Plum Blueberry Crostata

2-Plum-Blueberry-Crostatas

Are you pie-dough challenged? I am. But a rustic, open-faced pie called a crostata? That I can do. And so can you.

The best part is my recipe makes two small crostatas — one to keep and one to share.

Bowl-of-Plums
The recipe is based on a pear and sour cherry crostata in my first cookbook, The Great Ranch Cookbook, but I’ve made a few significant twists. First, I’ve replaced the pears with plums, and I’ve replaced the dried tart cherries with fresh blueberries and I’ve eliminated cooking the fruit.

Because fall is near, I’ve added a warm spice to the crostata, and because the round, sweet black plums I’m using originated in China, I’m using Chinese 5-Spice, plus some orange zest.

Sliced-Black-Plums

Choose any plum you like. The round black plums I’m using are much juicier and sweeter than the oval-shaped European versions that are primarily turned into dried plums (formerly known as prunes).

If using the fat round plums, cut them in half, and then cut each half into eighths, so that each plum yields 16 thin wedges.

Fresh-Blueberries

Fresh blueberries are still in season where I am now, but if they weren’t, I’d used dried blueberries, steeped in orange juice in place of fresh ones, or in a pinch, frozen blueberries.

5-Spice-Powder

Chinese 5-Spice power traditionally contains the tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorns as one of the five spices, but this Penzey’s blend replaces the Sichuan peppercorns with peppery-flavored ginger.

The other four ingredients are cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, and cloves. It’s a fragrant mixture, with spicy licorice notes.

Toss-Plums-Blueberries

These plums are sweet but still need some sugar. I’ve called for 1/2 cup. If the plums seem mouth-puckering tart, add another couple tablespoons. If they seem particularly sugary, subtracted 2 tablespoon.

A little instant tapioca will help thicken the inevitable juices. Add orange zest because it is attracted to 5-Spice like a moth to light.

Toss all the filling ingredients together and then let it sit for 15-20 minutes, or you can stick it in the fridge up to overnight. You will still see tiny bits of instant tapioca, but they will disappear after baking.

And now we come to the (not) tricky part…. the dough. Use the recipe and method for my easy, buttery pie dough and you won’t have a thing to sweat.

Roll-Dough

Instead of making one big crostata, divide the dough in half to make two small pies. It’s best to use a scale, but you can eyeball it, too. It is a pie, after all, and not concerned with perfection in the least.

Each small crostata serves four, so you have enough for a dinner party of eight, or you can keep one and give one to the new neighbor who just moved in as an “I’m so sorry my dog peed on your floor.” (Don’t ask.)

9-inch-pie-crust

Roll each dough out to 9-inches, one at a time, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. It’s much easier to transfer it to the baking sheet that way.

Sprinkle a gossamer amount of flour on the baking sheet and the dough before you mound half the filling in the center, leaving a 2-inch border to fold in. Fuss with the arrangement of plums and blueberries if you must.

Mound-filling

Once you have filled and folded one crostata, roll out the remaining dough and repeat.

Assemble-Crostatas

Pleating is simple.

Think of the circle as a clock. Start at 12 o’clock and with your thumb and first two fingers, pick up and pull dough toward the center of the pie.

Using your right hand, pull up the 1 o’clock position and fold it over the 12 o’clock section and gently press. You now have one pleat. Pull up 2 o’clock and fold over 1 o’clock.

Repeat all the way around, back to 12 o’clock.

Pie-Pleats

It’s OK if not all the pleats are equal in shape, or if you end up with 11 pleats, not 12. I did much better with the pie on the right (above) than I did with the one on left. Practice helps.

Sugar-Crust

The last step before baking is to brush the dough with milk or cream and sprinkle (heavily) with sugar.

I’m using a course, raw sugar crystal because I want to see it on the finished pie. You can use regular granulated and it will still sparkle, but you won’t see individual grains. Now bake until the edges are brown. It takes about 45 minutes in my oven. Yours may take less or more time.

Let the crostata cool about 15 minutes before serving. If you don’t plan on serving it straight away, you might consider glazing the fruit after it cools to prevent the fruit from looking dried out.

Simply warm and strain a few tablespoons some type of red jam or jelly (strawberry, red currant or raspberry) and brush only on the fruit.

2-Crostatas-One-Cut

And there you have it. A lovely, rustic, warm-spiced crostata. One for you and one to share.

 

Plum & Blueberry Crostata

[print recipe]

Serve warm or room temperature with a dollop of barely whipped cream or ice cream (suggested flavors: ginger, caramel, huckleberry, or, yawn, vanilla).

Makes 2 (6-inch) crostatas

Ingredients:
1 recipe for 9-inch buttery pie dough
1 cup fresh blueberries (fresh or dried which have been steeped in orange juice)
Zest of 1 orange
1 pound barely ripe black or red plums
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons instant tapioca
1-1/4 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder
4 teaspoons milk or half & half or heavy cream
4 teaspoons raw sugar (or regular granulated)

Method:
Make the pie dough and let it chill (wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the refrigerator) while you prepare the filling.

Slice the plums in half and remove the pit. Cut each half into eighths. Cut each half in half, and then each of those two halves in half, and then again, those halves in half, for a total of 16 even wedges.

Toss the plums, gently, with the blueberries, orange zest, sugar and instant tapioca in a medium bowl. Set aside for 15-20 minutes while you roll out the dough. (You can make both the pie dough and the filling the day before.)

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Roll out piecrust, one at a time, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to a 9-inch circle, starting from the center and rolling out, giving the dough a quarter turn after each roll.  Transfer to a lined baking sheet.

Divide the chilled plum and blueberry filling in half (it’s roughly 1-1/2 cups of filling each, and make sure you divide the juices evenly, too).

Mound half the filling onto each dough, leaving a 2” border all the way around.  Fold the border over the filling, pleating as you go.

Think of the circle as a clock. Start at 12 o’clock and with your thumb and first two fingers, pick up and pull dough toward the center of the pie.

Using your right hand, pull up the 1 o’clock position and fold it over the 12 o’clock section and gently press. You now have one pleat. Pull up 2 o’clock and fold over 1 o’clock. Repeat all the way around, back to 12 o’clock. (A good portion of the filling will be uncovered.)

Brush the top of the pleated dough with the milk or cream and sprinkle heavily with sugar.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until pastry is browned and cooked through. Do not stress if some of the filling leaks. It’s a rustic pie. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.

If not serving it straight away, consider glazing the fruit after it cools to keep the fruit from looking dried out. Simply warm and strain some type of red jam or jelly (strawberry, red currant or raspberry) and brush only on the fruit. It will give it a pleasing sheen.

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