I have been super busy at work the last few weeks which has left me little time to play with new recipes. So when the going gets tough and time is short, I return to trusted favourites. When it comes to making a cake/dessert, it generally falls back to the fail proof crostata.
The pastry is a simple one, with softened butter than needs minimal resting in the fridge (unless it is a hot day). I add both lemon zest and a bit of vanilla to the pastry to make it taste “more italian” (or more like mamma used to make). Crostate should be beautiful to look at so I like to use a fluted pastry cutter to make the lattice on top. The jam I used was home made plum jam, made from the plums that grew on the trees at my mother’s, which is not as sweet as store-bought jam and has chunky pieces of fruit in it – but you can use any jam you might have handy. The crostata will take you an hour and a half to make from start to finish. I love to eat it for breakfast or morning tea with a caffelatte and because it does taste so Italian, dream I am back in Italy.
Crostata con marmellata (Italian jam tart)
125 g (just over a stick) unsalted butter, softened
15-20g (2 tablespoons) icing sugar, sifted
240g (8oz or 2 cups) plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla essence
zest 1/2 small lemon
good pinch of salt
1/2 jar good quality jam (use as much or as little as you like)
icing sugar for dusting
24cm (9 and 1/2 inches) tart tin with a removable base
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Beat the butter and icing sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla, salt, flour and lemon rind and beat until crumbs form (no more than a couple of minutes). Drop in the egg and beat until it comes together (less than a minutes). Place on a working surface and knead a couple of times, rolling the pastry until it is slightly larger than your tart tin. If the pastry is too sticky to work with, then place it between two sheets of cling film and put in the fridge for up to ten minutes to chill. Line the tin who the pastry, pressing down it needed, with the borders only coming half way up the side of the tin (so that the sides of the crostata will be the same height as the jam filling), using a knife to make the sides flat and even if needed. Keep all the extra pastry that you cut off so that you have enough to make a lattice on the top. Roll out the remaining pastry between two sheets of cling film and place in the fridge so it is easier to cut into strips.
Spoon the jam onto the pastry base, flattening it so that it is just below the edge of the sides of the pastry. Take the remaining pastry out of the fridge and cut into strips, with a fluted cutter if you like, and make a lattice over the jam, allowing the ends of the strips to just touch the edges of the crostata.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, depending on your oven and how much jam you have on the crostata (more jam = slightly increased cooking time). Check it after 30 minutes. If the lattice looks like it is darkening too much, reduce the heat to 170C (340F). Remove when the pastry lattice is pale golden. Allow to cool on a rack for a few minutes, then remove the sides of the tin and dust with icing sugar. Allow to cool completely before serving.
This will keep for about five days in an airtight container (I like to keep mine in the fridge).