Amaranth Crust, Walnut-Cherry Filling Crostata


For Dessert or Breakfast, This Crostata Rules! 

This treat emerged from the oven late in the day, so I put off photographing until the morning - sadly, because I wanted a bite before bed. Not only did the crostata look as good in dawn light, it was a remarkable breakfast! (Which is why there's no photos of the whole thing.)

The crostata stales incredibly slowly, remaining tasty for several days. It's also solid, fragile to the tooth but easily transportable to a morning meeting or lunch-at-the-desk. Make it and enjoy.

Note: Both crust and filling need to rest overnight in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly. 

Yield: one, 6-inch rustic crostata.

Time to make: 1 hour active. Overnight refrigeration. Oven dwell 30 minutes.

Tools needed: Spice or coffee grinder. Mortar and pestle. Measuring spoons and cups or kitchen scale. Plastic wrap. Medium bowl. Rolling pin.

For the crust:

2 fully intact star anise
4 cardamom pods, pounded, green shells discarded
3/4 cup (90 grams) amaranth flour
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
5 TBLS unsalted butter
2 TBLS (32 grams) ice water
1 tsp (4 grams) rice vinegar

For the filling:

3/4 cup (82 grams) walnuts, chopped into 1/4" diameter chunks
1/3 cup (85 grams) dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (125 Ml) heavy cream
1 1/4 TBLS granulated sugar
1 TBLS ginger syrup*
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

*Available in upscale groceries. Substitute: Shred a 1/2 inch cube of ginger root into 1 TBLS white corn syrup.

To make crust dough:

1) Pound the star anise and cardamom, in pods, in a mortar and pestle until cardamom pods breads and seeds can be scraped out. Discard green pod fragments. Place the spices in a spice grinder with 1 TBLS of the amaranth flour and whir until spices are finely ground - about 30 seconds. In a large, open bowl add spices, remaining amaranth flour, xanthin gum, salt and sugar. Whisk to mix thoroughly, Dribble the vanilla extract over the flour blend taking care to distribute evenly, then whisk thoroughly once again.

2) Mix ice water and vinegar into a small bowl and set into refrigerator. Stretch a double sheet of plastic wrap onto a work surface. Slice the butter across the stick ends in thin pieces, 1/16" to 1/8" thick, tossing slices into the flour mix. Use a fork to toss butter around in flour until distributed, then use the palm of your hand to squish the butter flakes into thin slabs. Toss flour again, add the ice water-vinegar mix, and toss roughly until liquid disappears. Do not try to integrate water into dough. Do not reduce the sizes of the butter flakes.

3) Turn dough mix out onto plastic wrap. Fold one edge of the wrap over the dough then press on the wrap to form the dough into a rough rectangle. Fold the rectangle into thirds, like a business letter, then press again through the wrap to create another rectangle. You will need four press-and-fold maneuvers tops water, butter and flour together into a cohesive block. Tap or press the corners of the dough block to form it into a flat cylinder, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

To make the filling:

4) Place the chopped walnuts on an oven-proof heavy skillet, spreading to avoid crowding. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately dump hot walnuts onto a wooden or stone work surface to cool.

5) Place cream into a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved and cream just begins to simmer. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally for 10 minutes, until cream has thickened slightly. Remove from heat. Add cherries, ginger syrup and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly and set aside too cool. When at room temperature, turn out onto plastic wrap and shape into a 6-inch diameter cylinder. over with the wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To make crostata:

6) Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to soften slightly. Heat oven to 425 F.  On a well-floured work surface, roll dough into a rough circle about 9 1/2 inches in diameter. Dough will be slightly thinner than 1/4". Transfer to a sheet of bakers parchment. Place chilled filling into center of dough. Using a bench knife or wide spatula, gently raise the crust edges to cover the filling.

7) Bake directly on center oven rack for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and bake an additional 20 minutes. Remove to cooling rack and allow to reach room temperature before cutting and serving.