Makes one 9” pie
Graham Cracker Crust with Almonds
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup blanched almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs, almonds, sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and toss with a fork to incorporate. Butter a 9” pie plate and press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. (A small measuring cup is helpful for smoothing the crumbs evenly into the pie plate.) Refrigerate the crust and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, just until it turns golden. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool while you prepare the filling. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Key Lime Filling
4 large egg yolks
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons lime zest
¾ cup Key Lime juice (I use Nellie and Joe’s- available in most supermarkets)
Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg yolks for 5 minutes until thick. Add the sweetened condensed milk and the zest and beat until smooth, then gradually add the Key Lime juice, beating on low speed to combine.
Place the cooled pie shell on a baking sheet. Gradually pour the filling into the crust and bake the pie in the preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes. The pie will be set around the edges and the slightest bit jiggly in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for several hours until firm.
Make the strawberry puree by placing 4 oz. (about 4 large strawberries) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until completely pureed then strain through a fine mesh strainer. (You will only use 2 tablespoons of the puree in the cream. Reserve the rest to use as a sauce.) Refrigerate the puree while you prepare the cream.
¾ cup heavy cream
¼ cup mascarpone cheese (this helps to stabilize the cream)
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh strawberry puree
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a chilled mixing bowl, combine mascarpone and sugar. Add a few tablespoons of the heavy cream and use a rubber spatula to incorporate the ingredients. Add the remaining heavy cream and the vanilla. Use a handheld electric mixer and beat the cream until thick and soft peaks form. (You don’t want to over mix this, which causes the cream to be grainy.) I finish beating the cream by hand, using a whisk. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the strawberry puree. Retrieve the pie from the freezer and serve with the whipped cream, additional strawberry puree and fresh berries.
Makes two 8” crostatas
Pastry (adapted from Carla Snyder)
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup fine cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh sage
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 oz.) cold, unsalted butter cut into ½” pieces
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons ice cold water
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, place the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, zest and sage. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse just until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Empty the mixture into a large bowl and add the cold water, using a fork to combine. The pastry should be shaggy; don’t over mix it. Turn the pastry out onto a sheet of parchment paper, shape it into two discs and wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out. Place one disc of pastry on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Roll into a circle about 9½” in diameter and ⅛” thick. (I use the ring from a 9½” tart pin to cut out the circle.) Repeat with the second disc of pastry. Place the parchment papers with the rolled out pastry circles on a baking sheet and refrigerate while preparing the filling.
Filling for two 8” crostatas
Generous 4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed, dried on paper towels, stems removed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup honey (depending on sweetness of berries, may need an additional tablespoon)
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
egg wash made from 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
sanding sugar for sprinkling
In a large bowl, combine the blueberries with the cornstarch, spices, honey, lemon zest and juice. Taste for sweetness and add additional honey if you wish. Divide the berry mixture evenly between the two circles of crostata pastry, mounding it in the center. Leave a one inch border around the edge of each pastry circle. Fold and pleat the crust up over the edge of the blueberries. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle the edges with sanding sugar. Refrigerate the crostatas for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place each crostata on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the baking pans halfway through, until the pastry is golden and the berries are bubbling and tender. Let the crostatas cool for about 10 minutes before using 2 large spatulas to transfer them to cooling racks. Serve warm or at room temperature.
(inspired by Maura from the Palazzo Leopoldo, Radda in Chianti)
makes one 9½” tart
(You can use good quality apricot and/or cherry preserves, but if fresh fruit is available, make your own.)
Twenty Minute Apricot/Sour Cherry Jam
9 fresh apricots (a little more than 1 lb.) rinsed, halved, pitted and cut into eighths ( a generous 4 cups of fruit)
6 oz. sour cherries, rinsed, pits removed ( 1 cup of fruit)
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar (you might want an additional tablespoon)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Place the pitted/sliced apricots and cherries in a medium heavy bottomed pan. Add the orange juice and sugar. Cook over medium heat for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until thick and jammy. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and let cool. (You can speed this along by pouring the jam into a bowl and setting that bowl over ice.) When the jam has cooled, taste it to see if you want to add an additional tablespoon of sugar. I like it on the tart side because the crostata gets dusted with powdered sugar at the end. Make sure the jam is completely cool before spreading it in the tart shell.
Egg Wash (set aside until ready to bake the tart)
Beat together one egg with 1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk
4⅓ cups flour
⅔ cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
2½ sticks (10 oz.) cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the cubed, cold butter and pulse just until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is crumbly. Do not over mix. Empty the flour/butter mixture into a large bowl. Add the eggs/egg yolks/vanilla to the dry mixture, tossing together with a fork just until combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Gently knead the dough just until it comes together; it will be crumbly. Divide it in half, shaping it in two discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling out. (It is easier to roll out if after it has chilled, you remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour.)
Remove both discs of dough from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature. Butter and flour a 9 or 9½” fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out one disc of dough on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper into a circle about 12" in diameter and about 1/8" thick. Place the dough into the tart pan, gently easing the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Take the excess from the outer edge and fold it in, creating a slightly thicker rim. Use your rolling pin to roll across the top of the pan removing the excess scraps. Refrigerate the tart pan. Roll out the second disc of dough into a circle about 10” in diameter and ⅛” thick. Use a fluted pastry wheel to cut strips of dough, either ½” or 1” wide. (I like to combine both.) Leave the strips on the parchment paper, set these on a baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. (You will have extra dough left over- you can wrap it in plastic and freeze it or use it to make a mini crostata or jam filled cookies.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the tart pan and the lattice strips from the refrigerator. Set the tart pan on a parchment lined baking pan. Spread the cooled jam in the tart shell; it will not fill it to the top. Create a lattice top using the strips of dough; they do not need to be woven. Carefully brush the strips with the egg wash taking care not to get egg wash on the jam. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The tart is ready when the pastry is golden and the jam bubbles around the edges and in the middle. Set aside to cool on a rack. Remove the sides of the tart pan and dust the tart with powdered sugar. Serve with cappuccino and dream of Tuscany.