Crostata, the Italian word for tart or pie, is one of the most popular and loved sweet baked goods in Italy. It is prepared in almost infinite forms and varieties, with local / regional versions, and it is possible to find at least one type of crostata in every single bakery, patisserie, bar and café all over the country. But also the homemade version is very common: almost all families have their own recipe which is usually handed down from mother to daughter. And home-made crostata, simply filled with jam, is one of my favorite sweet baked goods and absolutely my preferred morning breakfast. When we have guests for few days, for sure they'll have a freshly baked crostata on the breakfast table. —Francesca Verrucci
two 20 cm tartes
pastry or cake flour, or Italian flour 00 (alternatively 460 g all-purpose flour + 40 g corn starch)
butter, chilled and cubed
zest of 1 large lemon (organic, not waxed, if possible)
seed of 1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cubed butter and, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until you get a crumbly mixture and there are no more visible pieces of butter.
Mix in the icing sugar (sifted through a colander if it contains granules) and then lemon zest. Lightly beat the egg yolks and whole egg with a pinch of salt and the vanilla seeds or extract. Using a knife, mix the beaten eggs into the flour - butter mixture until the pastry comes together into a smooth, elastic ball.
When preparing the pastry it is important that everything is cold (the ideal temperature is 13°C): keep your hands cool, or use the blades of two knives or a pastry scrapers for mixing the ingredients; alternatively ingredients can be mixed using a food processor.
Once the dough comes into a ball, wrap it in plastic film and refrigerated for one day (if you can't wait so long, keep the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour).
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
After resting, on a slightly floured counter - be careful since too much flour will alter the ideal ratio of flour to butter - rapidly work then roll out half of the pastry to 4 - 5 mm thickness and use it to line a buttered and floured 20 cm round tart pan (I recommend to make a thicker border for the tart by rolling the excess pastry into a thin rope, then placing it around the edges of the tart pan).
Prick the base with a fork, line it with baking paper, fill it with baking beans (or rice) and blind-bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the baking paper and beans and let cool.
In the meantime roll out the excess pastry and cut into strips, about 1cm wide to create a lattice for the top of your tarts. Chill for about 10 minutes: it will be easier to handle when you go to transfer them onto the crostata.
When the pastry base is cold, fill the tarts with your favorite jam (don't be shy, the jam layer should be thick) and place lattice strips over the top.
Bake at 180°C for another 15 minutes or until golden on top. Once baked, the pastry should be golden, but still soft: it will crisp up slightly as it cools. Let cool in the pan before transferring to a serving plate.
(1) The remaining pastry, if not all is used straight away, can be frozen well wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 month. When you are ready to use the frozen pastry, transfer it to the refrigerator to defrost at least 6 hours in advance.
(2) The blind baking is optional for the crostata alla marmellata but allows to cook the jam for a limited time, then avoiding it becomes dry and sticky; traditionally the pastry base is filled with jam when still unbaked, then decorated with strips and baked at 180°C for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden on the edges.