The moment I stepped into the little neighborhood bakery near the coast of Lebanon, I knew I was someplace special. Furn Al Sabaya ("Bakery of the Ladies") is run by three sisters, Martha, Lorenza and Lucie, who work together behind the counter to sweetly and almost magically churn out an array of unusual breakfast pastries from their fiery oven. The one that captured my heart was a thin egg tart flavored with butter and mint, sort of a cross between a quiche and a pizza. This recipe keeps the buttery goodness of the original, but bakes the egg filling into a flaky, free-form crostata that would make a uniquely tempting addition to a weekend brunch or a special lunch alongside a crunchy green salad.
There is already a fairy tale quality to a bakery run by three sisters, but once inside the simple, spotless space, I felt even more strongly that I had entered a place where wish-granting butterflies and talking deer might show up at any moment.
Inside, the three sisters moved with fluidity and grace, rolling out dough, spreading butter, and slipping pastries into the oven, all the while making each other smile and laugh. Outside, my traveling companions and I sat in a humble but sunny patio brightened by flower-covered tablecloths and curtains, eating plate after plate of pastries, accompanied by the ubiquitous olives, cucumbers, sliced tomatoes and fresh mint of a traditional Lebanese breakfast. And Nescafé, of course.
The sisters' butter and mint egg pastry was made by pinching the edges of a round of dough to create a free-form tart, then mixing the filling right in the dough. I experimented with using pizza dough to create a pastry that could be baked quickly over very high heat, mimicking the fiery ovens used in Lebanon. This resulted in a perfectly delicious, chewy egg pastry. But once I tried using a cream cheese pie dough for the crust — well, there was no going back.
Fantastically flaky and rich, the tangy cream cheese crust adds another savory layer to the egg filling, which bakes up browned and a little chewy on top, soft and golden below. Eggs and mint might sound like an incongruous combination, but the little pops of mint bring freshness to a pastry that might otherwise feel too heavy. (If you aren't a fan of mint, you can substitute other soft, green herbs like dill, basil or chives.)
In the end, my version turned out quite different from the sisters' original, but no less delicious and perhaps only slightly less magical. Once I convince my own two sisters to open a bakery with me, then you'll see — this crostata just might have the power to grant wishes.
3 eggs 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon melted butter 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 disk (1/2 recipe) Easy Cream Cheese Pie Dough, chilled at least 20 minutes
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Whisk together the eggs, mint, butter and salt.
Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper until it is a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the parchment paper and dough to a baking sheet. Fold up the edge of the dough about 1/2-inch all around, creating a lip that will keep the egg mixture from spilling out. Pour in the egg mixture and tilt the sheet pan to spread it evenly over the bottom of the crust. Carefully fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Pat around the outer edge of the crostata, making sure there are no cracks where the filling might leak out.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the egg has puffed and browned and the crust is golden. If any of the egg mixture has leaked out while baking, trim it away with a knife. Cool crostata for at least 5 minutes before serving.
The crostata tastes best the day it is made, but leftovers can be refrigerated and reheated in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes.
If you don't like mint, you can substitute other soft green herbs like dill, basil, parsley, chives or cilantro.