As you know, I had the amazing fortune of being a part of the New York Culinary Experience this year, in which I took a fall-themed pastry class with Babbo's Pastry Chef, Gina DePalma. You might remember me unveiling one of Chef Gina's fall recipes a couple of weeks ago for a chestnut cake called Castagnaccio. The feedback was good so I wanted to unleash another delicious creation that my family and friends liked even more - the apple, fig and almond crostata.
Sure it looks impressive and intricate, but the beauty of this dish is how versatile and forgiving it is. You can arrange the apples in any way you want and your tart crust can look far from perfect. The most important aspects are the flavors and making sure you get them right. Although there are a lot of steps that go into making this crostata (blocking off a good chunk of time to make it is recommended), it's worth every chop, stir, saute and roll of your rolling pin. Check out Chef Gina's recipe below and if you recruit a friend to join you, you'll not only have great fun, the process will go a lot quicker.
Apple, Fig and Almond Crostata - Serves 10-12
2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp of Kosher salt
3 tbs granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 large egg yolks
3 tbs milk
8 oz. dried figs
1/4 cup of honey
3/4 cup of orange juice
1 tbs of granulated sugar
1 cup of sliced almonds, toasted and finely ground
1 cup of confectioner's sugar
6 tbs (3 oz.) of unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
A pinch of Kosher salt
Apples and Final Assembly:
3 large golden delicious apples
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
2 tbs water
1 tbs unsalted butter
For the Crostata Dough:
Place the flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine them. Add the cold butter cubes and process until the mixture resembles small crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and milk together with a fork.
Add the mixture to the food processor and pulse until the mixture just begins to clump together to form a dough. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten it to form a disc. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for an hour before rolling it.
After the dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8" thick and transfer it to a 10 inch tart pan, with even or fluted sides. Tuck the excess dough to create a decorative trim, if using an even sided pan, or trim it flush with the edge if using a fluted pan. Place the unbaked shell back in the refrigerator to chill while you caramelize the apples.
For the Fig Filling:
Trim the stems off the dried figs, cut them into quarters and place in a 2 quart saucepan. Add the honey and orange juice to the pot and place over medium heat. Cook simmering gently, for 10-12 minutes or until the figs are soft and about half of the orange juice has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the entire contents of the pan to the bowl of a food processor and process for about a minute to make a thick fig paste. Transfer the fig filling to a clean bowl and set aside.
For the Almond Cream:
Place the toasted, sliced almonds in the food processor with the confectioner's sugar and pulse a few times to chop the almonds roughly. Add the butter and process for 20 seconds to combine all the ingredients. Add the 2 egg yolks, a pinch of salt and process again until creamy - about 10 seconds. Transfer the almond cream to a clean bowl and set aside.
For the Apples:
Peel and core the apples and cut them into 1/4" lengthwise slices. Place the apple slices in a bowl and toss them with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
Place 1/2 cup of sugar and the 2 tbs of water into a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan and stir together to wet the sugar. Set the pan over high heat and cook the sugar, shaking the pan every so often, until it turns into deep golden caramel.
Gently add the apples to the pan and stir with a heat-proof spatula to coat the apples in the caramel. Cook the apples over medium heat, stirring them gently, until they have released their juices and are evenly colored.
Add the butter to the pan and toss to melt and coat the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the contents into a large baking dish or rimmed cookie sheet, spreading the apples in an even layer to cool.
For Final Assembly:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator and with an offset spatula, spread the fig filling in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Add the almond cream and use the spatula to spread it in another even layer over the fig filling. Arrange the apple slices in a shingled, circular pattern over the top, working from the outside edge inward, ending with a tight spiral. Reserve the apple caramel in a small bowl.
Sprinkle the top of the apples with 1 tsp of granulated sugar and place the tart on a cookie sheet to catch any drips. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the crust and apples are golden brown and the filling has puffed to the edge of the pan. Cool the crostata on a wire rack for 10 minutes. With a pastry brush, carefully brush the apples with the reserved caramel (optional).
Allow the crostata to cool; it may be served slightly warm or at room temperature with a dollop of softly whipped cream or a scoop of gelato.