Recipe: Peach Crostata with Lavender and Rosemary
So much fruit, so little time before it returns to dust. Wilting peaches lay in my kitchen, and I felt the urgent need to prepare a fruit tart. Being a tad agitated to start with, and knowing quite well how measuring and fiddling with flour and weights can make me more agitated, I sensed the need for a loose approach. That’s where the free-form crostata came in. It doesn’t need a tart tin, blind baking, custard or eggs, or, really, much measuring. This is a recipe, but only on paper. It’s really a suggestion, something for your head. If you don’t have much experience with pasta frolla (short crust), use my proportions and it’ll be fine. Sometimes I add more flour, less butter, or vice versa, but I haven’t gone wrong yet.
The construction goes like this: Roll out a big round of pastry onto a sheet pan. Pile on sliced fruit (I don’t even peel it), flavored with whatever suits your mood. Turn up the pastry’s edges, folding it as you go to contain the fruit, and bake the thing. I love this because there’s no binder to get in the way of pure fruit flavor, even if I add spice or herbs, as I have here. The design is perfect. I make these with any fruit that will cook relatively quickly. Plums, apricots, fresh figs, and even cherry tomatoes will work. Soft, thinly sliced apples and pears will, too.
Next I’m tackling the pile of shriveling Italian plums on my counter (and I’m not talking about myself here).
For the crust:
1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large sprigs each rosemary and lavender, leaves chopped
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces, plus a bit extra to oil the baking sheet
¼ cup cold semi-dry white wine, like a Riesling, or you can use a dry vermouth
For the filling:
6 medium-size unpeeled ripe peaches, cut into slices
¼ cup sugar, plus a little extra for the top
About a tablespoon of Calvados or cognac
1 large sprig each rosemary and lavender, leaves chopped
1 egg yolk, mixed with a little water
In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, sugar, rosemary, and lavender, and give it all a few pulses to mix everything. Now add the butter, and pulse quickly 2 or 3 times, just to break up the butter a bit. Add the wine, and pulse a few more times. The dough should look crumbly and a bit moist. If it seems dry, add a splash of cold water or wine, and pulse again quickly. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, and press it into a ball. Now give it a few brief kneads, just to make sure it holds together. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Flour a work surface, and roll out the dough into an approximately 11-inch circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Trim the edges to neaten it up. Place it on a buttered sheet pan, and stick it in the refrigerator.
Put all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl, and give them a good stir.
Take the pan of dough from the fridge. Pile the peaches in the middle of the round, letting them spread out in a natural way but leaving about a 2-inch border all around. If they’ve given off a lot of juice, leave some of it in the bowl. Fold the edge of the pastry up and around the fruit, pleating as you go (check out the photo). You should have a large opening in the middle where the peaches stick out.
Brush the exposed part of the crust with the egg wash, and sprinkle a little sugar all over the tart.
Bake until the crust is golden, about 35 minutes. Let it cool for about ½ hour before slicing. Good for breakfast, with a tumbler of grappa.