Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tart Tartier Tartest

As I've mentioned about our CSA hauls, we sometimes reach a limit-- a point at which Mr. Lemon and I start wondering who to pawn, I mean, share our produce bounty with. So when we found ourselves in week two of The Great Plum Purge (in more ways than one Mr. Lemon will tell you) from the CSA, something had to be done. Fortunately invites had been out for a while so we would be spared eating all those very tart plums by our lonesome.

Who were our lucky plum-eating pals? Last weekend, we had invited two couples over, one for a sit down dinner and the other for a brunch with their adorable baby son. If that seems ambitious and very un-lazy, allow me to explain why it is neither. I'm a big fan of the double-header weekend, either entertaining both Friday and Saturday nights, or Saturday night and Sunday brunch. There are several key advantages to be had. Perhaps most importantly, the dusting only needs to be done once for two visits. Win!

Another advantage is that I can put on my baking hat and eat all my naughty handy work over the weekend, but get back on track with the healthier stuff the rest of the week. And on the time-saving not-buying-many-different-ingredients spectrum, I can sometimes get away with baking once for the two separate meals.

So what's nice enough for dinner, but not too fancy for brunch and, of course, uses a lot of the too-tart-to-eat plums that we'd been juggling all week in our fruit bin? Only the easiest tart with the somewhat exotic name (don't be afraid to say it with gusto): crostata.

If you haven't seen a crostata, allow me to explain. It is the lazy person's tart. Yes, pie dough must be made from scratch, chilled and rolled. That's actually pretty easy once you realized that the dough does not need to fit a pan and doesn't have to be a specified thickness. Just roll and go.

Next, shift the rolled dough over to a parchment covered baking sheet. Drop fruit (cut, mixed with 1-2 Tablespoons cornstarch, 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, juice of 1/2 a lemon, pinch of salt) in the center of your dough blob and start to fold up the sides around the fruit. To seal the overlapping edges, brush with one beaten egg.

Next step: into a 375F oven for 40-50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling.

I've been using Martha's corn meal-inflected crostata crust from her Baking Handbook. Here's the adapted recipe for Cornmeal Pate Brisee

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (I bump this up to a 1 Tablespoon)
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water (I always use the full 1/2 cup)

Pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor until well combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture "resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds." This happens quickly so pulse about 4 times for several seconds. I just make sure the butter is no longer visible. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and don't process for more than 30 seconds. I used to dribble in like the recipe recommends, but honestly I use the 1/2 cup every time, so I just add it in two parts.

Remove dough from the food processor and shape into two disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. Martha et al say at least 1 hour and up to 1 day for the chilling time. I'm going to tell you a dirty little secret: this dough is pretty much indestructible. I've left it in the fridge for a couple days and had good results and I've frozen it, too.

Finally, dust liberally with powdered sugar, especially if your plums/fruit are super tart.

Tart plums get a little sweeter with lots of sugar and caramelizing
Easy dessert that doesn't risk sticking to a pie pan
No new ingredients to buy, just the pantry standards makes this thrifty
Crostata is fun to say, add as many accent marks as you want. They're free.

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