When the summer approaches and there seems to be little hope for sunshine and blue skies, I find comfort in making a crostata alla frutta estiva. A rainbow of bright and yummy fresh fruit that brings back a smile on my somewhat grumpy face😒
The crunchiness of sweetcrust pastry, delicious crema pasticcera (custard) and the fresh fruit make for a wonderful treat ideal for any event’s pudding, from a summer barbecue to a dinner party.
Crostata di frutta was a regular pudding that my mum would make during the summer season as my brother and I were crazy for all kinds of berries. We would have fun picking them from our garden and select the best-looking ones for the crostata.
The sweetcrust pastry can be made a day in advance and the same applies to the crema pasticcera. An easy recipe that will delight everyone.
Crostata alla frutta and crostatine alla frutta (small crostate) are very popular in Naples. Stop by any pasticceria and you will see crostatine alla frutta everywhere.
I’ve always had a real soft spot for crostatine alle fragole. When I was little more than 5 years old, my mum tells me that when we were on holiday as a family I would ask my dad to get some crostatine alle fragole just for me.
He would come back with a large tray and regularly I would get into some kind of petty argument with my brother as I wanted them all for myself. Terrible me.
As my parents tried to teach me not to be greedy and the importance of sharing with those we love, I spent many hours in a huff because I just never had enough of crostatine. How awful of me…
I can safely say I am a better girl now and always want to share and overfeed those close to my heart.
Years later I managed to redeem myself.:-) I made a big crostata alle fragole and gave it to my gorgeous brother.:-) We both laughed at the memory of our arguments and ended up eating far too much crostata that day… Slurp!
Since then I have regularly been making crostate and crostatine for different occasions. Dinner parties, Sunday lunches and birthday presents. There is something superdooper about the combination of the crema pasticcera and the fruit. They are meant to be together…
Fruit and custard is nothing new and it is a popular association of flavours across the world. If you are a fruit lover or are keen to make more fruit-based cakes instead of chocolatey ones, start with this recipe.
For the pastry
(the quantities below will leave you with some extra pastry – I always make the most of this to make some biscotti or mini tartelettes filled with marmalade)
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 150g caster sugar
- 150g unsalted butter
- 3 yolks from medium-sized eggs
- 1 unwaxed orange rind (optional)
For the crema pasticcera
- 500ml full-fat or semi-skimmed milk
- 150g caster sugar
- 3 yolks from medium-sized eggs
- 45g plain flour, sifted
- Peeled skin of half a lemon
- Half a vanilla pod or a teaspoon of vanilla essence
Suggested fruit (choose your favourites and mix it up: be creative!)
- About 50 blueberries
- About 30 raspberries
- About 7 medium-sized strawberries, cut in halves
- About 12 blackberries
- 1 slice of kiwi (eat the rest!)
- 1 slice of pineapple
- Mint leaves (optional)
To make the pastry
Sift the flour. Chop the butter into cubes.
Mix the flour and the butter in a mixer until the mixture looks like damp breadcrumbs.
Pour the content into a large bowl and create a well.
In the middle add the sugar and three yolks, and (optionally) the orange rind.
Start mixing the sugar and yolks first with your hands.
Slowly incorporate the damp breadcrumbs.
Knead rapidly the mixture to bring everything together into a smooth dough.
Wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To prepare the crema pasticcera
If you are using the vanilla pod instead of vanilla essence, cut the pod along its length and scrap the seeds out with the knife (see image, below centre).
Into a medium-sized saucepan pour the milk, add the vanilla seeds and the lemon peel, and cook gently on low heat until the milk is hot but not yet simmering. Take off the hob, take the lemon out and set aside.
In another saucepan add the sugar and the other three egg yolks. Mix them well with a whisk until they are compact and smooth.
Add the flour gradually and incorporate it into the the sugar and egg mixture until it is all well blended. Pour the milk in and stir well with a whisk until the egg, flour and sugar mix is incorporated well with the milk (below, bottom left). Add the vanilla extract if you opted for it instead of the pod.
Move the pan to the hob and cook gently on a low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon, until it reaches a simmer and thickens into a custard.
Take away from the hob, transfer to a glass bowl. To prevent an annoying thick layer from forming on the surface, carefully place cling film on top of the cream, making sure it covers and adheres properly to every single inch of surface. Set aside and let cool.
Making the crostata alla frutta
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan).
Take the pastry out of the fridge. Place some oven paper on a large surface, sprinkle some flour on it and roll out the pastry to way bigger than the non-stick flan tin (28cm diameter) you are going to use.
We are using the paper to help transfer the pastry into the flan tin more easily than by rolling it onto your rolling pin (this is what I call cheating).
Transfer the pastry to the flan tin and, with the oven paper still on top, gently push the pastry against the walls of the tin, making sure it adheres properly.
Slowly peel the paper off. There should be a fair amount of pastry left over the edges. Store back in the fridge to make biscuits or more tartelettes later.
Cut the extra pastry off with a knife. With a fork make some light incisions all over the surface – but not so far as to make a hole through to the dish. They should only be superficial.
Cover the whole surface with non-stick oven paper, ensuring it sticks to the pastry, including the edges. Cover with ceramic baking beans (or raw lentils/beans) to blind bake the pastry.
Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until pale golden brown.
Take out of the oven and remove the baking beans and paper.
Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
Return to the oven for another 10-12 minutes or until it is completely dry. Set aside to cool.
If you want to take the pastry out of the case, pay a lot of attention, as it breaks easily. Slide it onto a serving plate.
While the pastry case is cooling down, wash and dry the fruit.
Pour the custard into the pastry case and spread it evenly with a tablespoon. Distribute the fruit in rounds or any other design you might come up with. Get creative!
Store in the fridge covered with kitchen foil. If you are making it the day before, it will be ok to leave it overnight in the fridge. There really is nothing better than a slice of crostata alla frutta. So very deliziosa…