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Red Wine & Fig Crostata

This is really a riff on a French galette masquerading as a crostata, but the fruit here in Sardinia is so good it begs to be made into all kinds of tarts from all pockets and corners of Europe and beyond. In England this pastry would be known as a type of ‘rough puff’, due to the method of keeping large flakes of butter entire in the dough, which adds to the crumbly, flaky, layered texture. In America it would be known as a ‘pie crust’, so perhaps not worth splitting hairs about nomenclature/origin. I don’t believe in letting geography or terminology come between you and something delicious, and this pastry is delicious. Anyway, if a recipe is made in Italy using Italian ingredients, doesn’t it have every right to call itself an Italian recipe? With that polemical point out there in the cold light of day I will move swiftly on…

One of the best ways to eat fruit is to bake it an open tart such as this one. The fruit cooks to jammy sweet-sharpness, and the crisp, burnished pastry crust provides the perfect foil to this. The pastry has only a very little sugar in it, as most of the sweetness should be provided by the fruit, the crust instead acts as a pure, buttery, flaky contrast to the syrupy fruit it encases.

It is, thankfully, much less work than real puff, and is only achievable by hand and very therapeutic to make.

If you prefer to use simple white sugar you can, I just like the toffee sweetness of demerara here.

Makes 1 medium crostata, to feed 6-8

Crostata dough:

200g 00 flour

160g butter

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp demerara sugar (1 for the dough and one to sprinkle)

50ml iced water

Fig Filling:

500g fresh figs, topped and halved

50ml red wine

2 tbsp demerara sugar

For the dough:

Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the cubes of butter and toss them in the flour with your fingers making sure that they are all coated. Begin to press them into flat discs in your fingers, keeping tossing as you do so to make sure they stay coated in flour. Once all the cubes are now flakes, and well distributed through the flour, add the first tablespoon of sugar and the lemon juice and water. Bring the dough together with your hands (if it still looks too dry and flaky add a touch more cold water). It is quite a rough dough, so do not aim for smooth and even and shiny, but it needs to come together in one clean piece with no dry bits at all.

Pat it into a round, wrap it in clingfilm an leave it to chill for at least 40 minutes, in the fridge or freezer.

When ready to assemble the tart, roll the pastry out to a 3-4mm thickness (this is quite a rustic tart and the pastry is nice eaten quite thick).

For the Figs:

Cut the stalk off the top of the figs and cut them into quarters lengthwise. Place them in a bowl and toss them with the wine and sugar. Leave to macerate for a few minutes.

To Assemble

Preheat the oven to 180.

Place the rolled pastry on a flat baking sheet lined with baking paper. Arrange the figs over the central circle of the pastry, leaving at least an inch of border.

Fold the edges of the pastry on themselves to create a rough round crust.

Brush the pastry edges with egg wash (optional but gives a good shine) and sprinkle with a little extra sugar. Place the crostata in the oven and bake for around 45 minutes, until brown and bubbling. Serve with a blob of cold mascarpone or ricotta ice cream.

Note: also very good with peaches, pears or plums, or any late summer/early autumn fruit. Just make sure to taste the sweetness of your fruit and adjust the amount of sugar you add to them.

Photo by Charlotte Bland, from La Vita è Dolce by me.


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