I love this lemon crostata for its simplicity. You can if you want dress it up with blueberries or any other kind of fruit but I love it best the way it’s made here: unadorned and sweet with a lemony-tang. I don’t know about you, but I love recipes that feature lemons. The almighty lemon. Among the finest ingredients in the world. Before we get to this recipe I’m going to tell you (briefly) how the lemon, so versatile and healthy, showed up on Italy’s doorstep centuries ago?
A Word About the Almighty Lemon
Long before God invented lemon crostata, lemons have been used as a curative, to treat such ailments as gout, diabetes, indigestion and to chase away melancholia. Lemons can purify your skin, help heal a wound, give your facial wrinkles a real hard time and soothe the tummy. So where’d they come from? It’s thought they were first cultivated in China and Asia. Lemons were part of the Arab world, which expanded to Spain and Italy. The Greeks supposedly imported lemons from Persia and used them to, among other things, perfume their clothing and keep the moths away. One source claims the Roman emperor Nero, afraid of being poisoned, drank gallons of lemon juice daily. Lemons have been cultivated in great quantities in southern Italy and Sicily since the 13th century. Read a little more about the famous Sicilian lemon here.
But I digress. Let’s make that lemon crostata…
So the ingredients are pretty basic: flour, butter, eggs, lemon and sugar. What’s not to like? But first pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Then prepare the easiest crust you’ll ever make.
I love using a pastry cutter and I’ve had this one since Nero was swilling lemon juice trying to keep himself alive. As you can see above, cut your (one stick!) of softened butter into the flour and salt, then add your egg and cut some more.
Now you’re going to have to get your fingers involved. Once you incorporate all the flour, egg and butter, knead the dough with your hands (yuck), form it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for about 10 minutes.
What would lemon crostata be without a little zest? While the dough chills out in the fridge, start the crostata filling by zesting 2 lemons. Be nice to these lemons, as you’re going to squeeze all the juice out of one of them next. Then you’ll put that juice aside. I do not have a picture of this. But next…with an electric mixer, combine the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Beat on high for 3 minutes until the mixture is frothy. Add the lemon juice along with the melted butter, beat for one minute then set the bowl aside.
Butter and flour an 8-inch tart pan. Shake out that excess flour. Retrieve your ball of dough from the fridge and place it in the middle of the tart pan. Flatten the dough ball with the hands then start spreading it throughout the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Make sure the bottom thickness is uniform so it will cook uniformly. I hope you do a better job of spreading out your crust dough than I did. Pour in the filling and bake the crostata for 30-35 minutes until the top starts to ever-so-slightly darken. Remove the crostata from the oven and let it cool. Then give it a good dusting of powdered sugar. And enjoy.
Yield: 6 servings
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes total
- 8 tablespoons of butter, softened, plus 1 teaspoon for the pan
- 2 cups flour, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- zest of 2 lemons
- juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- confectioner's sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour and salt. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour. Knead in the egg.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Combine the eggs, sugar and lemon zest, beating on high with a mixer for 3 minutes, until frothy.
- Add the lemon juice and melted butter and continue for one more minute at a reduced speed.
- Butter an 8-inch tart pan and lightly dust with flour, shaking out the excess.
- Place the dough in the center of the pan and, using your fingers, spread it out, lining the bottom and the sides--in a thin, even layer.
- Place the filling in the crust and bake for 30-35 minutes till filling cooks through and begins to slightly brown on top.
- Remove from the oven and let cool. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar before serving.