A crostata is a beautifully simple dessert, and I’ve got a few easy tips on how to make the best one ever.
What is a crostata? Think of it as a freeform Italian pie – no fussing or pie pans necessary! It’s much more rustic than a regular pie, which means the pressure is off (whew!). In French cuisine, they refer to it as a “galette,” which is essentially the same exact thing. So basically, you could throw a French or Italian theme night, make the same dessert, and call it different things.
A crostata is a perfect vehicle to show off beautiful produce – especially fruit (but Giada’s caramelized onion crostata is a favorite of mine too!). In my video, I opted for peaches, because they’re just in season and it’s a great way to showcase them. However, the beauty of a crostata is that it transcends seasonality – make it in fall and winter with apples or persimmons, strawberries and cherries in spring, and all the stone fruit (and tomatoes!) in summer. The possibilities are just about endless!
So, how do you make the best fruit crostata you can? Follow along with these easy little tips to make the tastiest freeform pie ever.
How To Make The Best Fruit Crostata
1. Toss your fruit in flour and sugar! If you don’t add anything to the fruit before throwing it on the dough and in the oven, it could potentially dry out and get kind of chewy-crispy edges… which is not an ideal texture. When you toss a bit of flour and sugar with the fruit, it does two things: firstly, the sugar is hydroscopic, which draws out moisture from the fruit. The flour then acts as a thickening agent to that syrup that gets drawn out, so the end result is your soft cooked fruit with some nice ooey-gooey fruit glaze in between. It also acts to protect the fruit a bit, so it comes out of the oven looking glossy and beautiful as opposed to dry. I generally don’t follow an exact recipe, but for 6 peaches in this video, I used 6 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour. A 3:1 ratio of sugar to flour is a great rule of thumb to follow.
2. Assemble the crostata in the actual pan you’re baking it in. There would be nothing more sad than totally building your crostata on your workspace, then realizing you have to somehow move it from point A to point B! Roll out the dough on your work surface, then move it over to a sheet pan lined with parchment (FYI – these are my favorite parchment sheets!)
3. Fold over the edges with this method to make it pretty! I’ve seen plenty of crostatas that just get the border of exposed dough folded over without this step, and while they can still look really rustic and beautiful, this method makes it look a little more neat and pretty. Cut evenly-spaced notches into the border of the dough, consistently about 2-3 inches apart. Take each tab of dough you cut out and fold it it over the fruit, overlapping each piece of dough slightly. Easy!
4. Don’t skip the egg wash. Egg wash is the best friend of pie dough, biscuits and many bready pastries. It makes the crust look glossy and golden brown as it bakes, as opposed to potentially looking a bit chalky, dry and dull. Additionally, it serves as a glue to seal edges of dough together, like in a hand-pie, and to help toppings stick. I always just whisk one egg with a little under a tablespoon of water to thin it out, but you can also use milk or cream.
5. Top it with crunchy sugar! I always sprinkle turbinado sugar over the crust before baking. It adds an amazing crunchy texture, looks beautiful, and even adds a bit more depth of flavor. If you’re wondering what types of sugar you can use, refer to my sugar guide!
Bonus tip? The dough is like 60% of the whole crostata – so use a good one! I used the recipe below for Giada’s Raspberry Jam Crostata. It’s all made in the food processor, which makes it extra easy. Don’t skip the step of letting the dough chill in the fridge for at least an hour before rolling it out – and if your dough warms up a bit after you’ve assembled your crostata, stick the whole thing in the fridge for 20 minutes to get it cold again before baking. Pie dough should always be pretty cold when it goes into the oven – that way the butter is colder and can release more steam to make those flakey layers, and the gluten has a chance to relax, resulting in a more tender crust.