by Debora Robertson from Notes From A Small Kitchen Island (Penguin Michael Joseph)
Photography: Laura Edwards
This is the simple tart I make all summer long in France, with berries or peaches or nectarines, or combinations of all of those – whatever I find that looks good in the market or in O’ Petit Primeur, our favourite greengrocer’s by the church.
I confess that when I’m there and it’s so hot butter begins melting as you remove it from its wrapper, I’m most likely to make it with bought pastry – you can buy excellent circles of 33cm all-butter pastry in almost every supermarket – so use bought pastry if you want, no one’s looking. Or use the recipe here, which you’ll need to chill for an hour before using.
This is a wonderful, easy way to end a meal, but do try to save a slice for your breakfast the next morning. It’s a heavenly way to start the day, with a trickle of cold cold cream or some crème fraîche.
1 circle of shortcrust all-butter pastry, approximately 33cm diameter
Or For the pastry:
160g plain flour or 120g flour and 40g ground almonds, plus more flour for dusting
½ tsp salt 80g unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small cubes 80g caster sugar or vanilla sugar (see tip below)
½ tsp vanilla extract, if not using vanilla sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the filling:
3 tbsp ground almonds 3 tbsp caster sugar or vanilla sugar, plus a little more to finish about 500g berries – I use a combination of raspberries, blueberries and blackcurrants, and sometimes I add blackberries or peaches too, depending on what I have 1 egg, beaten with a splash of water, or some cream
crème fraîche, vanilla ice cream or cold, thick cream
First, make the pastry. Whisk the ground almonds with the flour if you are combining them, then whisk in the salt. Rub in the butter with your fingers – you still want some pea-sized pieces of butter left in the mixture. Add the sugar and whisk it in with a fork. If you are using vanilla extract, whisk it in with the egg.
Gently cut the egg into the dough a little at a time with a dinner knife until it begins to come together – you may need to add a little iced water, but go gently. Place a sheet of cling film on the counter and turn the dough out on to it, then very gently knead it into a disc.
Wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least an hour or up to a day. It is quite a tender dough, and using the cling film like this helps ensure you don’t overwork it.
Preheat the oven to 190 ̊ C/170 ̊ C fan/gas 5. Line a baking sheet with non- stick baking parchment or Silpat. Roll out the pastry into a 30cm-ish circle, between two sheets of cling film or baking parchment lightly dusted with flour. Lay it on the baking sheet and chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Mix the ground almonds with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and scatter it over the pastry – this helps stop the crostata from becoming soggy from the fruit’s juices. In a bowl, mix the fruit with the remaining sugar, then heap it on to the pastry, leaving a border of 5cm free of fruit all around the edge.
Fold the pastry border back over the fruit – don’t worry if it’s not perfect, that’s part of its raggy, rustic charm – then brush with the egg wash or some cream and sprinkle with a little more sugar. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Serve it warm or cold, with crème fraîche, ice cream or cold, thick cream.
Variations: • In autumn and winter, I often make this with rhubarb or poached quince. • Sometimes I add finely grated orange zest to the pastry and to the fruit filling, for a little added zing.
TIP: HOW TO MAKE VANILLA SUGAR
Put a few split vanilla pods into a jar with some caster sugar and seal. Leave for a couple of weeks for the flavour to develop. You can keep topping up the sugar, and I use recycled pods too – any pods I’ve used to infuse custards or sauces, I simply rinse and dry out, then add them to the sugar jar. My jar is probably twenty years old now and still going strong.