We are in the middle of a deep freeze here in Virginia. We have not had the snow that has hit other states, but temperatures have been unusually cold, dipping down into the low teens at night and reminding me of the years I spent trudging around in a parka as a reporter in Detroit–and why, as much as I love Michigan, I was not sorry to leave those winters behind.
It’s the time of year when cabin fever starts to set in, and the words ‘comfort food’ sound heavier and far less appealing than they did just a couple of weeks ago. I’m done with pears and apples, and anyway the ones left in the bins at the market are not nearly as crisp or tasty as those from the fall.
Now is when I turn to this grape crostata. It is easy to make and tastes fresh at a time when fresh is hard to come by. The filling is nothing more than grape jam–not the purple-dyed stuff that most of us associate with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but a good-quality jam with honest grape flavor. (I used an Italian brand called Artibel, which I found at The Italian Store, in Arlington.) Of course you do not have to limit yourself to grape; you can use whatever flavor of jam you like, and if you have some that you have made yourself, all the better.
The crust is made from a simple dough known as pasta frolla. It is a rich shortcrust pastry, with egg yolks and a generous quantity of butter. I also add the zest of one lemon and one orange. The dough is easily mixed in a food processor and it rolls out beautifully. The citrus gives the crostata a bright note that, to me, tastes like the promise of spring.
Copyright 2011 Domenica Marchetti
Traditionally, a jam crostata is topped with a lattice crust, but for this one I used flower-shaped cookie cutters to give it a cheerful look. Use any leftover dough to make cut-out cookies, which you can sandwich together with nutella once they are baked if you like.
Makes one 9-inch tart
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for garnishing the crostata
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for another use)
1 to 1 1/2 cups good-quality grape (or other fruit) jam
Measure the flour, sugar, salt, and zests into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process briefly to combine. Distribute the butter around the bowl and process until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process just until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a disk. Wrap it tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until well chilled.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Rewrap the smaller piece and set it aside. Roll the larger piece into an 11-inch circle. Carefully wrap the dough around the rolling pin and drape it over a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Gently press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim the overhang to about 1/2 inch adn fold it in, pressing it against the inside rim to reinforce the sides of the tart shell. Use the rolling pin or the flat of your hand to cut off any excess dough.
Spoon the jam into the prepared shell and smooth it out with the back of your spoon. Roll out the remaining piece of dough and cut it into strips or use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes (flowers, stars, whatever you like). Arrange the strips or cut-outs on top of the jam. Bake the crostata for 35 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned. Let the crostata cool on a rack to room temperature. Remove the rim and transfer the crostata to a decorative serving platter. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar and serve.