Beginner Gourmet: Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata

I’ve mentioned before that I love all things pie. And now that fresh rhubarb and berries are popping up at farmer’s markets, what better time to try one out. When starting out with doughs I think it’s best to start rustic, like this free-form crostata, before graduating to more formal pies with crimped edges. For C’s intro to dough making we started with the most basic of pie dough (my favorite from culinary school) which is made in the food processor. The most important thing to remember, and really the only thing that can ruin the dough, is to keep the butter and water as cold as possible. To create a flaky crust, you want the butter to evaporate in the oven, not start to melt while being worked. The colder the butter the better–which is why it’s the first thing I prep by sticking my butter in the freezer until I’m ready to use it. The water goes in next: Fill a glass with water, pop some ice into it, and put it in the freezer. Both will chill down quickly as you prep the other ingredients. The filling, adapted from an Epicurious recipe, is just as simple. Be sure to taste the juices before adding the cornstarch to check that it has enough sugar.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata

For the dough:
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks very cold butter, diced into 1/4 inch chunks
5 tbs ice water

For the filling:
1/4 c. cornstarch
3 tbs water
4 c. fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (half the stalks when necessary)
1/2 lb strawberries, thinly sliced
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs triple sec or orange juice
1 tbs lemon zest
1 egg, lightly beaten
raw sugar

To make the dough:

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse once or twice to combine. Add the very cold butter all at once and pulse the mixture 10 – 12 times until the butter is the size of peas and evenly distributed. With the processor running, add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time just until the dough comes together. On a floured surface form the dough into a disk (work quickly), wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.

To make the filling:

In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and water; set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, salt, and triple sec or orange juice. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the juices have been released. (Taste it here for sugar content. If it needs more, add it 1 tablespoon at a time, letting it dissolve before adding more.) Stir in the cornstarch slurry and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for at least a minute, until the juices thicken and the rhubarb is fork tender. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the lemon zest and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

To assemble:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a floured piece of parchment, roll the dough into a 14-inch circle (keep rustic in mind, it doesn’t have to be perfect). Brush the surface with beaten egg and mound the rhubarb filling in the center. Spread out the filling with a spatula, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. Gently fold the edges of the dough over the filling, pleating where necessary. Brush the border with more egg, sprinkle with raw sugar then slide the parchment onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the dough is golden and the filling is bubbling around the edges, 40 to 45 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Can be served warm or room temperature.