This is another family recipe of Simona’s, the justly famous crostata. The recipe has been handed down to Nonna Lella by none other than Zia Rina, her godmother.
To us, crostata is a faithful companion at breakfast or merenda throughout the year. (Some critics say it’s also a faithful companion around my waist, but it’s common knowledge that critics don’t get invited for dinner, and the harshest among them also experience sudden, um, knee grievances *grin*).
OK, let’s get down to it.
Apron-to-dish time: 60 minutes.
Here’s what you need:
- 400g white sugar
- 750g all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs (4 yolks but only 2 whites)
- 300g butter
- lemon peel grate
- vanillin (optional)
Turn on the oven and set it to 180°C before you start, it will save you time.
Once you get a look like the picture above, your dough is “rough” enough. You can go on and get a nicely mixed ball of dough, but Nonna Lella surely would not approve.
Now, put about 3/4 of the the dough on a surface and work it some more with your hands. If you have to use a cutting board, I suggest a plastic one: wood is porous and the dough will stick and make lots of crumbles. Still, if wood is all you have, go for it and worry not.
Once the dough holds together you can work it in a kind of circle that will be the bottom of your cake. Never mind about neat borders, this kind of dough cannot be worked neatly.
Now use the circle as a bottom for the cake. Work it and thin it with your hands so that the bottom of the mould is completely covered. Yes, it’s Simona’s hands in the pic. Cakes are her private category.
Now take the remainin 1/4 of the dough, make a kind of long sausage and use it to make a think border. Why thick? Because it will have to keep the jam in. Yes, jam is not a liquid, but it will be once it’s heated up enough. You need not trust me, you’ll see for yourself that the most difficult thing in a crostata is avoiding jam spills.
Now, jam. Make a layer of about 1cm of you favourite jam, or marmalade. Just to make you envious, we used Nonna Lella’s Plum Jam.
Traditional crostata has a grid-like covering of thin dough sausages. For reasons unknown to me, Simona’s family puts a simple disc of dough in the center. It’s just for decoration anyway, be creative.
Put in the oven and cook at 180-200°C for approximately 40 minutes. When the dough begins to look mid-brown, you know it’s ready.
Notice: Be careful, a crostata just taken out of the oven smells irresistible. Do not be tempted: the jam will be totally hot for a while after the dough cools, and you will only discover together with its adhesive properties. Few things are more painful and make you look dumber than scorching your mouth with hot jam you are then unable to wipe away.
If you find yourself with some extra dough, you can make mini crostatas “for the kid”. We had run out of jam, so we were forced to use Nutella.