A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bag of pecans -- one ingredient that I love to bake with, but are impossible to find here -- thanks to one of my awesome colleagues at my new job. I decided to return the favor by baking a pecan pie as a thank you -- easy enough, right? -- except I realized that I'd have to bring the pie to the office by way of the subway, where I switch from the A line to the B line. If you think this sounds feasible enough, you clearly have never taken the Roman metro at rush hour, where the B line in particular becomes a jungle of sorts -- masses of people pushing and shoving on to every cramped and air condition-less train that passes every 7 or so minutes (I really do need to look in to the bus schedules...) The odds of the pie being flattened under the handbag or elbow of whoever managed to squeeze in next to me on the metro seemed higher than the pie actually arriving intact, so I opted for mini pecan pies. These, I reasoned, would be packed up in a tupperware container an slipped in to my bag. And I was right -- these mini pecan pies went over famously with my colleague, arrived in one piece, and the fact that they were tiny added to their appeal.
What does the metro and pecan pie have to do with mini berry crostate, you ask? I realized that desserts, while always delicious, are even more appealing when in a mini form. Take cupcakes, for example: besides the fact that they are cake, and who doesn't like cake, they are individual cakes, designed for just one person, which makes them even more special. If I could make mini pecan pies or mini cakes, why not mini crostate, I thought? Thus these mini berry crostate were born, made for dessert at a dinner party we hosted for the 4th of July.
A crostata, if you're not familiar, is essentially a free form, open faced pie, also known as a galette. I'm not sure if it's because these were in a mini form or not, but these were fantastic, with a buttery super flaky crust and sweet summer-y filling, perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I used raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries here, but you could also use any sort of fruit you like. Stay tuned for other mini desserts -- I'm thinking mini cheesecakes or souffles next.
MINI BERRY CROSTATE
Ingredients for crust:
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3 tablespoons ice water
1 egg (egg wash)
Ingredients for filling:
2 cups berries (I used a mix of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, quartered)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly and carefully with your fingers so that each piece is covered with butter. Pulse 12 or so times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, and stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface, roll it in to a ball, and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. (If you're making this recipe when it is hot out, the longer you refrigerate the dough the better -- if it isn't cold enough, the butter in the dough will begin to melt once you start rolling it out).
Meanwhile, mix the berries, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll the refrigerated pastry dough out into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Using a 5 inch round cookie cutter (or even a 5 inch round bowl, just trace around it with a knife) cut out 4 circles of dough. Transfer them to a greased cookie sheet.
Distribute the fruit evenly over the center of each circle of pastry, and then fold over the border of each, pleating it to make an edge.
In a small bowl, beat the egg to make an egg wash and brush it over the edges of each crostata. Bake the crostate in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Let cool and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Makes 4 crostate.