A crostata di marmellata by its English name would simply be a ‘jam tart’. I was inspired to make this Tuscan version following my recent week in Tuscany.
Unlike its sophisticated French cousin – the tarte – the crostata is a rustic affair. It’s the kind of simple tart put together by your nonna (grandmother). A real nonna, however, unlike this English version writing for you now, would have made the jam from scratch rather than buying a jar in the supermarket (albeit the best jam she could find there).
A form of crostata can be traced back as far as the 15th century and Pellegrino Artusi gives a recipe in his famous book, La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di mangier bene (science in the kitchen and the art of eating well), a ‘bible’ to serious Italian cooks, which was published in 1891:
Per crostate io intendo quelle torte che hanno per base la pasta frolla e per ripieno le conserve di frutta o la crema.
A basic translation of which is that crostatas are tarts made from a base of shortcrust pastry and filled with fruit conserve or cream (a patisserie cream, i.e. custard).
Although, as Artusi states, the crostata might be filled with custard, or sometimes fruit, the simplest and most common version – often seen sitting on counters in cafes in Tuscany to have with your morning cappuccino – have a simple jam (marmellata) filling. It’s basically just an open tart, more usually baked nowadays in a tin, but perhaps roughly shaped on a baking tray.
Crostata di Marmellata
- 1 jar (about 350g) jam of your choice
- 1 beaten egg, for glaze
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
- 225g plain flour
- 150g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 whole egg
Make the pastry. Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Process just until it all comes together in a ball. Remove onto a piece of clingfilm, flatten a bit, wrap the film round and then put in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Grease a 24cm loose-bottomed flan tin with butter. Sift a little plain flour over it and shake to cover and tip out excess. This preparation ensures your flan will come out of the tin easily after cooking and not stick to the bottom.
Roll out three-quarters of the pastry on a well-floured surface. It’s quite a soft dough because of the high butter content (which also makes it lovely to eat!). Line the flan tin.
Fill the pastry case with jam (I used most of my jar to get a good covering). Roll out the remaining pastry. Use (if possible, otherwise just a knife) a pastry cutter to get a nice crinkle effect, to cut out strips of pastry to make a lattice shape over the jam. Before anyone tells me, I know this isn’t a ‘proper’ lattice, because I haven’t woven the pieces in and out, but I’m not on Bake Off and this is supposed to be a ‘rustic’ tart … so an easy (if lazy!) method justified.
Brush the pastry with the beaten egg so it browns nicely. Put the tart in a preheated medium-hot oven (200C/180 Fan/Gas 6) for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is a lovely light golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes. Then carefully transfer to a serving plate.
I used strawberry jam (though apricot and berries are popular in Tuscany) so I served with some fresh strawberries on the side and a bowl of Cornish clotted cream (OK, definitely not Italian but I love it so much I use it any time I get the chance, and if you think of classic Scones + Jam + Clotted Cream, it’s not so very different to have Sweet Pastry + Jam + Clotted Cream).
Inevitably, it is quite sweet so I cut modest portions. But the pastry was light and very delicious; the jam just right amount with it. The clotted cream and fresh strawberries (well it is June and the best time for British strawberries) perfect accompaniments..
The crostata was a big success with the family. Son Jonathan sneaked a second helping when his son Freddie wasn’t looking … Freddie had been told he had to wait until tomorrow for more. Most of the remains went home with them. I think it’s a tart to be eaten up fairly quickly while still fresh and the pastry at its best. It’s such an easy dessert to make and yet a real family winner.