Fall is here… cool, crisp air; colorful, changing leaves; red wine, fireplaces, and cozy blankets… and enough pumpkin and apple recipes to make your head spin. I have nothing against either of them, but I’ll admit I get bored with them pretty quickly, and by the time Thanksgiving rolls around I don’t even want to look at either one of them. Thank goodness my dad makes the best pecan pie ever. But that’s another post.
So, when I want something different, but something that still evokes that familiar “fall” feeling, pears are the answer. I think they are so much more interesting than apples. They’re like apple’s tall, sexy cousin. Juicy but still firm when ripe, with their signature texture and elegant shape, you can pretty much use them in place of apples in most recipes, and they just make such a difference.
Oh, crostata… I really can’t praise the humble crostata enough. Just as the pear is apple’s sexy cousin, the crostata is pie’s laid back Italian buddy. Essentially an open-faced, free form pie, they take the fear and fiddliness out of pie making. They are supposed to be rustic! Their simplicity is what makes them beautiful. My crust recipe is simple, (Thank you, Barefoot Contessa) and very easy to work with, and once you have the basic method down, you can switch up the fruits, adjusting the flour and sugar depending on the juiciness and sweetness of your chosen fruit. I hardly make pies anymore because I love this so much, and I hope you will too!
For the crust:
- 3 cups AP flour
- 1 1/2 stick butter (12 tablespoons), very cold and diced into small cubes
- 1/3 cup shortening, also very cold. I keep mine in the refrigerator, as this is really the only time I use it.
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbs sugar
- 2 tbs vodka mixed with 4 tbs water, very cold (I learned the vodka trick from America’s Test Kitchen a long, long time ago, and it really makes a difference; however, you can leave it out and just use water.)
Place dry ingredients in food processor and pulse to mix. Add cubed butter and shortening and pulse about 12 times until the butter and shortening are mixed throughout. Slowly pour the water/vodka mixture through the lid while pulsing, until the dough begins to clump. Give it one more good, long pulse. Carefully transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead a few times to combine. Divide the dough evenly in half (this makes enough for two crostate. No, that’s not a typo, “crostate” is the plural of “crostata”; “crostatas” is not a word. Your Italian lesson for the day). Place each half between parchment or plastic wrap, flatten into a round disk, and chill for 20-30 minutes. Prepare your fruit while it chills.
After chilling, roll one of the disks out on a floured surface (I like to do it on the parchment I’ll bake it on later) until you have about a 12 inch circle, and a thickness of about 1/4 inch. The edges don’t have to be perfect, just make sure to keep moving the dough and adding flour while rolling to make sure it isn’t sticking. Place rolled out dough in refrigerator for 5-10 minutes before adding fruit.
(Alternatively, you can use this same dough to make a pie. Either two one-crust pies or one top and bottom crusted pie. It’s a very versatile crust; I use it for chicken pot pie too! (again, another post!). You can also freeze it, wrapped tightly in plastic, and just thaw in the fridge before rolling out.)
For the Crostata:
- 3-4 Bosc pears, ripe but firm, peeled and quartered; seeds and stems removed, then diced into small bite size pieces
- 3 tablespoons AP flour
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- juice from half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon butter, diced into small pieces
- 1 egg mixed with one tablespoon of water
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling
- One rolled out crust, from recipe above, on parchment paper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, If you have a pizza stone this is an excellent time to use it! If not, place a large sheet pan in the oven while it preheats.
Place diced pears in a large bowl. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and lemon juice and gently toss to combine. I use my finger tips, so I don’t mash up the pears.
Place pears and all their “goo” in the center of your rolled out crust, leaving a one inch border.
Fold dough over the pears, folding and crimping as you go. Brush edges with egg wash and sprinkle with a light dusting of granulated sugar, dot the top of pears with butter, and toss in the oven, either on a preheated pizza stone or preheated sheet tray.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until crust is golden brown and fruit is bubbly. Let cool for 20 minutes and serve slightly warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.