The other day my sister was at work. Just a typical day at the radio station, nothing out of the ordinary. A couple of songs, some senseless (albeit entertaining) chit-chat, traffic updates, another song…you get the idea. And then, suddenly, a familiar voice. And not just any voice [my sister would say]! The one and only, the grand, pastry God…Luca Montersino. If you’ve been to any of the Eatalys around the world, you may (should!!) know who I am talking about, and you might understand why we refer to him as the God of all things sweet! But, alas, I do understand that not everyone is as food-crazed as we are, not everyone chooses to just hang at Eataly instead of the mall, and not everyone falls asleep reading cookbooks instead of novels.
We are not as strange as I make us sound, I swear!
In the years spent testing, trying and adapting recipes, my sister will always tell you that when it comes to cakes, Luca Montersino’s techniques are unbeatable. Plain and simple. He is the pastry God, after all. And since we never really had a nonna that made us cakes and brought them over for Sunday lunch, we had to make up for it with our own creations.
The crostata is a timeless dessert. It can be filled with jam, or with pastry cream; it can have a criss-cross pattern of pastry on top, or it can just be covered with fruit. Nevertheless, nothing beats a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pastry, and its soft and rich filling, whatever that may be.
For the short-crust pastry (2 kg):
1 kg ’00’ flour
600g butter, room temperature
400g icing sugar
160g egg yolks (every yolk is about 15g)
1 bourbon vanilla pod (or 1/4 tsp vanilla paste)
a pinch of salt
Place the flour and icing sugar in a large bowl, or on a work surface. Add the yolks, butter, salt and vanilla. Star working the ingredients together with your hand, until the dough comes together to form a compact mass. Keep working it until it takes in all the flour. Wrap it in cling film and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Side note: This recipe makes 2 kg of short-crust pastry. Keep the amount needed for your recipe, and the rest can be frozen and used in the future.
For the crostata (20cm round tin):
160g short crust pastry
120g caster sugar
70g egg yolks
15g potato flour/starch
1 fresh pineapple
Dark chocolate shavings for decoration
Start by making the pastry cream. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium sized pot. In the meantime, whisk the yolks with the sugar and potato flour. Once the milk is hot, slowly add it to the egg and sugar mixture, while stirring constantly to avoid cooking the eggs. Strain the mixture back into the pot and cook on medium heat until thick for about 3-4 minutes. Pour the cream into a bowl so it doesn’t keep cooking, and have it ready for use later in the recipe.
Side note: For this recipe, we are using a pastry cream that is cooked twice; once on the stove and then again in the oven. In order to maintain its smooth texture we are using potato flour as opposed to corn starch. If you used potato flour in a normal pastry cream (ie. not cooked in the oven), it would be gluey.
Roll out your pastry to about a 1/2 cm thickness and gently place it into a well buttered, loose-bottomed tin. Make sure to butter the tin properly as fat conduces heat, allowing the pastry to cook uniformly. Using a fork, gently poke holes all over the base of the pastry. If you don’t do this, the pastry will rise and not cook through.
Now cover the pineapple with the warm pastry cream. Gently spread it out evenly, leaving a few irregular ridges, which will caramelize more in the oven.
Let the crostata cool completely before you start decorating with the fruit. We used kiwi, banana, pineapple and chocolate, but you can use any fruit you have available. Use your imagination! [OR keep it simple and simply dust the pie with icing sugar]
PS. Wild guess of what Pineapple means? Perfection.