Need an unusual, show–stopping recipe for your next dessert? These individually–sized blood orange crostatas with mascarpone, almond cream are reason enough to throw a party. After seeing this gorgeous creation up on the site last week, I was immediately inspired. With my mind aswirl with bright colors and patisserie, I quickly decided on my own variation. I love the free-form, casual elegance of a crostata, but wanted my own serving (I'm bad at sharing sweets). I've also had better luck with smaller sized tartelettes, in terms of thorough, even cooking. I've never before had a tart with baked citrus, and my inquiring mind got curious. Finally, I knew my secret dessert weapon, mascarpone, a luscious Italian triple cream cheese, would be a dreamy accent to the tartness of the citrus and the sweetness of the pastry crust. How'd it all turn out?
Rather fabulous! Actually, the crostatas were better than I expected. They were so seasonal, with the garnet-hued, slightly bitter flavor of the blood orange, offset by a tiny whiff of almond extract whipped into the cream layer, surrounded by a crusty, sweet crust. They were everything I'm looking for in a dessert: whimsical, colorful, unusual and groan-worthy. They're the type of treat that will make eyes roll and full-body sighs emit from stuffed bellies. I must admit, one of these ruby red dreams make a fine breakfast! Hey, there's fruit in there . . . Cheers to my new favorite dessert! It's such a wonderful feeling to chance on something totally new, isn't it?
For the Fruit and Filling:
4-6 blood oranges, cut into 1/2 inch wheel-shaped slices
1-2 oranges, cut into 1/2 inch wheel-shaped slices
8 ounces (1 tub) mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Fort the Crust:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup Demerara sugar (aka "sugar in the raw")
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silpats, if you have them. Peel and slice oranges, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the mascarpone cheese, sugar, vanilla and almond on medium speed. Taste this mixture and adjust sweetness to taste (I like mine very lightly sweetened).
To prepare the crostata dough, I like to use my food processor. There's a great tutorial here, if you are seeking more guidance. Here's how I do it: Place flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of the food processor, with the regular blade attached. Pulse about two times, for just 2 seconds each pulse. Add the chilled, cubed butter. Pulse again, about 5 or 6 times. Add the cold water all at once (I usually find I need a little more water, not a little less). Pulse another 4 or 5 times. The dough will barely look like a dough at this point. You really have to trust that it will come together.
Dump the contents of the food processor onto a large, clean surface and press the small clumps of dough together to form one ball. You may need to add a few sprinkles of water during this process, that's ok. Try to form the ball of dough with as minimal amount of kneeding as possible. You just want it to barely become a disc. Refrigerate the ball for about 20 minutes.
On a floured surface, cut the ball into 6 or 8 small balls of dough. Roll out each one about 1/4" thick. Uneven, jagged edges are fine! That's the wonderful part of making a rustic crostata, imperfections are a prerequisite. The balls should end up being about 4-6 inches in diameter, roughly. Place all rolled pieces of dough onto the lined baking sheets. Spread about 1 heaping tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture onto the center of each crostata dough. Arrange orange slices, about 3 per crostata (depending on size) on top of the cream mixture. You should have about an inch left of dough on all sides. Now, fold the crostata edges on top of the oranges, leaving about half of the arranged oranges exposed. At this point, you could freeze the crostatas and have them on hand for whenever the mood strikes you!
Lastly, brush the edges of the crostatas with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top of the egg-washed dough (the egg wash will help the sugar stick). Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden. This will take about 5-10 minutes longer, if you're starting from a frozen crostata. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with a champagne and a little extra mascarpone, if desired.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross, styling by Rebecca Westby and special thanks to Kate for modeling)