Last August we stayed at a beautiful agriturismo in Tuscany, called Fattoria Pianetti. For breakfast, the owner would offer her guests a selection of home-made jams and cakes, amongst which a divine tart (crostata in Italian) made every day with a different filling - apples, cherry jam and so on. The peculiarity of these tarts was that they were made with a soft shortcrust pastry, as opposed to the usual biscuity one. The result was delicious; I can describe it like something halfway between a cake and a tart, holding a fruit or jam filling. These tarts made with pastafrolla morbida (soft shortcrust pastry) are often found in Italian cooking, typically in home-made, rustic desserts prepared by grannies and mammas to finish off a family lunch, or to serve at breakfast time alongside a cappuccino or caffellatte.
For the soft shortcrust pastry (recipe adapted from the blog Fragola e Limone):
- 1 egg
- 75 gr of icing sugar
- 250 gr of plain flour
- 4 tsp of baking powder
- 125 gr butter (at room temperature)
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- The grated zest of half a lemon
- 4 heaped tbs of blackberry jam
Put the sugar, butter, vanilla extract and baking powder in a bowl and using a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, work the ingredients together until you achieve a smooth paste.
Little by little, fold in the flour. Cover the dough with cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
After the dough has rested, take a sheet of baking parchment (large enough to cover your tray in excess of about 2 cm at the edges) and roll 3/4 of the pastry on it. Lay the rolled pastry in the baking tin and trim off the edges to even them out: this will be the base of your tart.
Spread the jam evenly on the tart's base, then roll out the rest of the pastry and cut out some strips that you will arrange on top of the jam filling, to form a criss-cross pattern. This pastry being really soft, you (like me!) may find it a little tricky to lift long whole strips of dough without them breaking in two. If this happens don't worry, just patch up the breaks by overlapping the edges of two strips - once they are cooked, you won't notice the patchwork :-) Press down the ends of the strips on the edge of the tart to ensure they adhere well to each other and do not separate when the tart is baked.
Bake the tart in a fan assisted oven, pre-heated at 175°C, for approximately 25/30 minutes or until golden on top. Let it cool completely before serving.