Happy Monday, ya'll. It's cooling down up here in Northern California (we even had the slightest little rain shower this weekend, which was so pleasant), and my desire to hunker in and bake and roast is returning.
The urge to stock up on pumpkins, cake flour, nuts, fruits, spices and everything you need for a Fall Baking Frenzy is strong, but I remain committed to cleaning, organizing and using up the contents of my TWO (yes, 2) freezers: One in my fridge, and one stand-alone chest freezer.
This weekend I found a box of Trader Joe's unbaked pie crusts in my chest freezer, from last season, and the remnants of a bag of frozen raspberries. In my fridge I had a container of fresh blackberries going wonky, and voila -- all three ingredients called for a free form crostata.
The cons -- I didn't like and won't purchase the pie crust again. I know a pre-purchased pie crust isn't ideal and will never beat a scratch pie crust, but I know myself. I will not make and roll out pie dough for just one person. I'll do all sorts of specials things for myself (important for the solo diner, I believe), but scratch pastry has never been one of them. Even Pillsbury makes a better pre-purchased pie crust dough than this, which had no flake to it at all, and was akin to a giant biscuit.
The pros -- the dessert itself was simple, fast, and I think, with some decent dough on hand, I'd make a rustic crostata over a traditional pie every time. I like the rough, free-form nature of it, and the thin end-result delivered an excellent fruit-to-crust ratio (you'd think with as much as I love crust and demand a 50/50 ratio to fruit, I'd make my own, and yet ... )
Of interest, I had a bunch of those little packets of True Lemon and True Lime (pure powdered citrus in a single-serving small packet) which the manufacturer sent to me to sample in relation to a healthy cuisine food project I was working for, and I've been trying to use them up. Typically I use them in my morning fruit smoothies. The pure and intense citrus flavor adds that missing ingredient -- a tart puckery zing -- which always separates a home smoothie from a Jamba Juice smoothie. But I digress.
So I had the packets of True Lemon and decided, what the heck, I'm already mixing flour and sugar to toss with the berries, and it calls for lemon juice as well, so I made a flour mixture of a few teaspoons of sugar, a few teaspoons of flour, and one packet of True Lemon powder. Tossed it all, added the berries, and baked. The fruit mixture was excellent. Tart, sweet, tangy, no artificial flavor at all. I'd do that again, definitely.
In fact, since True Lemon and True Lime are pure (or so they promise me), I'm thinking it would be very simple to have a small container of citrus sugar available for baking and rimming glasses. I'm not advocating not having fresh lemons and limes on hand at all times -- actually I do. I love the zest. But an always-available lime or lemon sugar rim on a cocktail? Laws yes.
Finally, the cream. I really love heavy cream and whipped cream, and I prefer it unsweetened. Just the smooth texture and creamy taste is all one needs -- skip the sugar the next time you whip cream and see if you agree. I didn't even bother to whip the cream, for this crostata. I just drizzled a teaspoon of real cream over the berries and it was perfect that way.
TWO BERRY CROSTATA
1 layer of your favorite pie crust -- purchased or homemade
2 teaspoons of flour
2 teaspoons of sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1 packet of True Lemon or 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 cup of blackberries
1 cup of raspberries
Orange Juice or Egg Wash
Spread pie crust over a skillet, baking pan, or pie dish (I used a cast iron griddle). Mix flour, sugar and 1 packet of True Lemon in a dish. If using lemon juice, do not add at this point -- reserve. Sprinkle a bit of the flour-sugar-citrus mixture over the center of the uncooked pie crust, and brush it slightly to evenly cover the crust, leaving a wide margin all around. Toss the berries with the remaining flour-sugar-citrus mixture to coat evenly. Pile the berries in the center of the pie crust, smoothing out slightly to leave a several inch margin all around. If using real lemon juice, sprinkle it over the berries at this point. Fold up the crust over the fruit, leaving the center exposed, but pleating the dough to form a barrier. Brush the crust with orange juice or egg wash (I used orange juice), and sprinkle with turbinado or coarse sugar. Bake until well browned and bubbly, at a temp and for a duration suitable for your own oven. Slice, serve with a teaspoon or heavy cream on each slice.