As the autumn air gets crisp and the leaves start to change color, my thoughts inevitably turn to pie and suddenly I start to picture everything before me swathed in a flaky crust. So you can imagine my excitement when I opened my front door this morning to find that my neighbor had left me about 20 pounds of freshly picked apples from his tree. I knew that a pie was in my very near future.
The problem is that a regular sized 9 inch pie often requires too big of a commitment and can lead to over-indulgence or waste, two things I try to make a habit of avoiding.
Luckily there is an easy solution to this problem, which is a free form pie that can be made to whatever size suits you. This rustic, Italian version is called a 'crostata,' and, while it incorporates the same basic ingredients as a standard pie, it is actually quite a bit easier to make.
Crostatas are made by taking a simple pie dough and rolling it out, filling it with fresh fruit and then folding the edges of the dough over, leaving an opening at the top through which some of the fruit peeks out. Once formed, the crostatas are then placed in the oven, baked for about 30-45 minutes (depending on their size), and voila, they are ready to eat.
What I particularly like about this dessert is its versatility. Whether you want to make a small pie, enough for just a few servings, a larger pie without the hassle of cutting and crimping the dough to fit a pie plate or individual portion sized pies that can go from the oven right onto separate plates with no messy cutting or scooping, the crostata does it all.
Here is a simple recipe for an apple crostata,similar to the one that I threw together this afternoon. The only real difference is that I bake mine in a hotter oven (425 degrees) for about 30 minutes. Today I made a full batch of dough, used about 1/3 of it for my crostata sized perfectly for two, and froze the remainder so that when the spontaneous, pie making urge hits me again, I'll be fully prepared with dough on hand.