It’s my favorite grocery store time of year: the time when strawberries are absurdly cheap. “Buy 1, get 2 free!” “3 containers for $5!” “Strawberries: $1.50!” Music to my ears, I tell you. I can put something besides frozen blueberries in my oatmeal every morning!
I love strawberries. When I was in Peace Corps in Moldova, I screened potential host families based on what kinds of fruit they grew, since the only fruits you got were literally the ones that grew in your back yard. Unfortunately the host family that I went with had some raspberry bushes and that was it. But I made friends with my students that grew strawberries and an elderly neighbor with a large strawberry patch, so I was set. It’s amazing how your priorities change when you find yourself in a new situation…
With that, I give you my first official spring/summer dessert of the season! And, oh, is this a good one. Last year, after much experimenting and learning, I figured out how to sucessfully make a crostata (or galette, depending on your fancy). Crostatas are awesome because you can make them as large or small as you want. All you have to do is roll out the crust, put the fruit in the middle, fold up the sides, and bake! The less fuss, the better. I happened to have a handful of unbaked pastry crust in the fridge, left over from the last Daring Bakers’ challenge, and we had some strawberries too. I baked a little two-serving crostata and it was the perfect weekend dessert. On a better day I could have very easily eaten it all by myself, but at that point I’d already had a stuffed artichoke heart and grilled fillet mignon with sautéed mushrooms. Plus, I hear that it’s nice to share and I generally try to be a nice person.
I’ve already made plans to go strawberry picking once the season is upon us, and I can guarantee that this will be the first of many strawberry posts throughout the spring and summer! I’ll embrace my current enthusiasm, as I know that I’ll eventually run out of ideas for what to do with seemingly endless amounts of strawberries. But for now the prospect of having more strawberries than I know what to do with seems like the best thing ever!
I’ve given you the full recipe below for the pastry, since you can just break off a handful and keep the rest for later. However be forewarned: keeping unbaked pastry crust in the fridge is dangerous because you will be more likely to cook more pies, crostatas, etc. And that’s either good or bad, depending on your metabolism. If you want to make a crostata for two people, you will need about a third of the pastry crust (or maybe a little less– it depends on how much you like dessert). If you use different fruits, feel free to play around with the amounts of flour and sugar. Granny Smith apples would require less flour and more sugar since they are drier than strawberries and less sweet, peaches would require more flour and less sugar because they have a higher moisture content and are more sweet, etc. etc.
Fruit filling: (enough for a two person crostata)
2 handfuls of strawberries, rinsed, hulled and diced
1.5 tbsp flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Mix together and set aside
2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup + 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, ice cold, cubed
1/3 tsp salt
1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.
Process until the dough just comes together. [Or, if you prefer to use a pastry cutter/don't have a food processor, put the dry ingredients plus flour in a bowl and pour in the egg mixture. Use a pastry cutter or knives to cut the butter up into small pea-sized bits.] If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle. Place the fruit in the middle, leaving a 2-inch border on all sides. Fold the pastry up over the dough, sealing any holes or tears. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until done.