belinda jeffery's recipes
My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.
apple and cinnamon crostata
As you can see from the photo, I don’t worry about arranging the apples in perfect rows over the pastry as I rather love the higgledy-piggledy look of the slices if they’re just tumbled into the crust.
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup (60ml) iced water
120g digestive biscuits (preferably McVities)
1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 kg small or medium-sized sweet apples
2/3 cup (150g) caster sugar
2-3 teaspoons vanilla extract
40g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons caster or granulated sugar, extra
Pure icing sugar, for dusting
Double-thick cream or vanilla bean ice-cream, to serve
To make the pastry, put the flour and salt into a food processor and whiz them together. Add the butter and process everything until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With the processor running, pour in the iced water and process until the dough forms a ball around the blade.
Tip the dough out onto a board and form it into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and wrap it tightly in plastic film. Chill it for 40-50 minutes, or until it’s firm but supple enough to roll out. (I often make the pastry a day or two ahead of baking the crostata so I only have to roll it out when I need it; just remember to let it soften up a bit at room temperature first.)
Preheat your oven to 200C. Line a large round pizza tin (approx. 30cm in diameter) or a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper, then set it aside.
For the filling, crush the biscuits and mix them with the 1 ½ tablespoons of caster sugar, cinnamon and flour – or whiz them all together in the food processor. Set the mixture aside.
Peel, halve and core all the apples except one, and cut them crossways into thin slices. Peel the one remaining apple and slice it crosswise into rounds, then remove any seeds – I love the look of apples sliced like this as the seed holes form perfect little stars in the centre of the slices. Put all the apples into a large bowl and sprinkle them with the ⅔ cup (150g) caster sugar. Mix together the vanilla and melted butter, drizzle it over the apples and toss everything together. Leave this bowl aside while you roll the pastry.
On a floured board, roll the pastry out thinly into a round that is a bit larger than the prepared pizza tin. Drape it over the tin, leaving an overhang all around (this overhang eventually forms a border for the crostata) and pressing it very gently into the sides. Spread the biscuit mixture evenly over the base. (If you’re making the crostata on a baking tray, centre the rolled-out pastry on the baking paper. Sprinkle the biscuit mixture evenly over the pastry, leaving a 5-6cm border all around so you can flip this over to form the rim of the crostata.) Strew the apple slices (but not the rounds) higgledy-piggledy over the biscuit mixture. Now tuck the reserved apple rounds here and there over the top. Gently fold the overhanging dough over the fruit, pleating and pressing it gently to seal it and form a pastry rim. Sprinkle the extra 2 teaspoons of sugar over this pastry rim.
Bake the crostata for 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sit the tin on a cooling rack. Dust the apples with a little icing sugar (it melts with the heat and gives them a lovely sheen) and leave the crostata to cool in the tin for at least 40 minutes so the filling firms up.
With the help of the baking paper underneath, gently slide the crostata out of the tin onto a large, flat serving plate. Dust it lightly with a little more icing sugar, if liked, and serve it with cream or vanilla bean ice-cream.
P.S. The crostata keeps quite well so you can bake it a few hours before you need it. Store any leftovers in the fridge - I’m always surprised that even a couple of days later the pastry is still relatively crisp
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© Copyright Belinda Jeffery 2014. This recipe and photograph are protected by copyright laws and written permission from the author must be obtained to re-use them in any form of media.