Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Crostata Redux:Peach/Plum Crostata with Vanilla Cream and Almonds

                                               “Fifth grade peaches, six grade plums….”

(Listening: Cold Blue Two*)

If you saw the recent recipe for peach crostata, this is an upgrade. If you have the crostata technique under your belt, this revisit includes a layer of pastry cream and some sliced almonds. It's a good way to say goodbye to peaches and plums whose season is drawing to a close.
The recipe calls for an equal combination of peaches and plums, but you can alter it and use just peaches or plums alone.
The pastry cream is a straightforward preparation. I used whole eggs for this small batch of pastry cream; for larger batches of pastry cream I use an equal combination of whole eggs and egg yolks. Either flour or cornstarch is used as a thickener for pastry cream; I use cornstarch. I prefer the texture and taste of a pastry cream made with cornstarch. This pastry cream recipe uses half the amount of cornstarch normally used for this quantity; since the pastry cream is going to be baked, I kept the finished consistency of the pastry cream looser than it would be with more cornstarch. The pastry cream can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until needed.
As before, you will need one batch of pie crust dough for a 9” pie.

Peach/Plum Crostata with Vanilla Pastry Cream and Almonds

Pastry Cream (recipe below)
3 plums, pitted and sliced (2 cups)
3 peaches, pitted and sliced (2 cups)
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg, beaten
3 to 4 Tablespoons sliced almonds
1 Tablespoon sugar

1. Begin by making the pastry cream and allowing it to cool. Recipe below
2. Place the peaches and plums into a bowl. Add the sugars and mix together; let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. When you are ready to assemble the crostata, heat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out the crust into a circular shape, about 14” around. Place the dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
3. Spoon the pastry cream in an even layer onto the dough, leaving a 2” border around the edge. Add
the cornstarch to the fruit and stir until dissolved. Using a slotted spoon, place the fruit atop the pastry cream Fold the edges of the dough up and onto the fruit. Brush the underside of the folded edges with beaten egg to seal them, then brush the sides of the crust with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the outside of the crostata with the sliced almonds, making sure they adhere to the dough. Sprinkle the sugar around the outside edge of the crostata. Spoon a few tablespoons of the juices remaining in the bowl over the fruit; don’t over fill the crostata. Place the crostata into the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes, until the filling is
bubbling and has thickened. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Pastry Cream
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Grade A large eggs
¼ cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

1. Place the milk and butter into a medium-sized saucepan and place over medium heat. While the milk is heating, place the eggs into a bowl; add the sugar and whisk until smooth. Blend in the cornstarch, vanilla, and salt until combined. Set aside.
2. When the milk has come to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and whisk a few tablespoons of the hot milk into the pastry cream (This is referred to as tempering the egg mixture). Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and whisk together. Place the saucepan back over the heat and cook until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, whisking throughout. Remove pastry cream from heat and transfer it to a plate or bowl. Cover the pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface of the pastry cream. Let stand to cool, then refrigerate if using later.

*Cold Blue Two is a music sampler from Cold Blue Music in Venice, California. Started in the 1980’s, the label specialized in West Coast new music, specifically compositions in the style of minimalism and post-minimalism. (They originally released the music on vinyl, long before the recent hipster-driven resurgence of vinyl). Cold Blue Music disappeared but resurfaced 15 years later, around 2001, and continues to release only a few select recordings a year. Cold Blue Music was an early champion of the music of John Luther Adams who won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for 2014. Their recordings have consistently received the highest critical accolades. This sampler was given to me by one of my best friends who now lives in Los Angeles and was recently home to visit. He plays bass on two of the compositions. He is also busy playing in a symphonic orchestra, opera orchestra, teaching, and working in small ensembles such as the ones found on this recording.

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