Crostata is what happens when Pie and Tart sneak off into a dark corner when no one is looking. This shorter, slightly more rustic variation of Italian origin features a buttery, almost shortbread-like crust that is just as much a part of the dessert as the cognac-macerated fruit filling. Though I chose a fresh fruit filling, these are also commonly filled with jams and fruit preserves making it an ideal winter pie.
The crust can also be made one of two ways: either tucked up the sides simply, like a loose pouch, or the slightly more complicated lattice top. I prefer the latter because it reminds me of the little play dough pies I used to make as a little girl and which I was always tempted to bite into. The end result is beautiful and looks exactly like the sorts of pies that are frequently stolen off windowsills in children’s songs and fairy tales. I’d keep an eye on it if I were you; everyone will be tempted to snag it.
Though in the past I’ve only made these using all purpose flour, I decided to see how the heartier, nuttier taste of the wheat would play in this recipe and was so glad I did! I also cut the pear into large quarters that cooked slowly and retained a lot of the wonderful texture after baking. Eat this one out of the oven if you must (and your tongue can stand it!), but note that it’s really on the second day—once the flavors have all had a chance to settle in and get to know each other—that it really tastes best.
Whole Wheat Pear & Cognac Crostata
For the crust:
150 grams all purpose flour
200 grams whole wheat flour (preferably stone ground)
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 sticks very cold butter, chopped into small pieces
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of one whole lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
5 crisp Bartlett Pears, peeled, cored, and quartered
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cognac
3 tablespoons pear butter (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 egg white
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Prepare the Crust:
Generously butter a 9” springform pan and set aside
Pour the flour into the base of an electric mixer and mix in the cold bits of butter one at a time until the dough is clumpy and in chunks.
Add the eggs, waiting for the first to be incorporated before adding the second.
Add the sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, extracts, and salt. Continue to mix until the dough starts to come together.
Remove from the mixer and turn out onto a floured surface. Use your hands to continue to knead the dough until it is smooth. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic then place in the fridge for one hour (or up to 24 hours).
Prepare the Filling:
If you are baking the same day, prepare your filling. Mix the pears in a large bowl with the sugar, cognac, and lemon juice. Let macerate for at least 30 minutes.
When you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and let come back up to room temperature. Use a pastry cutter to cut off a third that you will use for the lattice. Set this aside.
Place the larger portion of dough between two sheets of wax or parchment paper and roll out into a 9” circle. It’s ok if it cracks a bit on the edges or even if it breaks. You can press it back into shape.
Lay this into the springform or tart pan and press onto the bottom and against the sides. It should come up about 1.5 inches on the side. Cut off any excess and add to the lattice ball of dough.
Use a fork to puncture all over the base of the crust.
Arrange the pear quarters concentrically in the crust, being sure to reserve the liquid in the bowl. Place two quarters in the center. Keep the pears close together, but do not overlap more than the edges. You may have extra pears—don’t try to squeeze them in. This isn’t supposed to be a deep pie.
Beat one egg white into the remaining cognac lemon juice left in the bowl and pour this over the pears in the crust.
For the lattice:
Break off small pieces of dough and roll them into 1/4” thick snakes in graduated lengths and lay these across the pie about 1 inch apart. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and repeat with 1/4" thick pieces laid perpendicularly.
Note that this is supposed to be a “rustic” tart so don’t be too concerned if the lattice isn’t perfect. It’s all part of the effect.
Sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar (preferably course decorating sugar).
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until the dough is golden.
Let cool completely before serving. This can be made one day ahead as the flavors actually taste better the second day.