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Apple, Raisin & Walnut Crostata

Crostata (pronounced crow-sta-ta) is simply an Italian open-faced pie filled with either sweet or savory ingredients. It’s easy to make and meant to look rustic!

The flavor combination of this particular crostata conjures up a homey harvest feel with local apples spiced with cinnamon, plump raisins, and toasted walnuts. Add a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream and a cup of your favorite tea and suddenly, you’re transported to the comfort of sunshiny-cool autumn days!

I’ve included a recipe for pie crust but feel free to substitute refrigerated or frozen pie dough or even puff pastry. Check the list of ingredients: prepared pie crust may contain lard.

Foolproof Pie Crust

This is the pie crust my mom used to make. She got it from her friend, Rose; although, you can find similar recipes elsewhere online...often with the same name!

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 TBS granulated sugar

1-1/2 tsp salt

1-3/4 cups vegetable shortening

1 TBS white vinegar

1 egg, beaten

½ cup cold water

In a food processor, add the 4 cups of flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse a few times. Add the shortening and pulse until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

Pulse the dry ingredients with the shortening.

Mix the vinegar, egg, and water together. Slowly add the liquid mixture bit by bit to the food processor, pulsing after each addition, until the dough holds together and pulls away from the sides of the food processor.

Mix the wet ingredients in a measuring cup for easier pouring!

Once the dough pulls away from the sides, it's ready.

Flour a clean counter, cutting board or pastry board...I love this silicone pastry board (while I receive a small affiliate fee, I use this board all the time at home and in my classes)! Carefully dump the dough from the food processor onto your board.

Even though the dough looks a bit crumbly, there is enough moisture for it to come together.

Without overworking the dough (you don’t want it to become tough), bring the dough together into a large ball. Gently roll the dough into a log. Cut the log into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and then flatten the balls into discs. Cover each disc with cling film.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.

You can store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or wrap the dough in a layer of foil or place in a zip-top freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. If you freeze it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Note: You don’t need a food processor to make this dough. In a large mixing bowl, add the first four ingredients and using a fork or pastry cutter, mix it until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix the vinegar, egg, and water together. Stir in the liquid mixture just until the dough holds together. Follow the rest of the recipe as written.


Apple, Raisin & Walnut Crostata

3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4" thick pieces

¼ cup dark brown sugar

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Zest of one lemon

1 TBS lemon juice

1 disc of Foolproof Pie Crust or your favorite pie dough

1 egg beaten with 1 tsp cold water (this is called egg wash)

2 TBS raisins

2 TBS chopped walnuts, toasted

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, add the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the apples to macerate (soften and release some of their juices).

Flour your surface and rolling pin. Starting from the center of the dough, roll out the crust to a circle 12 inches in diameter.

Don't worry about jagged edges; just trim them with a knife.

Place the crust onto a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

With the edges trimmed, we have a perfectly imperfect rustic-looking circle!

Leaving a 2-inch border from the edge of the crust, start placing and overlapping the apple slices from the outside in. If the apples are very juicy, allow the juice to drip back into the bowl before arranging them on the dough. Reserve the juice; we'll be using it later!

Get in where you fit in!

Carefully bring up the edges of the pie crust over the apples, folding and pinching as you go along. If there are any holes or cracks in the dough, pinch them together with your fingers; otherwise, the juice can leak out during the baking process and burn. If any juice has leaked onto the parchment paper, silicone mat, or even the edge of the pie crust, dab it with a paper towel.

I like to tuck the inner edges of the dough slightly under.

Brush the crust lightly with the egg wash.

Make sure you get the egg wash into all of the nooks & crannies!

Place the pan into the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the apples are fork tender. If the apples or crust start to brown too quickly, cover the top lightly with a piece of foil.

Remove the crostata from the oven and sprinkle the raisins over the apples. Return it to the oven and bake for 2 more minutes. This will allow the raisins to plump up but not burn.

Remove the crostata from the oven. Drizzle the reserved juice over the top and sprinkle on the walnuts. Set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes.

Carefully slide the crostata onto a cutting board and cut into wedges. Serve warm by itself or with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

Apple, Raisin & Walnut Crostata is served!

Don't Freak Out!

1) Notes on apples: While some apples are better for eating fresh, baking or making into sauce, just use your favorite apple. My favorites for both cooking and eating are Fuji and Honeycrisp. If you use Granny Smith apples, you may need to add a bit more brown sugar or if you have smaller apples like McIntosh, you may need an extra apple.

If you like apple skins, leave them on! You may need to add a minute or two to the baking time.

Visit a local orchard to get your apples...especially, if that orchard uses natural practices and doesn't spray pesticides!

Don't want to take the time to arrange the apples? Strain the juice and dump them on the crust and spread them out evenly. You can even chop the apples into 1-inch pieces.

Need more apples & walnuts in your life? Try my Apple & Toasted Walnut Rugelach: It's a totally different taste using some of the same ingredients!

2) Try substituting dried cranberries or dried cherries for the raisins.

3) Almonds, peanuts, and salted cashews would also work well.

4) A note on shortening: Vegetable shortening is one of those sticking points for me. It often contains palm oil which contributes to deforestation.

I use Spectrum® Organic All-Vegetable Shortening. It is made from palm oil but it's certified sustainable by both the Rainforest Alliance and Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). It's also Fair Trade Certified, USDA Organic, and Non-GMO Project Verified. To be honest, all of these certification bureaus are not without controversy. However, I think this shortening is the best option at the moment. If you know of another brand of vegetable shortening that is both sustainable and user-friendly, please share!

My mom made this crust with Crisco® which is now a combination of soy and palm oils (not certified sustainable), and other additives. It does make a very good crust.

I tested this dough several times with an organic coconut and palm oil shortening. Every time, the dough did not hold together. I even added extra liquid and it was still crumbly. I haven't tested it with straight coconut oil or plant-based margarine but give it a try.

You can also substitute unsalted butter but you need to make adjustments since butter contains water and shortening does not. For every 1 cup of shortening, you need 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of butter. For this pie crust recipe, you'll need 1/2 tablespoon shy of 2 cups of butter. Don't worry about that extra 1/2 tablespoon; just go ahead and use 2 cups (4 sticks) of butter!

You can also substitute lard (rendered pork fat) 1:1 for the shortening.

5) I prefer dark brown sugar because it has a deeper flavor but feel free to use light brown, white or coconut sugar. I haven't tried honey, maple syrup, stevia, or agave in this. Some of these sugar substitutes are much sweeter than sugar so check the package for the correct conversion ratios. Also, if you use them, you may want to cover the crostata lightly with a piece of foil halfway through the baking time; otherwise, they can burn. I recommend doing a test batch...start with a mini tart!


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