On our vacation we had stopped in at Telegraph Hill, a small place outside Napier that specializes in olives, olive oil and fig products. We bought a package of figs marinated in balsamic drizzle, and I was ready to try them! Here is a link to their websites...http://www.telegraphhill.co.nz/products/marinated-figs.
As well as the figs I had 6 shallots and a handful of pecans to use, and this is what I came up with. I picked up a small piece of Brie and some prosciutto, and used some of the pecans to make pastry for the crust, the rest I added to the side salad. Some fresh rosemary from the herb garden, what more can you ask for?
I also reduced some of the Balsamic drizzle from the figs to make a reduction that I drizzled over the finished crostata. This meal was a hit! Very rich, but oh so good...the pastry was buttery and flaky, the Brie was gooey and melted, the figs were sweet but still had the tartness from the vinegar and the prosciutto was thin and slightly crisped.
Start off by making the pastry. In a food processor, combine:
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Process until the nuts are finely ground.
3 ounces cold, salted butter, cubed
Process by pulsing, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
With the processor running, add:
1 - 3 tablespoons of cold water
Add the water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture resembles wet crumbs that will stick together when pressed between your fingers.
Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and gently knead the dough together and into a disc.
Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
In a hot pan, with a bit of olive oil, cook:
6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
Turn the heat to low and cook slowly, stirring often.
When the shallots have softened and caramelized, add:
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
a pinch each of salt and pepper
Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
Remove 4 figs from the syrup, and thinly slice.
Slice Brie into 1/4" thick slices.
Roll the rested pastry out on a lightly floured counter. You want a circle that is about 12" in diameter.
Place a 10" or 11" removable tart shell base under the rolled out pastry.
Spread the caramelized shallots over the centre of the pastry, leaving a border of about 2" around the outside.
Sprinkle the sliced figs over the shallots.
Place the sliced Brie over the figs.
Brush the edge of the pastry with eggwash.
Start folding the edges in towards the middle, a small section at a time, creating a section of pleats, as shown.
Brush eggwash as needed to help the folded dough stick.
Continue around the pastry until the whole edge has been pleated. You can use the edge of a knife to add a decorative element to the pleats if you wish.
Wrap the crostata with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Heat the oven to 425F, and place the crostata onto a baking sheet. Leave it on the tart shell base for stability when removing it from the tray for cutting. Brush the pastry with eggwash.
Place the crostata into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Turn the heat down to 350F and bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove the crostata from the oven and add:
5 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise
Gently drape the prosciutto as you add it.
Place the crostata back into the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
I reduced a bit of the Balsamic drizzle from the figs until it was thick and syrupy, and then used it to garnish the crostata before cutting it into 4 portions, and serving it with a salad of mixed greens, toasted pecans and fresh raspberries.
- For the dough, any nuts can be substituted for pecans. Some good choices are walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts or pistachios.
- If you do use unsalted butter, add half a teaspoon of salt to the dough.
- The pastry can also be used for a sweet crostata. Omit the rosemary and pepper (although both would work well with peaches or raspberries). Add 2 tablespoons of sugar. Lemon zest and cinnamon can also be added.
- If you do not have figs that are soaked in any kind of liquid, use fresh figs. If you only have dried figs, you can soak them yourself in a mixture of Balsamic vinegar and a bit of orange or apple juice. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the figs and allow to soak overnight, or longer. You can also soak the figs in liqueur or port.
- Fresh fruits that can be used instead of dried figs include peaches, nectarines, pears or apples.
- Cambozola would be another good choice of cheese, keeping the creaminess of the Brie, while adding the tang of the blue cheese. Soft goat cheese is another choice.
- If you do not have shallots, caramelize a thinly sliced medium onion.
- It is important that the prosciutto is sliced thinly, so that it drapes and folds when you add it to the crostata. This creates layers and pockets of soft and crunchy prosciutto, and also looks better than flat slices laid on top!
- The crostata can be assembled a day ahead, and baked when you are ready. The longer it chills the better the pastry folds keep their shape without collapsing.
- The pastry can be rolled out and used to line a tart shell; bake it blind before using it. A crostata is a nice rustic, free form style of tart, that does not require a tart shell.