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Crostata di Ciliegie #ChefsSecret


For this year's Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala Thanksgiving menu, I knew that I wanted to end our feast with the Crostata di Ciliegie that was included in The Chef's Secret - A Companion Cookbook by Crystal King. But that recipe was inspired by The Chef's Secret*...

On the Page

 “I began the day I was to dine at casa di Palone in the Vaticano kitchen, helping Antonio prepare the pope’s meals.…I suspected the pope would not touch the custardy dessert, but I felt compelled to take a chance. The worst that might happen was that he would order me to go back to his regular menu. At best, he would recognize the joy of food God gifted to us.…Antonio helped me bake a crostata to take the Palone house that evening. …The fragrance was magnificent. I hoped the famiglia Palone would find the pie tasted as good as it looked” (Chapter 11).

On the Plate

After I read that passage, I was daydreaming about cherry crostata, and I created a version with frangipane and Amarena cherries. The Amarena cherries, a variety of the Prunus cerasus developed by Gennaro Fabbri who was born in Bologna in the late 19th century, small, dark cherries grown near Bologna and Modena. Though Giovanni’s version is made with the Visciola—an indigenous, wild cherry—Amarenas were what I could find here in California! Because the cherries were bottled in syrup, I used very little sugar in the crust and added lemon juice to the frangipane to cut the sweetness. A rosewater, I’ve found, is a very polarizing ingredient; some people love it, others abhor it. So, I skipped it completely for this version.


Also I tried to have some fun with the crust though it didn't turn out exactly as I had planned!

Ingredients
Crust
• 2-1/2 C flour + more for rolling
• 1/2 C ground almonds
• 1/4 C powdered sugar
• pinch of salt
• 1 C butter
• 3 T water
• 3 T vodka (use whatever alcohol you want – gin and grappa work well – or more water.)
• Also needed: a tart pan with a removable bottom

Frangipane
• 1 C ground almonds
• 1/4 C dark brown sugar
• 1/2 C melted butter
• 2 large eggs
• 2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons because my parents have a tree in their yard. Use whatever lemons you have.)

To Finish
• Amarena cherries (I used two 7.4 oz jars from Trader Joe’s which are pitted but still have stems.)
• Unsweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional

Procedure

Crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the flour, ground almonds, powdered sugar, and salt together; rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Alternatively stir in water and vodka, if using, until the mixture forms a ball. Divide the ball into  thirds, then combine two of the balls so you end up with 1/3 of the dough for the top and 2/3 of the dough for the bottom. Wrap the smaller ball in plastic wrap and chill. Roll out the larger ball between two pieces of parchment paper. Press gently into a tart pan. Prick crust with a fork to prevent  bubbling.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350, or until a light golden brown. In the meantime, make the frangipane.

Frangipane
Mix everything together to form a paste. Once the tart crust is cooked, spread a layer of frangipane over the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes.

To Finish
Drain the Amarena cherries and remove their stems. Rinse briefly under cold water and let drain again while the frangipane bakes.

Press the cherries into the partially baked frangipane. Roll the second crust out between two pieces of parchment paper. Slice into strips. You can weave the lattice if you like; I braided some of the strands.


And I even tried my hand at pastry tulips!

Trim any excess dough and press gently at the edge of the pan to attach the strips to the crostata base.

Return to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the crostata from the tart pan.


Slice and serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. This was the final course of our Thanksgiving feast along with R's Butterkin-Cinderella Tourte.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.

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