A crostata is an Italian tart, most often filled with jam, but sometimes with fresh fruit, Nutella, ricotta or pastry cream. You will find them all over Italy, in every coffee shop, restaurant and bakery, and on breakfast tables up and down the country.
"My Nonna's crostate are famous in our family," says London-based cook and writer, Olivia Williamson. "They were always something we'd look forward to eating when we'd visit."
"You can make your own jam if you have the time and experiment with whichever fruit is in season I've given a recipe for apricot jam below but plum and cherry are also delicious. You can, of course, use shop-bought jam too. If it's quite a hard set one, loosen it slightly with a few tablespoons of warm water before spooning it in."
For the jam:
Approx. 1kg ripe apricots, halved and stones removed (900g de-stoned weight)
400g granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
For the pastry:
120g butter, cut into small cubes and cold from the fridge
120g icing sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the jam:
Put the apricots and the lemon juice into a pan on a medium heat and cook for around 30 minutes (keep the lid on if your apricots are quite hard as it will help them soften), stirring them regularly and squashing them with a wooden spoon to help release their juices.
When the fruit has collapsed, take it off the heat and pass it through a sieve, with a bowl underneath, to remove the skins and any tough fibers. You should be left with approx. 650g of apricot pure.
Put this back in the pan with the sugar and pinch of salt and cook on low-medium for another 40-50 minutes until it has thickened. Watch it and stir it regularly to make sure it isn't burning on the bottom. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools but this will leave you with a softer set jam that is just what we want for the crostata. You'll need around 400-450g for the crostata so any leftovers can be kept in a jar in the fridge for toast, yoghurt, porridge or biscuits.
For the pastry:
Put the flour, butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and use your fingers to rub everything together until no large chunks of butter remain and you're left with a loose crumb.
Add the lemon zest, vanilla and a pinch of salt, stir to combine and then make a well in the middle with your fingers. Crack one whole egg and one yolk (reserve the extra white for brushing) into the well and start mixing everything together.
Turn the dough onto a clean work surface and knead lightly, just until you have a nice, smooth ball. Try not to handle it too much. Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes or, even better, overnight.
Assembling the tart:
Grease a 24cm loose bottom pie tin with butter and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan oven). Unwrap the dough and divide it into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other.
Dust your work surface with icing sugar or flour to prevent sticking and use a rolling pin to roll the larger piece into a rough circle, large enough to fit into your pie dish and about the thickness of a £1 coin (approx. 3mm).
Transfer the pastry to the prepared dish, use your fingers to press it down into the edges and trim any overhanging dough off the sides. Use these scraps to touch up any areas that look a little thin and to help form a good crust around the rim.
Spoon the cooled jam into the base of the tart, using the back of a spoon to push it to the sides and level it out evenly.
Roll the remaining pastry out to the same thickness and use a knife or pastry wheel to cut strips around 2cm wide. Lay the strips across the top of the pie in a criss-cross pattern, trimming the excess bits off and rolling them out again if needed to make more.
Brush the lattice strips with the leftover egg white and put the crostata in the middle of the oven for around 25-30 minutes, until the jam is bubbling and the pastry golden.
Leave to cool completely before slicing. Dust with icing sugar if you like. Store the crostata at room temperature in an airtight container it improves with a few days age.
Olivia is a freelance cook, food stylist, writer and photographer with a keen interest in Italian food culture. She learnt how to make pasta from her Italian grandmother who has taught her the art of using simple ingredients, re-purposing leftovers and the importance of a home-cooked meal.
We hope you enjoy this little recipe guide. If you do make a tart, please share it on Instagram using the #TOASTtimetomake. We would love to see.