The star of this rustic crostata is the mounds of ripe summer plums. In order to give the plums the adoration they deserve, I do as little as possible to them when building the filling--nothing but a touch of sugar and salt. They’re wrapped very simply in a classic Italian pastry dough (Pasta Frolla). While you could bake this in a pan, I prefer the casual elegance of a free-form plum crostata.
Fennel and pepper take the flavors of this summer plum crostata to the next level.
In this recipe, I use a combination of lemon zest, floral ground fennel, and fruity black pepper in the crust itself. Mixing the spices right into the dough is an easy way to add depth to the rich, juicy fruit without stealing its spotlight.
There's something about a juicy plum...
Truly, any stone fruit works in this recipe. But for me, there's something so elegant about a ripe summer plum cooked until jammy and deep. I love how the slight tannic pucker of the skin mellows into an almost Port-like deep purple flavor. In contrast to that winey elegance, the inner juicy flesh stays tart and lively, with concentrated plummy aromas. That tartness keeps your tongue on its toes, allowing the complex flavors to dance across your palate instead of turning heavy and somber. The luxurious, almost silky texture of the cooked plums is only enhanced by the contrasting buttery cookie crust.
Somewhat cookie-like, the crostata crust comes together in a snap.
I often compare this pastry dough to shortbread, but with a tender-crispiness that makes it perfect for tarts. The dough can easily be made in advance. If chilling more than 15-20 minutes it will firm up significantly. Just let it sit on your counter until pliable but not sticky. As you work, sprinkle your rolling pin and the surface of the dough lightly with flour when rolling, or pop it back in the fridge for a minute to re-firm if it gets too warm. And, since this dough is so forgiving, don’t sweat it if the crust tears as you move it around—just press it back together and patch any holes with scraps.
(While you're at it, make a double batch-- this crust works well for savory tarts, too!)
Notes for Success:
Try to pick ripe but firm plums. Fruit that is too juicy and soft will make the crust more likely to crack and leak. It won’t impact the flavor, but the juicier the plums the trickier they will be to work with.
Sometimes, depending on your oven and the ripeness of your plums, the exposed layer of fruit ends up looking a little bit dull and leather. While this won't affect its deliciousness, it's not as beautiful as it could be. To give your crostata a bit more gloss, I've included instructions for making an easy syrup to lightly brush over the fruit while it's still warm.
Recipe: Summer Plum Crostata
For the Crust:
- 128 grams (9 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
- 85 grams (¾ cup) powdered sugar
- ¾ teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
- 1 tablespoons lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
- 1 large egg
- 219 grams (1¾ cup) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Filling:
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1½ pound firm plums, pitted and cut into ½-inch wedges
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
To Finish (Optional):
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- Preheat an oven to 400°F with a rack in the lower middle position.
- Step 1Make the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and powdered sugar on low until mostly combined, then increase to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, 30 seconds. Add the salt, pepper, fennel, and lemon zest and beat until incorporated, 30 seconds more. Add the egg and continue to beat until completely smooth and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed, about 60 seconds. Add the flour and cornstarch. Mix on low just until combined, 30 seconds. Turn out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press into a disc about 1-inch thick. Wrap tightly and freeze until firmed, about 15 minutes.
- Step 2Place the chilled dough in the center of a large sheet of parchment (about the size of a large baking sheet), dust the top of the dough with flour, and roll into a 13-inch circle, about 1⁄4-inch thick. If your kitchen is warm, the dough may stick to the rolling pin. Simply dust both the dough and the pin with more flour, or chill a few minutes to re-firm. Trim and patch the dough to neaten the edges, leaving a tidy 12-inch circle. Keep any extra trimmings for patching cracks later. Slide the dough and the parchment onto a baking sheet and chill for 10 minutes.
- Step 3Make the filling: While the dough is chilling, in a medium bowl, whisk together the white sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the plums and toss with the starch mixture until evenly coated and none of the starch remains at the bottom of the bowl.
- Step 4Arrange the plums in the center of the chilled dough circle, leaving about a 2-inch border. Using the parchment to help lift, fold the edges of the crust up and over the edge of the plums, making sure to smooth and patch any gaps around the edges or cracks in the folds. Brush the crust evenly with the beaten egg, taking care to brush around and under the folded edge of the crostata.
- Step 5Bake until the crust is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cover with foil and continue to bake until the plums are very tender and the juices are thickened and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool on the pan on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm.
- To Finish: OptionalSometimes, depending on your oven and the ripeness of your plums, the exposed layer of fruit ends up looking a little bit dull and leather. While this won't affect its deliciousness, it's not as beautiful as it could be. To give your crostata a bit more gloss, make an easy syrup to lightly brush over the fruit while it's still warm.While the crostata is cooling, in a small pot over medium-high, heat the sugar in 1 tablespoon water until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is boiling. Brush the warm plums with the syrup.