart dough and a sprinkle of sliced almonds, it looks very pretty and tastes divine.

My health improves day by day, which is very encouraging. It's nice to finally have enough energy to try a new recipe. Sweetie is happy because I'm also cooking again. Mostly simple things like steamed corn on the cob and salads, but now and again a little more complicated like last night when I marinated some portabella mushrooms for sandwiches. Sweetie did the grilling. I'll try and post the recipe soon.

Back to the crostata. When you are putting the dough into the bottom of the pan, keep flouring your hands as they get sticky for the most even crust. Don't forget to set aside the 1/2 cup of dough for the top. You can chill it while you work on the tart. Do plan on enough time to also chill the dough-filled tart pan for at least 20 minutes.

If you are using some or all pre-made jam (as I did), be sure to taste it and add some lemon juice, as needed, to make it a bit tart. If you are making your own jam, you can taste it and add sugar if needed as you make it. You can also make the jam ahead of time, up to 1 week before making the crostata.

You'll only need small pieces of this crostata. Try it with a nice cup of hot tea and take a few moments to relax. If you used fresh, seasonal fruit, you can think of the wonders of harvest time, too.

Jam Crostata
based on a recipe originally in the New York Times, by Melissa Clark
Makes 8 servings

For the jam - use at least 12 oz. good quality pre-made jam, or make your own as follows:
3 cups blackberries
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons minced fresh lemon verbena (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sliced almonds
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, stir together the blackberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon verbena (if using). Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as the mixture starts to bubble and reduce. When the mixture has reduced and looks syrupy (about 30 minutes), stir in lemon juice and zest. Taste and add sugar if necessary. This depends on how sweet your berries were to begin with.
Cook for 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When the jam is thickened and shiny but still slightly runnier than you expect jam to be, take it off the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.
Scrape jam into a bowl or heatproof container, stir in vanilla and let cool to room temperature.
Taste and stir in a little more lemon juice if jam is very sweet. At this point, the cooled jam can be chilled for up to 1 week.
Note: I used 10 oz. pre-made apricot jam and then used the instructions (but not the quantities) above to make a peach jam to combine with the apricot jam to make my crostata filling. I used a tiny bit of almond extract instead of vanilla and no extra sugar since my peach was quite ripe and sweet.

For the crust - allow time to chill
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
12 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours; set aside. In a second bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and almond extract until combined, then beat in flour, only beating until flour is incorporated.
Scoop 1/2 cup of the dough into a covered container and chill. Transfer remaining dough into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and use floured finders to press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of the tart pan and up the sides. Chill for at least 20 minutes
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread cooled jam evenly into the crust the, using your fingers, crumble reserved chilled 1/2 cup dough over the jam. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and Demerara sugar (if using).
Bake until golden, 35 to 48 minutes. Let cool completely to room temperature before serving.

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