Well, friends, my current situation is: STATESIDE & MISSING THE FOOD.
My semester in Bologna has come to a close, and I’m back home for the summer. It was an incredible, exciting, and challenging 5 months, and I learned so much. But however my experience has “changed” me, after one week at home I’ve managed to slip back into old habits… Like staying up way too late reading or scrolling through the internet, or wearing my pajamas until 1pm.
But I’ve also gotten back to baking! So we’ve got a weeeee bit of productivity going on.
One of my favorite sweets I had in Italy was crostata, a jam-filled pastry with a crust somewhere between that of a pie and shortbread. It’s delicious and simple and goes great with espresso. 😉
Most of the time I opted for a crostata filled with apricot jam—one of the most common fillings. But in Bologna you can also find them filled with something called mostarda bolognese. Don’t worry, it’s not mustard! It’s a type of preserves typical of Bologna, made from a combination of plums, apples, pears, and orange. (Sometimes a few drops of mustard oil will be added as well, but the finished product tastes nothing like the yellow stuff.)
I was hooked as soon as I tried it. Sweet, slightly tangy from the plums, with notes of zesty orange. Long story short, I had to take a jar of the stuff back home with me.
It went straight into a crostata, of course.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anywhere online that sells the stuff, and the recipes I’m finding are all in Italian and seem like a big
pain to make (multiple days involved). An apricot crostata would be just as tasty, though! But if you’re itching for some mostarda, I can post a recipe.
Where I got the recipe for the crust is a separate but interesting story. In one of my classes we talked about an Italian man named Pellegrino Artusi, who pretty much was a food blogger back before computers even existed.
He wasn’t a chef, but he loved food. (Same) In the late 1800s he made it his mission to compile recipes from home-cooks across Italy and document the country’s authentic and diverse cuisine in a book, which in English is called, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.
He travelled up and down the length of the country, watching home cooks work and learning the recipes directly from them. Once he had gained a following, he received letters constantly—–people writing with questions about ingredient amounts, others offering suggestions for tweaks or additional recipes, some just letting him know how much they enjoyed the book. And he wrote back to every one of them.
The book was first officially published in 1891, but Artusi kept revising it and adding recipes up until his death in 1911. The version I have has 790 recipes!!!
It’s been translated into several languages—including English—–and I would highly suggest picking up a copy. (It’s a lot easier to find than mostarda bolognese. Here is a link.)
I’m hoping to make a lot more of the recipes in Artusi’s book, and I’ll be sure to share them on memo2munch. In the meantime, enjoy a lil crostata.
Crostata alla Marmellata (Italian Jam-Filled Tart)
200g Jam of your choice or mostarda Bolognese, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
110g white sugar
Zest of one lemon or small orange
125g butter, cold and cubed
2 eggs, beaten (save some to use as egg wash)
1. If you are not making the filling from scratch, begin on the crust. Toss together the dry ingredients, then mix in the zest. With a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers, incorporate the butter until the mixture looks like wet sand. Work quickly to avoid warming the butter too much. Add only enough egg so that the mixture comes together into a roll-able dough, reserving the rest for later. Shape into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/175 degrees C. Grease an 11 or 9 inch tart pan and set aside.
3. Take the dough from the fridge and divide it in half. Roll out one dough half between two sheets of wax paper until the circle is 1 inch larger than your pan. Peel off the top layer of wax paper and flip the dough over into the pan, then peel off the second sheet. Flatten dough into pan and shape a nice edge with your fingers. Gently spread the jam evenly over the crust. If your jam is not spreading easily, mix it with a bit of warm water.
4. Roll out the remaining dough to the same size, and cut equally into 1 inch wide strips. Lay the strips across the crostata first vertically and then at a horizontal angle to create a diamond lattice shape. Brush with remaining egg, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned.