Caramelized Peach and Frangipane Crostata
At its most basic, a crostata is a rustic, lattice-topped tart composed of buttery pastry filled with good jam. A slice of crostata alla marmellata is the preferred breakfast of millions of Italian children (and adults), and virtually every hotel, B&B, and agriturismo sets at least one crostata out at its daily breakfast buffet. I have sweet memories of waking up in my aunts’ house in Rome to find a freshly baked jam crostata on the kitchen table beneath a clean towel.
But that is just the beginning. A crostata can be as simple or as sumptuous as you like. You can fill it with pastry cream or chopped nuts, chocolate-studded ricotta, or lemon mousse. The variations are pretty much endless. In summer, I love to fill my crostata base with fresh stone fruit, briefly cooked down with sugar – just enough to concentrate the fruit’s flavor and its juices while keeping the pieces intact. This recipe, which stars peaches, takes things one step further by adding a layer of frangipane, a rich almond cream that pairs beautifully with the lightly caramelized fruit.
1. Make the pasta frolla: Put the flour, sugar, salt, and zest in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolk and process until the dough begins to clump together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together into a ball. Form the dough into two disks, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine). Remove the dough from the refrigerator 30 minutes before rolling it out.
2. Make the peach filling: Place the peaches, brown sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat to dissolve the sugar, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Cook at a lively simmer, stirring often, until the peach slices are tender but still intact, and the mixture has thickened to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg and simmer for 5 minutes more. You should be able to drag a path through the bottom of the saucepan with a silicon or wooden spoon. Scrape the peaches into a heat-proof bowl and let cool completely. (At this point the preserves can be refrigerated until ready to use.)
3. Make the frangipane: Measure the almond flour, sugar, butter, egg, almond and vanilla extracts and salt into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Scrape into a bowl.
4. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, place a cookie sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 350° F. Remove the pasta frolla from the refrigerator. Have ready a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.
Lightly dust a work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll the larger disk of pasta frolla into a 12-inch (30-cm) circle, lifting and turning the dough as you roll to prevent sticking and create an even round. Gently wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it over the tart pan. Gently fit the dough into the pan without stretching it. Use the palm of your hand or the rolling pin to trim off the excess. Refrigerate while you roll out the second piece of dough.
Roll the smaller piece into a 10-inch (25-cm) circle and use a fluted pastry wheel to cut it into strips, as thin or thick as you like. Alternatively, for a more traditional look, divide the disk into 10 pieces and with your hands roll out each piece into a 10-inch (25-cm) rope.
Remove the crostata base from the refrigerator and spread the frangipane over the bottom in an even layer. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the cooled peaches over the frangipane in an even layer, letting the excess syrup drip back into the bowl. Position the strips of pastry on top of the peaches in a crisscross lattice pattern. You can weave the strips if you like, but the dough is fragile and tends to tear so it’s not necessary (nor is it traditional). Press the edges of the strips into the edge of the tart shell to secure and trim off the excess.
Set the crostata on the heated baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Transfer from the baking sheet to a rack to cool completely. Remove the ring and use a large, wide angled spatula to transfer the crostata from the metal tart base to a serving plate. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if you like and serve. For an extra-lavish touch, top each serving with a scoop of vanilla gelato and drizzle with some of the reserved caramelized peach syrup.
Makes one 9-inch (23-cm) crostata, to serve 8-10