I love this recipe, and I think it’s partially because this was the first really good pie crust I had ever made. It’s not that the pie crust recipe itself is exceptional, although the splash of vanilla really plays nicely off of the fruit, but rather because it was written specifically to be made in the food processor. Most of my past pie crusts were okay, but nothing memorable and nothing I wanted to do again. Probably because I wasn’t quite sure when to stop mixing, how much water to add, etc. Although this recipe doesn’t quite solve that particular problem, making it in the food processor somehow made it click for me.
This is uber-versatile and can be used with all kinds of fruit. The original recipe called for cherries, another version of it used peaches and blueberries, and it’s pretty much game for any kind of fruit you might bake into a pie. I’ve used peaches, blueberries, blackberries, and apples. I recently won a case (!) of cherries from Whole Foods, so I’m sure I’ll be trying out the cherry version sometime soon.
Crostatas are also a snap to put together because it’s just a big piece of pie dough folded around some fruit. The beauty lies in the fact that it’s not perfect and kind of messy. You don’t need a pie plate or an ability to make pie crust look pretty…just need a big baking sheet (although I would love to try it on a baking stone as the original suggests). I’d highly recommend that you don’t forgo the parchment paper (or a Silpat) – I’ve learned from experience that burnt sugar will ruin your baking sheet.
Add the flour, sugar, and also to the food processor and pulse a few times to mix it up evenly. Then throw the butter cubes into the top. (note, after you cut up the butter, it’s a good idea to put it back in the fridge till you need it – you want it super duper cold).
Pulse the butter and flour mixture until it’s incorporated and looks like small crumbs. Then you add a mix of ice water and vanilla and pulse just till it starts to come together. If it looks really dry, then you can sprinkle in a tiny bit more ice water. Don’t add too much though – you might think it looks too dry but it probably isn’t! To check, try pinching together a small handful – it should stick.
This is what it looks like when you dump it out of the food processor – a little crumbly and dry.
But then you just press it together and form a ball, then cut that in half and form two disks. The dough comes together quite nicely! Then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Each disk will make one half of a pie – so for the crostata you will need one and you can freeze the other; if you want to make a two crust pie, just use both disks.
While your dough is chilling, prep your fruit. In this case, I had a lot of apples that were going to go bad. At the Harris Teeter where I sometimes shop, they will often have super sales on old produce (I’m talking 11 browning bananas, or a bag of assorted apples with some soft spots for $2). Not great for fresh eating but perfect for my banana bread/smoothie obsession, and in this case, apple crostata.
Anyway…wash, peel, core, and dice ’em up – about 4 cups per crostata. I had a lot of apples, so I was planning on making 2 crostatas. This was about 6 apples of varying sizes. Then mix with sugar – the original recipe for cherries called for 1/4 cup; for apples, I’ve found I needed a little more. I think for this batch I probably used about 1 cup for 2 crostatas. Just make sure to taste your fruit to see how sweet it is. Then mix in some flour to help thicken it and some cinnamon for extra yummy flavor.
Then, after one hour, you need to get your pie crust out and let it sit for about 15 minutes so it’s a little easier to roll out. Roll out about a 13″ round (I kind of eyeball it…).
Then transfer to a baking sheet, preferably lined with parchment or a Silpat…see that juice in the corner of my pan? My pie crusts were a little bit soft and kept breaking (I think it was the humidity), so that juice kept leaking everywhere. Which turned into a blacked, burnt-sugar mess that is more or less impossible to get off of baking sheets.
Bake at 425 degrees F for about 40 minutes till browned & bubbly. You can also brush an egg wash (or just plain old milk) on the edges and sprinkle with coarse sugar. I tend to not like wasting an entire egg just so I can brush a teeny tiny bit on my pie crust, and really, it usually turns out nice and golden anyway (see below). But brushing with a little milk and sprinkling with sugar does add a nice touch if you’re so inclined.
Adapted from NapaStyle
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (1/2 pound) chilled unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
1/4 cup ice water, or more if needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups apples, diced – or other fruit of your liking
1/4-3/4 cup granulated sugar – to taste
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream for egg wash [Or 1/4 cup of milk]
2 teaspoons coarse sugar
- Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to blend.
- Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.
- Stir together the ice water and the vanilla.
- Sprinkle the water/vanilla mixture into the processor and pulse just until a dough forms. If it looks really dry, sprinkle in a little bit more ice water – just a few drops at a time. To test, try squeezing a small handful together – if it sticks together, but not to you, it’s done.
- Dump dough out of food processor and press together to form a ball.
- Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a 1-inch-thick disk.
- Wrap disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour; if you aren’t using the other, freeze for another time.
- Meanwhile, wash, peel, core, and dice (or slice if you prefer) the apples. Mix with sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- After one hour (or longer), remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit out to soften slightly before rolling (about 10-15 minutes).
- Place the dough round between 2 sheets of parchment paper or on a well floured surface, and roll into a 13-inch round, flouring as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
- Slide the dough onto a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.
- Fill the center of the dough round with the fruit, leaving an approximately 1 1/2 inch border.
- Fold the border up and over the apples to make a rim.
- Brush the rim with egg wash (or milk), then sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Bake until the crust is nicely browned and the fruit is bubbly, about 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Best served warm.