Remember when “fruit pizzas” were really popular—I think my daughter was in grade school then. You bought the Slice and Bake Sugar Cookie Dough from the little Pillsbury Dough Boy and rolled the whole log into a big round pizza crust, baked it and then iced it with cream cheese and decorated it with the fresh fruit of your choice—grapes, kiwi, lemon-juice preserved banana slices and berries. Nice, but not great by my culinary standards today.
And I’ve learned that the Italians were way ahead of the game with a lovely confection called a crostata that is made with the same sort of ingredients but is way…WAY better. Yes, a bit more work, but not too much more. The result is amazing and impressive—far more impressive than the actual skill needed to pull it off.
So before all that summer fruit fades, try this crostata for your next get-together. Note that I made the blueberry filling a day ahead, and I encourage you to do the same. Giving it a night in the frig resulted in better thickening. Further, you’ll have enough filling for about three crostata or a crostata and a small pie, which I also managed to pull off. One last filling note—the technique for the filling is from the Culinary Institute of America and the combination of cornstarch and tapioca flour is my friend Jane’s (of Pop’s Pie fame) recommendation. Taken together, I made the best fruit filling I’ve ever made—and, let’s face it, I’ve made my share of all sorts of fruit fillings. Onward to that pastry board!
- Six cups of organic blueberries, washed, air-dried and sorted (Toss those less desirable ones into the compost.)
- One cup sugar, divided three-quarters cup and one-quarter cup (Evaporated cane juice with a fine grain works well here.)
- One cup water, divided the same as the sugar
- Two teaspoons cornstarch
- One teaspoon tapioca flour
- One-eighth teaspoon fine sea salt
- Zest of one lemon, plus one tablespoon lemon juice
- One and one-fourth cups all-purpose flour (I recommend King Arthur Organic.)
- One-third cup sugar (Again, evaporated cane juice with a fine grain works well here.)
- One-fourth teaspoon fine sea salt
- One stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened to room temperature
- One large egg yolk, slightly beaten, at room temperature
- Two pieces of parchment paper that are large enough to eventually roll out your dough into a round of about 10 inches
- Three large peaches, washed well, peeled, pitted and sliced thinly
- Four tablespoons of raw, coarse sugar, divided two and two
- One tablespoon all-purpose flour
- Two tablespoons unsalted butter
- Healthy pinches of ground allspice, ground ginger and fine sea salt
- In a small bowl, combine one-quarter cup of the sugar with the cornstarch, tapioca flour and salt. Blend in the quarter cup water with a small whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium sauce pan, combine the remaining three-quarters cup of sugar with three-quarters cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer steadily until a sugar syrup develops—about three minutes. Stir occasionally and watch the saucepan so that the sugar doesn’t burn. It should be clear and thickened but not brown tinted.
- Once the sugar syrup has developed, add several tablespoons of the hot liquid to the small bowl containing the cornstarch mixture and whisk to temper the mixture, melt the sugar and smooth it out.
- Add the mixture to the remaining sugar syrup in the pot and return to a boil. Add the blueberries and cook down for about eight to 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens a bit. Then, remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice.
- Cool down on the counter and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Giving this an overnight chill will improve the consistency of the filling.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt with a sturdy whisk or pastry blender. Add the soften butter pieces and work in with the pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse even crumbs.
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape in the beaten egg yolk and fold the yolk and flour mixture together until the dough comes together in a ball. The dough is quite soft, so if you find it very difficult to work with, chill it for about 5 minutes or so to firm it up a little.
- When you feel it is workable, pull it together into a smooth disk, as you would for a pie crust, and place on one sheet of the parchment paper. Flatten the dough out to a larger disk with an even thickness so that it will be easier to roll. Place the other piece of parchment paper on top and store in the frig until firm but not too hard, about 30 minutes. It will need to be warm enough to roll, so you may need to let it rest five minutes out of the frig before continuing to make the crostata.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- While your dough is chilling, bring out your prepared blueberry filling so that it will calm down a bit and peel and slice the peaches. Toss the peaches with the flour and two tablespoons of sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
- Place the butter, remaining two tablespoons of sugar, salt and spices in a small sauce pan. Heat so that the butter melts and just keep it barely warm.
- Bring the dough disk out of the frig and peel back the top piece of parchment paper to loosen it and keep it from sticking as you roll; replace it on top of the dough disk. Between the two sheets of parchment paper,, roll the dough to just a bit beyond the 10-inch round, trying to achieve an even thickness of about one inch overall. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and move around the circular crust, turning up the edges of your round to form a little rim that will hold in your filling. This is great because it means the edges of your crust need not be perfect, just high enough to form the little rim.
- Slide the dough on its bottom piece of parchment paper onto a large, rimless baking sheet. Don’t attempt to pick it up because it easily breaks. Now fill with the blueberry filling, beginning in the center and working outward to about one inch from the edge. You’ll use about one and one-half cups of the filling. Store the rest for another use.
- Working from the very center outward, start arranging your peach slices in a sort of pinwheel design. None of this has to be a work of art. Just keep overlapping slices and filling in the little gaps until you have a nice design and have used all or most of your preach slices. You’ll note that this causes the blueberry filling to start spreading out a bit, which is why you left that space around the edge.
- Finally brush the peaches and the little rim of the crostata with the butter, sugar, spice mixture.
- Bake in the center of your oven for 25 to 35 minutes, rotating halfway through. Mine did not take the full 35 minutes, so keep a close eye because everyone’s oven is different. You don’t want burnt edges, but you do want done crust.
- Remove from the oven and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. A pizza cutter works well as a slicing tool.
Note that the prep time doesn’t include the overnight chill but does account for chilling the dough about 30 minutes. You could, however, make the dough several days in advance, too, and then bring it back to just above room temperature to roll.
Just a suggestion that vanilla ice cream is a great addition here. You don't need it, but why not!
Some thoughts on local peaches…
It is no secret that the Midwest is known for its peaches. Ripe, juicy, perfumed and sugary sweet, peaches are, perhaps, the quintessential summer fruit in my neck of the woods. Unfortunately, most of the peaches in my area come from large commercial orchards that are on a regular spray schedule. If you are familiar (and, of course, you should be) with the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, you know that peaches are right there—in fact, peaches rank number seven on their list this year of dirtiest conventional produce. They’ve been on the list somewhere for as long as I can remember. So we buy organic, right?
Well, easier said than done, especially if you are trying to buy local. There are very few organic orchards in my region. Drift from conventional fields is a major factor. So we give up peaches, right?
Not so fast! Let’s not be hasty. Here is a perfect example of why it pays to know your grower. Though not in great abundance, you can usually find small farms at your local farmers market or on nearby country roads that have a few fruit trees on their property. While you may never find USDA Certified peaches, you will find people you can trust who either don’t spray at all (so you will need to share some with the worms) or spray as little and as carefully as possible. We can have our crostata and eat it too, but we need to be mindful and make friends with our farmer neighbors and probably be willing to pay a bit more for our safe, healthy, local peaches. I say it’s a bargain. We may not have Blueberry & Peach Crostata every night, but, really, we shouldn’t anyway. Right?
If you are interested in which summer produce is safe and which should only be consumed if organic, you can request the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guides or get their mobile app. And while you’re at it, consider giving them a small donation to help them continue their critical work that keeps us all so much safer in the kitchen. Because sometimes bravery just isn’t enough, ya know?