I’ve made this admission before – I suck at pastry. It’s not a secret. I should probably just concede to the baking gods, but occasionally — when I’m feeling particularly confident, I’ll find myself giving it another go. Mixing flour and fat, forming a beautiful ball of dough. Flattening it into a disc, wrapping in cellophane and setting into the fridge to chill. At this point, I always feel like, “Yessss — I got it right this time.”
Actually, I do have it right as far as texture and taste. The crust is usually flaky and buttery and if I close my eyes and concentrate on the flavor, I’m happy. It’s the presentation that deflates my ego.
I think it’s my technique that fails me when I’m rolling out the dough and fitting it into a pie plate. The perfect sphere I labor to create–isn’t perfect. The edges are always craggy. One side overflows the dish while I have to stretch the other to get it up over the lip. Invariably, it cracks, or shrinks back into the pie dish or puffs up into some weird lunar landscape.
That’s why I was so optimistic about doing a crostata and this one by Lucy Vaserfirer from Hungry Cravings sounded like a winner. Crostatas are free-flowing and rustic. In other words, imperfect. It’s supposed to look like a 10-year old assembled it. So why did mine look like a toddler did the work? I mean really.
I followed the instructions to a “T” – but no matter. I think there is some inherent defect in my DNA that prevents me from turning out perfect pastry. Adding insult to injury, the juices from the strawberries and rhubarb leaked. No, overflowed is a better word. Like a river breaching its banks — the bright pink syrupy liquid streamed across the parchment paper. Of course it did — because having ugly pastry wasn’t disparaging enough.
What could I do? I made the best of it. Em happily took a spoon to the leaked portion, so that the fruit flood was barely noticeable. I took out some fresh parchment paper and arranged my crostatas to their most flattering angle — and served them up for dessert.
That said, they were delicious. The slightly sweet crust had a wonderful crunch from the turbinado sugar. The tart rhubarb and sweet perfume of strawberries added the perfect fruity, chunky, jammy-ness that is the inherent reward of a crusted fruit dessert. And the pastry was perfectly tender, light and flaky. Even if it did look like the aftermath of a kid’s play-dough frenzy.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons, or more, ice cold water
- 1 ¾ pounds strawberries, halved or quartered depending on their size
- ¾ pound rhubarb, sliced into 1" pieces
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar
- 1/4 cup strawberry jam, optional
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar and salt.
- Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Add water until the dough just starts to come together. (Test the texture by pinching the dough between your fingers. If it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough is crumbly, add water a tablespoon at a time and pulse until the dough holds together.)
- Transfer dough to a floured work area and form it into a ball. Cut into fourths. (Actually, Lucy’s recipe says to cut into eigths, but I wanted 2-person crostatas.)
- Form each quarter into flat discs and wrap them individually in cellophane. Refrigerate dough for about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare your fruit and toss the rhubarb and berries in a bowl. Add the remaining ¾ cup sugar and cornstarch. Toss together - syrup will form.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out each disc of dough to a circle about 1/8” thick. Transfer dough to a lipped baking sheet lined with parchment paper (you’ll thank me for this). Mound a quarter of the fruit filling into the center of the dough and fold the edges over the fruit, pleating as you go. Repeat for additional pastry discs and fruit.
- Refrigerate crostatas for 10 minutes.
- With a pastry brush, lightly sweep cream over the pastry and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
- Bake for 23-25 minutes.
- Heat jam in a microwave for 30 seconds or so. With a pastry brush, dab the strawberries and rhubarb with the jam to give it that glistening, jewel-like effect.
- Can be served warm or at room temperature.