I’ll be including plenty of gorgeous Italian recipes in classes this fall, and one of them is inspired by the air in this high spot of Tuscany, part of the Apuan alps, which smells like dessert. Walking along the lanes, climbing the trails, even cycling to the beach with cars whizzing by, the amber aroma of figs envelops in wafts that make me dream.
I enlisted a helper, Lorenzo de Leo, to harvest figs along one of our trails. Fat, oozy with their honey and their sticky milk, we made short order of grabbing a few pounds, eating our fill along the way. When we got home, I turned them into this crostata which did them justice and then some.
Crostata is a typical Italian dessert, simple and rustic, filled with the true flavor of the ingredients, like so many Italian dishes. There is no fuss or bother, just a simple pastry filled with gorgeous fruit. You can get more recipes for crostata in my book, Italian Farmhouse.
Try to get your hands on some figs – they are nature’s honeyball and generally in season through September in the northern hemisphere – and make this crostata.
You can use any seasonal fruit to make crostata, but right now and for the next month, I encourage you to use figs.
For the Pastry – Pasta Frolla
1-1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons (105g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
½ cup vanilla sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
Zest of 1 lemon, minced
For the Figs:
1-1/2 pounds (750g) green or black figs, hard stems trimmed
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons honey
- To make the pastry, place the flour on a work surface, make a well, and add the butter, the egg yolks, the sugar, the salt, and the lemon zest. Using your finger tips, mix these ingredients until they are thoroughly combined, then incorporate the flour by bringing it into the center with your fingers and gently mixing it with the wet ingredients. When you have crumbly but cohesive dough, form it into a round and let it sit, covered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
- Divide the pastry into two-thirds and one-third. Refrigerate the smaller piece while you roll out the larger piece on a well-floured surface into a round that measures about 10-inches (21.5cm). If the dough is too soft to roll out, you may press it into a 9-1/2 inch, removable bottom tart pan, pressing it halfway up the sides.
- Cut 4 of the largest figs into rounds that are slighter thinner than ¼ of an inch and lay these in an even layer on the pastry. Sprinkle them with the 2 tablespoons of sugar. Quarter the remaining figs and arrange them in an attractive pattern atop the rounds of fig.
- Roll out the smaller piece of pastry on a well-floured surface into about an 8-inch round, and cut the pastry into 14 strips of equal width. Working carefully because the pastry is tender, lay 7 strips atop the figs in one direction, leaving space between them, then 7 strips in the other direction, to create a criss-cross pattern. Don’t be concerned if you have to do some “mending” when the strips break, which they probably will. The mends will bake out.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey over the tart, transfer the pan to a baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven until the pastry is golden and baked through, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey and let cool.