Monday, June 28, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb and Ricotta Crostata

Whether you call it a Galette (French) or a Crostata (Italian), the flavors of summer come bursting out of this delicious and rustic free-form tart.
The combination of Strawberry and Rhubarb is classic whether in a pie, tart, or a compote to spoon over ice cream. The addition of ricotta for the base in the tart gives it an Italian twist (so I guess it really should be Crostata!)
I couldn't pass up the nice firm stalks of ruby-red rhubarb and the strawberries I picked up just as the Thursday night VillageFest farmer's market opened. They were nice uniformed size (not the gigantic flavorless kind you sometimes see in regular markets), and bursting with flavor. I made this tart twice in one week. Once for myself and one we made as part of a hands-on dinner party for 12. (The other was a nectarine-blackberry crostata with cornmeal crust which is also absolutely delicious. I'll have to post that one too).
Twelve guys in the kitchen with knives and wine, it could have gotten ugly, but it all worked out great. I headed up the Dessert team, of course! I have to say it was a bit of a challenge trying to make pastry in a very hot kitchen as the temperature outside was about 105 that day. Yes summer has officially started here in Palm Springs.
The dough is really nice and easy to work with, due in part to the sour cream. You can also use this dough to make savory tarts, just omit the sugar when making the pastry dough. This dough also doubles or even triples nicely, so make more and freeze some if you are going to take advantage of more wonderful summer fruits.

Strawberry-Rhubarb & Ricotta Crostata
Pastry Dough
1 cup – all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon – sugar
¼ teaspoon, baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons – Cold, unsalted, butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
3 Tablespoons – Sour cream
ice water (if needed)
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and pulse until mixed.
Add the butter, once piece at a time, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Chill the work bowl for 15 minutes.
Replace the work bowl and add the sour cream, pulsing just until the dough comes together. (Depending on the weather and humidity, you may need to add ice water ( I sure did with dry, hot temps) a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together)
Gather the dough, press gently to create a circle, and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the Filling
Try using a high-quality fresh ricotta if possible and drain the ricotta overnight by placing in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
2 cups – Rhubarb sliced in ¼ inch pieces
2 cups – Strawberries, sliced in quarters, roughly and not perfect.
½ cup – sugar
1 cup – Ricotta, drained
1 teaspoon quality vanilla extract
40-50 scrapes of whole nutmeg, or a generous pinch of ground.
2 Tablespoons – flour
1 Tablespoon – unsalted butter
1 egg (for an egg wash)
Demerara or other raw sugar
To Prepare
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the rhubarb and toss with ¼ cup of the sugar.
Slice the strawberries and add them to the rhubarb with the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, tossing well to cover.
In a separate mixing bowl, mix the vanilla, ricotta, and nutmeg until well incorporated. ( I added a teaspoon or so of sugar to taste, to the mixture as well)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled pastry dough to a 14 inch round. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet, and sprinkle the flour on top of the dough, leaving a two-inch border for the crust.
Add the ricotta cheese, in small rounds, then spreading evenly over the floured dough surface.
Take handfuls of the strawberry-rhubarb mixture, leaving the remaining juices in the bowl. Using the juice will make the crust soggy, not crisp.
Fold over the remaining edge of the dough to form a crust, pressing gently to insure the crostata crust stays closed. Dot the surface of the crostata with the remaining tablespoon of butter.
Brush the egg wash over the crust and sprinkle with the sugar. (this will add nice color and crunch and additional sweetness to the tart.
Bake the crostata for approximately 40 minutes. Cover the crostata with foil halfway through the baking process if it appears is browning too quickly.
Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. The crostata should be golden brown with a crispy crust.