Forget pie — put peaches in a crostata instead

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s peach season. Time to pull out your rolling pin and celebrate the juicy stone fruit with the free-form pastry known as a crostata.

Unlike a pie, which requires some fancy finger work and precision rolling, this flat, rustic summer dessert is a breeze to prepare. After a brief chill in the fridge, the pastry is simply rolled out in whatever shape you like — circle or rectangle, your choice — topped with a pile of fresh fruit, and then the edges are folded up and over some of the sugary slices to make a crust. If it’s misshapen, no worries: that’s part of the dessert’s charm for both the eater and the baker.

It’s finished when the fruit is bubbling and easily pierced with the tip of a knife, and the crust is fragrant, golden brown and slightly crispy.

I like to top the dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but a spoonful or two of fresh whipped cream also works wonders, if that’s your preference.

In my opinion, a fruit crostata is best served when it’s still a little warm so the ice cream softens with each bite. Then again, it’s a great stand-in for a bagel or croissant when served room temperature with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Look for peaches that are ripe but not overly squishy; there should only be a little bit of give when you (gently) squeeze it. Unless you’re going for looks over flavor, the peel or not to peel can be a game day decision — the skin is completely edible and will fall off as it bakes.

A free-form peach crostata is easier to make than pie, but just as sweet of a taste of summer. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Peach Crostata

For pastry

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water

For filling

  • 11/2 pounds peaches, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Dash of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling
  • Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving

Make pastry: Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream until mixture just begins to hold together.

Shape dough into 2 disks. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 1 month; thaw in refrigerator before using).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then parchment.

Stir together sliced fruit, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon juice, salt and cornstarch or flour.

Roll out one of the pastry disks (reserving the other for use later) into a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick, on a lightly floured surface (or whatever shape works for you — no need to sweat it out). Transfer to baking sheet.

A free-form peach crostata is easier to make than pie, but just as sweet of a taste of summer.

Arrange peaches in the center, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold over border to enclose the fruit, leaving the center open. Brush crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling in center, about 70 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then slide crostata onto parchment on a wire rack. Let cool completely.

Serve with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6-8.

— Adapted from marthastewart.com