Crostata al limone
Spring is not here yet, but the profusion of citrus lends such bright notes to food and table, it almost seems it has arrived. Baskets of Meyer lemons, Moro and Sanguinello oranges fill my kitchen counter. It is time to start thinking about Easter desserts, and a crostata al limone would be a welcome addition to any Easter dessert table. I used Meyer lemons, but if you have Eureka, Lisbon, or any of the Italian lemons now available, use them.
This is a particularly nice recipe for a beginning pastry maker. The addition of baking powder to the dough gives the tiniest bit of lift, while promoting browning and tenderizing it a bit. I have called for Italian baking powder by Rebecchi which has vanilla added. It is available at most Italian markets, but if you can not find it, you may use standard baking powder and add ½ teaspoon vanilla to the egg mixture.
You will need either an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, or an 8-inch flan ring set on a sturdy cookie sheet. The dough comes together easily in the processor and is a breeze to roll. And since the tart is a tiny eight inches across, you do not have to roll out a huge expanse of dough. You will be surprised at how easy it is to roll out and maneuver a smaller piece of dough.
Don’t be intimidated be the idea of forming a lattice top. However, if weaving the strips seems confusing, just lay them across one another without weaving – no one will mind. If you prefer, you can roll out a sheet of pastry and cover the top of the crostata completely. Cut a few slits in the top before placing it in the oven. Proceed as directed.
How to make lemon curd (or any citrus curd) is a technique everyone should master. With some patience at the stovetop, you will get it right at the first attempt. Curds are actually easier and slightly less fraught with the danger of the dreaded curdle than straight egg custards, such as creme anglaise. The introduction of the acid in the citrus increases the “curdle threshold” of the eggs. You still have to be careful – avoid high cooking temperatures and stir constantly – but with about 5 or 6 minutes of gentle cooking, the curd will cook up nicely to a thick, satiny texture.
Coarse sanding sugar sprinkled on the lattice work lends a particularly eye catching sparkly effect, but you can use regular or superfine sugar if you prefer.
I like to bake crostate, tarts and pies on a preheated pizza stone in the lower third of my oven. A preheated pizza stone does a great job of baking the bottom crust – no more soggy crusts!
You will note I have called for the addition of 1/8 teaspoon almond extract in the whipped cream. Don’t skip it! You will be amazed at the depth of flavor it adds to the softly whipped cream.
If you use a tart pan with a removable bottom, be certain you move it by picking it up by its sides. DO NOT PICK IT UP FROM THE BOTTOM! The two pieces will separate if you place pressure directly on the bottom. And if you use a flan ring on a cookie sheet, be sure at least one side of the cookie sheet has no side – so you can slide the crostata off the sheet with ease. It always pays to think ahead. This is the voice of experience speaking.
Crostata al limone
makes 1 8-inch crostata
Place a pizza stone in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Preheat your oven early to give the pizza stone plenty of time to heat.
For the crust
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in 24 equal size pieces
1 3/4 cups 00 flour
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon lievito Rebecchi (or 1/4 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, white reserved for egg wash
sugar to decorate top
For the lemon curd
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
4 large eggs
For the whipped cream garnish
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Make the crust
Place the flours, sugar, salt and lievito (or baking powder) in the workbowl of a processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 3 times to blend. Remove workbowl top and distribute butter over flour mixture. Replace top, and pulse just until butter is in pea sized pieces. Lightly beat egg and egg yolk (and vanilla extract, if using) in a 1 cup measuring cup. With processor running add egg mixture, processing just until mixture begins to clump. Do not let mixture form a ball. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Make the curd
Place butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest in medium sauce pan. Over medium heat, melt butter, heating mixture to just under boiling. Meanwhile beat eggs. Temper the eggs by very slowly adding the hot butter and lemon mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl, and cool slightly, stirring occasionally. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of lemon curd and refrigerate until completely cooled.
Make the whipped cream
Beat whipped cream ingredients together until cream mounds very softly. Cover and refrigerate until use.
Assemble the crostata
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut in 2 pieces, one about two thirds of the dough, and the other about one third. Wrap smaller piece in plastic and return it to the refrigerator. On a well floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll larger portion thinly, to about 1/16 inch. Fold dough in half and ease into tart pan, without stretching the dough. Gently press dough against the sides. Roll the pin across top edge of tart pan to trim dough. Double check that dough is pressed against sides of tart pan. Place in refrigerator while you roll and cut the lattice strips.
Roll the second piece of dough out to just between 1/8 and 1/16 inch. Using a fluted pastry cutter, cut into 6 strips, each 3/4 inch wide.
Remove pan with dough from fridge and fill with cooled lemon curd. Smooth surface. Begin the lattice work by arranging 3 lattice strips across lemon curd. Place the first across the center of the tart. Position the second two on either side of the first, equal distance from the first and each side of the tart pan. Press ends of strips into top edge of dough in pan.
Weave by folding back the middle piece to allow you to place the fourth strip right down the center of the lattice so that it intersects the middle piece at a right angle. Unfold first (the middle) lattice strip to return it to its original position. To place the fifth piece, fold the two outside lattice pieces back allowing you enough space to position the fifth lattice piece across the tart near the edge, in essentially the same position as the first two outside pieces, but running the other direction. Place piece and unfold the first two pieces. Repeat on other side of tart.
Bake the crostata
I like to place crostate and tarts on sheet pans for baking. I can move them with ease, particularly if the pan has a removable bottom. It has the added benefit of preventing a mess in your oven should the pan leak or overflow.
Place crostata in oven, and bake thirty minutes. At thirty minutes remove crostata from oven, and brush latticework with beaten egg white. Dust latticework with sugar, if using. Return to oven for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Cool 1 hour before removing from pan.
I have no affiliation with any product, manufacturer, or site mentioned in this article.