Recipe from The Sugar Cube by Kir Jensen (Chronicle Books, 2012)Apple-Apricot Crostatas
I don't go in for frilly and fancy. I don't enjoy making seven-component architecturally complex desserts. But rustic sweets with depth of flavor? That's me in spades. And that's what these crostatas are all about. They're pretty but not pretentious, with a big hit of caramel apple flavor brightened by the simple addition of apricot preserves. In the dough, I use a little leaf lard along with the butter. It makes the dough easy to work with, super-flaky, and adds a hint of savoriness that plays perfectly off the caramelized apples. If you've never added lard to your pie crusts before, consider this your call to arms.
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
- 2 CUPS UNBLEACHED ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR
- 1 ROUNDED TABLESPOON GRANULATED SUGAR
- 1/2 TEASPOON SEA SALT
- 1/2 CUP (1 STICK) VERY COLD UNSALTED BUTTER, CUT INTO 1/2-INCH CUBES
- 2 TABLESPOONS VERY COLD RENDERED LEAF LARD, CUT INTO SMALL PIECES
- 1/4 CUP ICE WATER
TO MAKE THE DOUGH: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and pulse a few times. Add the butter and lard and pulse until pea-size pieces are formed. While pulsing, slowly drizzle the ice water through the feed tube. Continue pulsing until the dough comes together. (The dough will start to ball up. If the dough seems dry, add 1 teaspoon more of cold water at a time, but don't get the dough too wet.) Turn the dough out onto a clean, dry, lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball, kneading a few times. Flatten it into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- 1/2 CUP (1 STICK) UNSALTED BUTTER, CUT INTO PIECES
- 1 CUP GRANULATED SUGAR
- 1/8 TEASPOON SEA SALT
- JUICE OF 1/2 LEMON (ABOUT 1 TABLESPOON)
- 1/2 VANILLA BEAN
- 3 MEDIUM-LARGE GRANNY SMITH APPLES (ABOUT 1 POUND, 9 OUNCES), PEELED, HALVED, AND CORED
- 1/4 CUP APRICOT PRESERVES
- HEAVY CREAM FOR BRUSHING
- SUPERFINE OR VANILLA SUGAR FOR SPRINKLING
- VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM FOR SERVING
REMOVE THE DOUGH from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes to soften a bit. With a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 15-inch circle that's 1/8 inch thick. Make sure to turn the dough frequently as you roll it to prevent sticking. (Use a bench scraper to dislodge any areas that stick to the work surface and dust the area lightly with flour.) If there is excess flour on your dough when you're done rolling, be sure to brush it off.
LINE A BAKING SHEET with parchment paper or a Silpat. Use a 5-inch-diameter plate or biscuit cutter to cut out six 5-inch rounds and place them on the prepared sheet. (Try to cut them so that you don't have to reroll scraps to cut out more rounds.) Cover with plastic wrap and chill while you make the caramelized apples.
TO MAKE THE CARAMELIZED APPLES: In a 10-inch sauté pan that's at least 2 inches deep, stir the butter, granulated sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Split the piece of vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife. Add to the pan along with the pod and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is bubbly and turns a light nut brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the apple halves, cut-side down, and cook for 5 minutes, spooning the caramel over the apples to promote even cooking (lower the heat a bit if the caramel is getting too dark). Turn the apples over and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, spooning more caramel on top. (You want the apples to be cooked but still hold their shape and be slightly firm to the touch.) Remove from the heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the caramelized apple halves to a clean plate. Let cool. (You can discard the leftover caramel in the pan, or use it to top the crostatas. Just add a little cream and whisk until smooth. Make sure to strain out the apple bits and vanilla bean pod.)
WHEN COOL ENOUGH TO HANDLE, cut the apples into 1/2-inch-thick slices (four to six slices per half). Do not fan the slices or mix them up; keep them in the half-apple shape. They should be easy to cut yet slightly firm since they are going to bake for another 20 minutes-you don't want applesauce crostatas!
REMOVE THE CHILLED DOUGH from the refrigerator. Drop 1 rounded teaspoon of apricot preserves in the center and spread it out a bit, leaving a 1-inch border. Place a caramelized apple half, cut-side down, on top. Fold the edges of the dough up against the apple, pressing the seams together where the dough over-laps. If the dough seems too firm to fold, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes until slightly softened but no longer than 5 minutes, or it'll be too soft to work with. Freeze the crostatas until firm, about 30 minutes.
PREHEAT THE OVEN to 400°F. Lightly brush the edges of the chilled crostatas with cream and generously sprinkle the dough and fruit with superfine sugar. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back half-way through.
MELT THE REMAINING APRICOT PRESERVES in a small bowl in the microwave for about 25 seconds, or in a small saucepan over low heat. (If it seems really thick, you can thin it out with a teaspoon of water if you want.) Let the crostatas cool slightly before brushing the tops of the apples with the melted preserves for added tart-ness and a pretty shine. Serve warm with the ice cream.
-When making pastry dough, I usually cut up my fats and freeze them for 10 to 15 minutes, so they're super cold and firm before blending them into the flour.
-However you choose to cut in the butter, whether you do it in a food processor, in a stand mixer, or by hand, don't overwork your dough, especially once you add the water. This will cause too much gluten to develop, which will result in a tough crust that is not flaky or fun to eat. Be kind to your dough and nurture it through the mixing process. And be sure to let it rest in the fridge after mixing.
-Chilling the crostatas before baking is an important step, so don't skip it. It will help them keep their shape during the first few minutes of baking. A hot, preheated oven is also important. When it comes to pies and piecrusts, most of the crucial baking reactions happen within the first 10 minutes.