Friday, July 24, 2009

176. Sour Cherry Crostata (p. 779)

Nothing says Fourth of July better than cherry pie. I decided to make this recipe for our family's Fourth cookout with some sour cherries I had kicking around in my freezer since last summer. But this isn't your usual cherry pie. In fact, it isn't a pie at all. It's a crostata, a tart made with Italian pasta frolla, a shortbread-like dough that's sweeter, and more cookie-like than regular pie crust.

First, I made the pasta frolla. I beat some softened butter and sugar in my Kitchen Aid for a few minutes. Using a fork, I lightly beat an egg and put all but one tablespoon of it into the batter (the reserved tablespoon is for an egg wash on the top of the crust after the pie is assembled). Then I beat in some vanilla extract, flour, salt and lemon zest. I stopped beating once it formed a crumbly dough. I gathered it up into a ball, divided it up into two pieces, flattened them into discs and put them in the refrigerator to firm up.

Next, I made the filling. I heated some butter in a deep skillet and added the frozen cherries and some sugar. (The Book calls for either fresh cherries or frozen ones that are not thawed.) I cooked the cherries until they were soft but still intact, and had exuded a lot of their juices. Then, I mixed together some cornstarch and water and stirred it into the hot cherries and brought it to a boil. The cornstarch had the desired effect of thickening the filling, but it also had an undesired effect of making some big congealed chunks of cornstarch. (Maybe I didn't stir it enough or fast enough while it boiled?) Anyway, I was able to pick out most of the clumps, so it turned out OK. I spread the filling into a shallow dish and put it in the refrigerator to cool while I rolled out the dough.

I took one of the dough disks out of the fridge and put it between two pieces of wax paper and rolled it out into about a 12-inch circle. I really liked rolling the dough out this way. I didn't have to mess with flouring the board or rolling pin. It didn't stick to the work surface, and it didn't crack or break. I don't see why you couldn't roll out regular pie crust this way, too. I'm going to give it a try next time. After I rolled out the dough, I peeled off the top layer of wax paper and inverted the dough into a removable-bottomed tart pan. I folded the overhand over and pressed it into the sides of the tart pan to reinforce the edge. I put the tart shell back in the fridge and took out the other dough disk. I rolled it out the same as the first, cut it into ten one-inch wide strips, and put it back in the fridge for a few minutes to get them nice and firm.

Meanwhile, I put a foil-lined baking sheet into the oven and pre-heated it. I filled the chilled tart shell with the cherry filling and arranged the pasta frolla strips in a diagonal lattice. I brushed the lattice with the reserved egg and sprinkled the top of the tart with sugar. I baked the tart for about an hour. The long cooking time meant that there was a little over-browning on the edges of the crust (hello pie shields!) and some bubbling over of the filling (hence to baking sheet).

The Book says that this crostata tastes best the day it's made, but I made it the day before our Fourth of July cookout, and it was great. The crust was sweet and crisp and light. The little bit of lemon zest in the crust gave it an unexpected zip. The filling was excellent. Sweet and thick and full of delicious cherry flavor. And it looked great. It was a real hit at the cookout. Even my nephews, who never eat dessert (kids who don't like dessert? go figure), were all over it.

Date Cooked: July 4, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

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