Happy Valentine’s Day! When given the choice between a chocolate dessert and a fruit dessert, I’ll choose a fruit dessert every time. I like chocolate well enough, but I often find it heavy on my palate. On the other hand, I relish the bright, tart, and lightly sweet flavors of fruit-based desserts like this cherry jam crostata. When we were in Rome several years ago, I snapped this photo while walking past a pasticceria (pastry shop). As you can see, crostata is a popular dessert in Italy.
Crostata is both simple and elegant in its presentation, and a dessert I grew up eating often. It was my maternal grandmother’s specialty. She made it for countless parties and family gatherings and there was never any left over. Over the last couple of years, I have been teaching myself to make crostata and I have finally mastered it. It’s become one of my favorite desserts to make for dinner parties, special occasions, and “just because”. I couldn’t think of a better dessert to enjoy for Valentine’s Day!
The dough used to make crostata is the Italian sweet pastry dough known as pasta frolla. It can be a fussy dough to work with because it’s delicate and prone to softening quickly. A well-floured surface is essential and I’ve had great success rolling it out under a large piece of parchment paper which prevents me from over-flouring the dough, and keeps the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. I take the extra steps of chilling and blind baking the tart shell before baking it off. Chilling the tart shell firms the butter which contributes to the flaky texture of the finished tart. Blind baking the tart shell gives it a head start to ensure the bottom crust stays crisp. I also chill the lattice strips before placing them on top of the filled tart shell. This makes it easier to place them onto the tart and also contributes a flaky texture to the top crust.
Crostata lends itself to a variety of fruit flavors. Cherry is popular (and my favorite), especially with jam made of visciole (sour cherries), which Romans especially love. Strawberry, fig, apricot, raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry jams are also wonderful. Warming the fruit jam slightly makes it easier to spread in the tart shell, which reduces the risk of tearing the bottom crust. It’s an extra step, but one that takes little time and ensures the jam is evenly distributed. Because the filling for crostata is just fruit preserves, the quality of the jam matters. Reduced sugar and sugar-free fruit preserves have no place in a crostata. High quality store-bought fruit preserves with a minimal ingredient list are ideal (I’m partial to Bonne Maman). If you do your own canning or are the lucky recipient of homemade fruit preserves, even better.
Once the crostata is baked, you’ll have the perfect ratio of fruit jam to buttery crust. The bright, fragrant notes of the freshly grated lemon zest perfume every bite and complement the sweet-tart flavor of the fruit jam. I’m pretty sure that this cherry jam crostata will turn even the biggest chocolate lover into a fruit-dessert fan.Print
It doesn’t get any more classic than an Italian crostata for dessert!
- 1 recipe Italian Sweet Pastry Dough
- 1 13-ounce jar cherry jam
- White pastry flour or all-purpose flour for dusting the board
- Powdered sugar for decorating the crostata (optional)
- Remove the sweet pastry dough from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes until it is pliable but still cool to the touch.
- Place the dough on a well-floured surface and press it gently to flatten the disk and make it more supple for rolling.
- Cut away 1/3 of the dough, re-wrap it in plastic wrap, and set it aside.
- Shape the larger piece of dough into a disk, flouring the board and the dough as necessary to keep it from sticking.
- Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and roll it out into a flat disk slightly larger than the diameter of the tart pan. The rolled out disk should be approximately ¼-inch thick.
- Remove the parchment paper and loosely wrap the dough around the rolling pin. Gently unroll the dough over the tart pan and guide the dough into the tart pan so it settles in snugly. Do not press the dough into the pan. Use your fingertips to press away the overhanging dough off the edges of the tart pan.
- Place the tart pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the dough to chill.
- Take the scraps of dough and add them to the smaller portion of dough and shape it into a disk.
- Roll out the remaining dough in the same manner as the dough for the tart shell. Use a sharp knife or a fluted pasta wheel cutter to cut 2-inch thick strips. Transfer the strips to a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate them for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Once the tart shell has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and dock the bottom with a fork.
- Cover the tart shell with a piece of parchment paper and weigh it down with pie weights. Place the tart pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet and blind-bake the tart shell for 15 minutes.
- After baking, carefully remove the pie weights and parchment paper and let the tart shell cool for 15 minutes.
- While the tart shell cools, place all the fruit jam in a small saucepan and warm it over low heat, stirring often until it is smooth and pourable. Do not allow the jam to boil.
- Transfer the warmed jam to the cooled tart shell and gently spread it out to the edges using a small spatula.
- Remove the lattice strips from the refrigerator and place them over the jam-filled tart shell in a criss-cross pattern. Use your fingertips to press away the overhanging dough off the edges of the tart pan and press the ends of the lattice strips gently into the sides of the tart shell.
- Leaving the tart pan on the parchment-lined baking sheet, bake the crostata for 30-40 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and the jam is bubbling gently.
- Cool the crostata completely to room temperature and then carefully remove the fluted ring. The crostata can stay on the base of the tart pan and transferred to a large platter.
- Serve the crostata at room temperature with a dusting of powdered sugar if desired.
- Special equipment: 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom
- Because there are raw eggs in this dough, be sure to put some flour in a separate bowl and use it to flour your board and rolling pin. This will prevent cross-contaminating the entire bag of flour.
- Storage: Store the crostata at room temperature covered lightly with plastic wrap.