DOLCE: ROME - CROSTATa DI FRAGOLe (Strawberry tart)
If there is one thing I can still smell, miles away from the Campo de' Fiori or Trastevere, sitting at my desk in Sydney, Australia, it's the strawberries that were just coming into season when I left Rome in April. Pretty, rounded little Terracina ones, their little petals still attached, and their deep, velvety red, longer, slimmer cousins Basilicata.
One day on my way to meet Alice at the studio she messaged me, 'see you soon. There is coffee and crostata.'. Alice makes magnificent crostate, and I was happy when she made them again with a group of students at 'Market to Table' – a fabulous, generous workshop that she holds there monthly with Rachel Roddy and Carla Tomasi – the second time favouring Basilicata over Terracina. It seemed the *only* thing to make for dessert when she handed me the keys a day or two later (I hedged my bets with both strawberries), and this recipe is based on hers, the main change being that I use icing sugar instead of caster sugar in the pastry.
Serves 4 - 6
For the pasta frolla (short crust pastry) -
250g '00' flour
100g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
125g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, slightly softened
2 organic egg yolks, or one large organic egg, beaten with a fork
zest of half an unwaxed lemon (optional)
For the filling -
110g caster sugar
strips of peel and juice of half an unwaxed lemon
To make the pastry -
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add cubed butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers until just combined. Add the yolks and a little water if the dough feels too dry, or some extra flour if it is too dry. Turn everything onto a lightly floured bench and being careful not to overwork the dough, bring it together until uniform. Divide the pastry into two pieces (one about 2/3 and the other 1/3), form two flat, round discs and wrap them in plastic, before allowing the pastry to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Meanwhile, rinse your strawberries and depending on their size, cut them into halves or quarters. Cook them gently with sugar, lemon juice and strips of peel, until they are soft, but retain a little of their shape. Remove them with a slotted spoon, discard the lemon peel and turn up the heat to cook the liquid for a further 5 or so minutes until very thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
Heat oven to 180C and lightly flour a 24cm tart tin with a removable base.
Gently roll the larger disc to a 28cm circle on a well floured surface and line the prepared tin, carefully trimming the excess, and reserving any scraps. Blind bake until golden and crisp (about 15-20 minutes). Allow the pastry shell to cool a little before filling with the cooked strawberries and their syrup. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into strips to form a lattice over the top of the filling. Bake for a further 20 or so minutes until the lattice is deep golden and cooked. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or at room temperature, perhaps with a dollop of mascarpone.
- Your strawberries need to be erring on the side of over-ripe - they should be in-season, fragrant and full of flavour
- Crostate are very commonly filled with whatever jam is on hand (we had a beautiful fig one at the school)
- Time permitting, the tart shell is less likely to 'shrink' in the tin if it is allowed another rest in the fridge before blind baking