We’re still in the eternally long & poor month of January, but 2017 is already shaping up to be a cracking year for this baker. No, I haven’t been signed to write ‘The Marmalade Teapot Baking Book’ or been left a large some of money from a long-lost relative (it is early in the year however, so I remain optimistic) but I have got some rather exciting travel plans lined up for the year.
The first of my plans is a place which I have longed to visit since around the age of 14, New York. Ever since first seeing its towering skyscrapers, busy & diverse lifestyle, landmarks & more recently, it’s dining culture in both film & television. I made a vow to my 14-year-old self that one day, I would visit & indulge in everything the city has to offer (possibly returning home a few stone heavier).
More recently however, I booked my holiday, a trip across Northern Italy, ending in the South of France. A trip that encompasses Venice, Verona, Milan, Turin, Pisa & Nice. To say I’m excited would be an understatement.
Italy, a country synonymous with innovation, art, fashion, architecture & of course, its glorious cuisine. It’s a culture that has always appealed to me & I don’t think I will rest until I have seen all that this beautiful boot has to offer. I’ve been lucky enough to have already visited both Rome & Florence a few years ago, both cities captivated me. Dining al fresco on pastas, risotto, pizza & consuming (several) gelato & espresso everyday amongst some of the worlds most beautiful architecture & landscapes certainly has a way of enabling you to become easily accustomed to its culture.
Tiramisu, focaccia, biscotti, torta del nonna & cannoli are just a few of the sweet treats that can be found in pasticcerias. There’s something extraordinary about a moment of calm accompanied by a cappuccino & piece of biscotti (any excuse for a biscuit). Other than my adoration of Italian breads, there’s one baked Italian treat that truly resonates with this preserve loving baker, Crostata.
Crostata can come in many variations but its sweet variety is in essence a rather large, rustic jam tart. A shortcrust pastry case houses a fruit preserve & is topped with a pretty shortcrust lattice. As with most Italian cuisine, its simple & makes the most of few ingredients, allowing the great flavour of those ingredients to shine. In my own version I use a sweet Italian fig jam for the filling but its open to interpretation, use your favourite toast topping, or even use up several of those unfinished jars that lurk in the deepest domains of the fridge.
(makes one 22cm tart)
For the pastry:
- 400g plain flour
- 4 tbsp icing sugar
- 200g butter, cubed
- 3-4 tbsp cold water
For the filling:
- 510g fig jam (about 1 1/2 jars)
- To make the pastry, in a large bowl sift together the flour & icing sugar
- Add the cubed butter & rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
- Using 1 tbsp at a time, add just enough water until the dough comes together
- Flatten the dough until a disc, wrap with cling film & chill in the fridge for at least an hour
- Once chilled, roll out the pastry to around 3mm thick & use it 3/4 of it to line a 22cm round tart tin
- Pierce the bottom of the tart with a fork
- Place a sheet of baking parchment over the tart & fill with baking beans
- Blind bake the pastry at 180C for about 10 minutes, remove the baking parchment & beans & return to the oven for another 3-4 minutes
- Fill the pastry case with the jam & spread evenly
- Using the remaining pastry dough, cut it into long strips using a pastry cutter
- Use these trips to create a lattice across the top of the tart
- Return the tart to the oven & bake at 180C for 35 – 40 minutes, until golden