Requiring less effort than a traditional pie, these casual, individual crostatas (or galettes, à la français!) are still just as wonderful, and even more so due to their charming personal size.
The foolproof, flaky, oh-so-tender pastry bakes up crisp and sturdy enough to enjoy out of hand, just like a superb bake-shop treat. Buttery layers envelop a perfect ratio of cinnamon-apple filling, but will effortlessly accommodate any fruit – rhubarb, blueberry, peach, cherry – the possibilities are limitless!
For years I used to shy away from making pastries, never finding the effort of coaxing a crumbly, cracking mess of flour into a workable dough to be worth it in the end, let alone trying to form a somewhat respectable double-crust pie out of it.
That was until several months ago, I zoned in on this recipe for an “Old-Fashioned Flaky Pie Dough” and have since decided it’s the only pastry recipe I’ll ever need in my life. It’s an absolute DREAM to work with and has that perfectly flaky, bakery-style, buttery-richness we all love.
The original dough recipe exclusively refers to making traditional pies (with single-, double-, and blind-baked crusts), but the ease and simplicity of the rustic, free-form, open-faced tart that is a crostata (or galette!) is much more my style. And since the pastry bakes directly on a baking sheet, the underside becomes distinctively golden and crisp – no soggy, undercooked pastry here, friends!
Tips for making the pastry
- Cut the measured butter into ½” pieces first, then place in the fridge to chill before starting the dough.
- Fill a large cup with ice and water, set aside to chill, then measure the amount of cold water needed for the pastry.
- A scale to weigh the ingredients is always best, but if you only have a dry measure for the flour, carefully spoon and level the amounts provided in the recipe.
- Simply flattening the cubes of butter with your thumb and fingers helps to create small sheets of butter within the dough. Combined with folding the rolled dough as directed results in super flaky, tender layers once baked.
- Gently but firmly press the divided dough into rounds to help preserve those layers.
- Roll out each round to between ⅛-¼” thick for optimal crispiness and flaky texture.
- Once the rounds are formed, refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the dough to rest before filling and shaping.
Now for the filling – to cook or not to cook!
Whipping up a quick mixture of uncooked, sliced apples tossed with cinnamon, sugar, and dotted with butter is one hundred percent going to be delicious in a pastry, but here’s why I love my cooked version:
Gently simmering the apples with warming spices, salted butter, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and just enough sugar yields a soft, jammy filling with an almost caramel-like quality. As the apples soften, their juices release then reduce while the sugars start to caramelize, deepening in flavour and colour. The result is incredibly delicious on its own and actually wonderful just to have on hand in the fridge. We stir it into oatmeal for breakfast or warm it slightly and spoon over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Preparing the filling this way also means it can be frozen and used later. I already have a few containers stashed away with spring rhubarb added to the mix for when the crostata mood strikes some other day.
Tips for making the filling
- My preferred blend of apples is a mix of tart Granny Smith and sweet Ambrosia. The Granny Smith apples retain their shape in the filling while the Ambrosia apples soften to help create that jammy filling.
- Cut the apples into varied sizes – the larger, thicker pieces will retain their shape and offer a firmer bite, while the smaller pieces will break down to help create a perfect combination of textures.
- If using all tart apples such a Granny Smith or adding rhubarb/cranberries to the filling, increase the sugar to ½ cup.
- The wider the skillet, the more surface area it will have, allowing the filling to cook down faster.
- If the juices evaporate before the apples soften, turn the heat down and add a splash of water to continue the cooking.
Assembling the crostatas
Once the dough is chilled and the filling is cool, it’s time to assemble! This step takes less than 10 minutes, then the crostatas are popped into the freezer for a final quick chill out session before baking.
Place the rounds of dough on a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. It’s fine if the edges overlap a little here. Divide the cooled filling evenly into the centre of each round, leaving a 1″ border around the edge. Start folding the edges of the dough up onto the filling, pressing the folds gently so they stay together. Finally, brush a little egg wash on the sides of the dough and sprinkle with sugar – I love the extra crunch from turbinado sugar, but regular granulated works too.
My last little tip for making these extra easy, especially if serving to guests, is to make them well in advance and freeze until the day of. Or you can make the dough rounds one day, prepare the filling on the next, then assemble and freeze/bake. The total amount of time is the same but, if you’re like me, you might appreciate that the components can be made separately and not necessarily on the same day.
These are pretty special little pastries and we love them. I hope you do too.
Rustic Apple Crostatas
With much less effort than a traditional pie, these casual little crostatas (or galettes, à la français!) are still just as impressive. A foolproof, flaky, oh-so-tender pastry bakes up crisp and sturdy enough to enjoy out of hand, just like a superb bake-shop treat. Buttery layers casually envelop the perfect ratio of cinnamon-apple filling, but will effortlessly accommodate any fruit. Makes 3 generous 6" crostatas, or 4 smaller ones.
