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A flaky cornmeal crust, jammy roasted grapes and a creamy mascarpone filling make this roasted grape crostata a favorite for dessert or brunch.
As easy as pie. It’s kind of a funny expression since most people I know are completely intimidated by making a pie. I was too for many years, but my desire for a flaky, buttery crust motivated me to push the fear aside and bust out my rolling pin.
Making a flaky pie crust from scratch, not to mention rolling out the dough, can be daunting. But it doesn’t need to be. A crostata is the Italian term for a rustic tart or pie that is typically filled with fruit and can be free-form or baked in a pie plate. I think this rustic preparation is a great introduction to pie-making if crimped edges and a top crust seem overwhelming. It’s not meant to be perfect; craggy edges are just fine and you simply fold and pleat the edges over the filling before popping it into the oven.
I always make my dough in a food processor. It comes together in a snap and clean up is a breeze. But you can just as easily make your dough by hand, either with a pastry cutter or just your fingers. It will take a few minutes longer, but the result will be just as good.
Okay, so first things first. I have two basic rules for making pie crust: start with very cold ingredients and have a light touch when mixing the dough. Very cold water and butter (even frozen butter if using a food processor) keep the water and flour separated, resulting in those flaky layers that are the hallmark of a tender crust. Over-mixed dough can turn gummy and make for sticky mess when rolling. It can also result in a tough crust instead of that melt-in-your-mouth buttery flakiness that makes all of this chilling and rolling worth it. So keep in mind, less is definitely more when handling the dough.
After I’ve made my dough, I flatten it into a round disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. It should chill for a least an hour in the frig before rolling or can be stored in the freezer for a few weeks. When it’s pie-making time, I always roll out my dough between two sheets of lightly floured wax paper. This technique makes it simpler to turn the dough and prevent sticking. Then after it’s rolled to the desired thickness, place one end of the dough over the rolling pin and carefully and loosely roll the dough over the pin. This makes it so much easier to transfer your crust to the pie plate or sheet pan. Gently unroll it and get to filling.
This grape crostata was inspired by a bread we were taught to make in an Italian baking class in culinary school: focaccia bread studded with red grapes. I was used to enjoying focaccia in savory preparations, a little salty and sprinkled with fresh herbs or tomato, but this bread changed my life. We topped the focaccia dough with olive oil, red grapes and coarse sugar and baked it until the grapes were soft and sweet and the crust golden brown. It was this prefect marriage of savory and sweet. So delicious with a steaming cup of coffee for dessert or breakfast.
The same is true of this crostata. For those that favor less sweet desserts, this is for you. It’s also a welcome addition to the brunch table and it can be served warm or at room temperature. The cornmeal gives this crust crunch and the rosemary pairs beautifully with the grapes and tangy mascarpone. The grapes become soft, sweet and a little jammy when roasted. This crostata is definitely best eaten the day it’s baked, but don’t worry if there’s a slice or two left over. The next morning pop it into the oven to warm, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.
After giving this a try, you may just find yourself saying it’s as easy as crostata.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp rosemary finely chopped
- 8 oz cold unsalted butter, chopped
- 1/4 cup ice water
- 1/2 cup mascarpone softened
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream
- 3 cups seedless red grapes
- 1/2 tsp rosemary finely chopped
- *2 Tbsp heavy cream
- *2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
- **optional - powdered sugar for dusting
Crust: Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, lemon zest, salt and chopped rosemary in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Pulse a few times to mix.
Add the cold, chopped butter and pulse about 10 -12 times until the butter is cut into the flour mixture and is pea size.
Pour in the ice water and pulse a few more times until a ball begins to form, being careful not to overmix. The dough should not be completely blended, it will come together on the counter.
Scrape dough onto counter and form into a flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight. (Dough can also be frozen for several weeks. Defrost in refrigerator before proceeding.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and remove dough from the refrigerator.
Roll out dough between lightly floured pieces of wax paper, carefully turning and lightly flouring to prevent sticking. Roll into a 16 inch circle, don't worry if the edges are a little craggy.
Move the pastry round onto a parchment lined sheet tray.
Filling: Whisk together the mascarpone, lemon juice, vanilla, yolk and heavy cream in a medium bowl.
Crostata: Pour mascarpone filling into the center of the pastry round in roughly a 10 inch circle, leaving about 3 inches of dough exposed on the edge.
Sprinkle the grapes over the mascarpone mixture and scatter rosemary over the grapes.
Fold and pleat the border over the filling, leaving about 6 inches in the center exposed.
Place the unbaked crostata into the refrigerator for 20 minutes to chill.
Remove and brush the edges with cream and sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the edges.
Bake for about 50 mins or until golden brown and filling is set. If the edges are getting too dark before the filling is set, cover loosely with foil.
Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheet tray for 15 minutes before carefully removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired and serve. Crostata can be served warm or room temperature.