Now auditioning Thanksgiving dessert ideas…

Autumn, Dairy Free, dessert, Fruit Pies, Vegan, vegetarian

I just got a wonderful phone call from my friend Anna, who lives out in Big Sur, California. Anna and I were inseparable for years, as young dancers in Cambridge, Mass. We spent many a day attached to each other from morning until night, gardening with our friend Jayne, eating, cooking, and taking one ballet class after another. We performed together, frolicked in Maine and on the Cape, and celebrated holidays and birthdays. Our conversations had no end, only pauses, and she has been very missed, since she defected in 2007.

Although I am going to miss many elements of being in Boston when we start our life anew, I am sure to be somewhat relieved by not having to relive memories every time I turn a corner. This place is so completely stuffed with ancient and not-so-ancient reminders of people I’ve loved who have left that it can be quite emotionally exhausting at times. Here’s to newness — although it may seem a bit of a non-sequitor, I’ve never made a cranberry crostata before this week, so there’s no nostalgia whatsoever attached to this recipe. Which does not stop it from being completely delicious and a worthy Thanksgiving dessert candidate!

Cranberry Almond Crostata, from Gourmet Today, edited by Ruth Reichl, 2009

It’s quite alright if you have never heard of a ‘crostata’ before– neither had I. Here’s a link about them, so you can feel like you’ve learned a little something. This recipe calls for an egg, but I am a fairly certain you could leave it out entirely and with the substitution of margarine for butter, you have a vegan dessert!

For pastry dough:

3/4 cup whole raw almonds (skins on), toasted and cooled

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided (I used one cup whole wheat pastry and one cup AP flour)

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (I used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and they worker great!)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, lightly beaten, divided (vegans, go ahead and leave this out- if your dough is too dry add a little soy creamer)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I used orange zest)

1/2 teaspoon salt

For filling and assembly:

2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (10 ounces)

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup sweet orange marmalade

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Equipment: a 9-inch springform pan; a pastry wheel or pizza cutter

Make dough:

Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour until finely ground (be careful not to grind to a paste).

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon beaten egg, chilled, for egg wash and beat remaining egg into butter mixture, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. At low speed, mix in almond mixture, zest, salt, and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour until mixture just forms a dough.

Halve dough and form each half into a 5- to 6-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Make filling:

Bring cranberries, orange juice, marmalade, brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium pot, stirring, then simmer, uncovered, until some of cranberries burst and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool filling quickly by spreading it in a shallow baking pan and chilling until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.

Bake crostata:

Preheat oven to 375°F with a foil-lined large baking sheet on middle rack. Generously butter springform pan.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch round (dough will be very tender). Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into springform pan. (Dough will tear easily but can be patched together with your fingers.) Press dough over bottom and up side of pan, trimming dough to reach 1/2 inch up side of pan. Chill shell.

Roll out remaining dough into a 12-inch round in same manner. Remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1/3-inch-wide) strips with pastry wheel and slide (still on wax paper) onto a tray. Freeze strips until firm, about 10 minutes.

Spread filling in chilled shell and arrange 5 strips 1 inch apart on filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips 1 inch apart diagonally across first strips to form a lattice with diamond-shaped spaces. Trim edges of all strips flush with edge of shell. Brush lattice top with reserved beaten egg and sprinkle crostata with granulated sugar.

spreading filling into shell

Bake crostata in pan on hot baking sheet until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pastry is too brown after 30 minutes, loosely cover crostata with foil.) Cool crostata completely in pan on a rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to allow juices to thicken).

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