For the Pastry
- 8 oz all purpose flour ((1½ cups + 2 tbsp, carefully spooned and leveled))
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp kosher salt ((or ¼ tsp fine grain table salt))
- 8 oz cold salted butter, cut into ½" cubes ((1 cup or 227 g))
- ½ cup cold water
For the Filling
- 1 kg apples ((6-7 apples total))
- ¼ cup water, plus more if needed
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- 3 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ⅓-½ cup sugar ((depending on sweetness of fruit))
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp milk
- ¼ cup turbinado sugar
- ¼ cup thick rolled oats ((optional))
- 1 tbsp brown sugar ((optional))
- 1 tbsp salted butter, softened ((optional))
Make the Pastry
Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the cubed butter and toss with the flour mixture to break up the pieces. Pick up each cube of butter and flatten with your thumb and fingertips, tossing again to distribute the flattened pieces of butter evenly in the flour mixture. Pour in the water and stir gently with your fingers, then using your hand(s), knead against the sides of the bowl just until the flour is hydrated and a shaggy dough is formed.
Generously flour a clean work surface and roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 10"x15". Fold the short sides towards the center so the edges meet, then fold in half like you are closing a book. Fold the now shorter ends towards the center in thirds so you have a thick block. Using your hands, gently but firmly press the dough to coax the block into a round ball. Cut the dough into three or four equal wedges and press each one into a ball.
Using more flour as needed, roll out each ball into a circle until the dough is a generous ⅛" thick (slightly less than ¼"). Each circle should be roughly 8" in diameter if making three, or 6" in diameter if making four.
Stack the dough rounds on a plate or tray, separating each with parchment paper or plastic wrap and cover. Refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 24 hours to allow the dough to rest.
Prepare the Filling
Peel and core the apples then cut roughly into varied sizes, so that half the amount is in slices approximately ¼" thick and some are chopped into small pieces. The larger slices will retain their shape during the cooking process while the smaller pieces will soften into a jammy consistency.
Place the apples and remaining ingredients in a large skillet with high sides, and set over medium-low heat. Stirring occasionally, gently simmer the filling for 15-20 minutes until the apples soften and a caramel-like sauce starts to develop from the fruit juices and sugar as the smaller pieces of apple start to break down. As the liquid evaporates and the filling thickens, reduce the heat accordingly to ensure gentle bubbling and avoid scorching at all costs. If needed, add small amounts of water if the liquid has evaporated but the apples still need to soften. Set aside to cool until the dough is thoroughly chilled.
Make the Crostatas
Whisk the egg yolk and milk together for the egg wash.
If using the rolled oat topping, combine the oats with the butter and sugar in a small bowl until crumbly.
Remove the dough rounds from the refrigerator and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Divide the filling evenly between them, leaving roughly 1" of dough around the edge. Sprinkle the rolled oats mixture over the apple filling, if using. Start folding the edge of the dough up and just slightly over some of the filling, pressing each fold of dough together gently as you go around. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with the turbinado sugar. Place the entire tray into the freezer for at least 30 minutes before baking.
At this point, the assembled crostata can be frozen until solid, then transferred to a ziplock bag and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To bake, preheat the oven to 400ºF with a rack in the middle setting. Take the crostatas directly from the freezer and place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the pastry is a deep golden colour and crisp. Let rest for about 10 minutes then carefully lift each crostata and transfer to a cooling rack.
Serve warm or room temperature and top with a scoop of ice cream if desired.
Makes 3 generous 6″ crostatas, which can easily be cut in half for 6 smaller servings.
Cut butter into ½” pieces first, then place in the fridge to chill before starting the dough.
Fill a large cup with ice and water, set aside to chill, then measure the amount of cold water needed for the pastry.
There is a note in the original recipe that indicates the dough temperature should register between 65 and 70°F (18 and 21°C) throughout the process; and if not, to refrigerate briefly before rolling and folding. After several rounds of making this recipe, I never found the dough temperature to drop below these numbers, so I don’t bother anymore. If your ingredients are well-chilled and you work quickly, the dough temp will be fine.
My preferred blend of apples is a mix of tart Granny Smith and sweet Ambrosia. The Granny Smith apples retain their shape in the filling while the Ambrosia apples soften to help create a jammy filling.
If using all tart apples such a Granny Smith or adding rhubarb/cranberries to the filling, increase the sugar to ½ cup.
The wider the skillet, the more surface area it will have, allowing the filling to cook down faster.
The dough and the filling can both be made ahead of time and refrigerated up to 24 hours before assembling. Once assembled up to and including the egg wash, the crostatas can be frozen until solid and transferred to an appropriate freezer-safe container or bag up to 3 months. Bake as directed, allowing a little extra time as needed.
If you prefer to make one large crostata, you will need 50% more of the filling and while still thoroughly delicious, the ratio of pastry-to-filling won’t be quite as impressive as the individual ones.
Apple-Cranberry: Increase the sugar to ½ cup and stir in 1½ cups frozen cranberries into the filling at the end of the cooking time.
Apple-Rhubarb: Increase the sugar to ½ cup and stir in 1½ cups chopped fresh rhubarb in to cook with the apples.
Fresh/Frozen Fruit or Berries (peach, blueberry, rhubarb): Toss 4 cups fruit or berries with ½-¾ cup of sugar, depending on the existing sweetness. Wait for the juices to release (will take longer for the frozen ones), taste for sweetness and add more sugar if desired. Toss with 3 tbsp flour and proceed with forming the crostatas as directed. (concept adapted from this post at foodess.com)
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Thanks for reading.