Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple Crostata

Whole grain cornmeal can be used in recipes ranging from savory (as in my Polenta Croutons) to sweet (as in my Cornmeal Pound Cake) with ease. This dessert is yet another fun way to use cornmeal beyond cornbread.

Contrary to the title, this recipe is actually a cross between a crostata and a cobbler. Crostata, an Italian version of a pie, is usually a sweet flour-and-cornmeal crust with a fruit or custard filling. Much like a French galette, the dough is folded over but does not completely cover the filling.

This recipe deconstructs that idea a little. The fruit mixture is on the bottom, and the cornmeal crust becomes the topping, as in a classic American cobbler or crumble.  Pastry flour keeps the topping delicate, but you can use all-purpose flour as a substitute.

For the topping:
  • 3/4 cup pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup whole grain yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1 Ener-G egg
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins 
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 2/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups cubed Granny Smith apple
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. To prepare the topping, lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Combine the flour in a food processor with the cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, and dash of salt.  Pulse 2 to 4 times to combine.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture; pulse about 6 times, until the mixture looks like sand.

2. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl, and make a well in the center.  Add the Ener-G egg and stir until blended.  The mixture should still be crumbly, but with the sense that if you squeeze it even slightly, it would become the texture of pie dough. Set aside.

3. To prepare the filling, combine the golden raisins and brandy in a bowl.  Let stand for 15 minutes.  Drain and discard the liquid.

4. Return the raisins to a bowl, along with 2/3 cup sugar, the brown sugar, orange rind, lemon rind, 1/2 teaspoon salt, ground cinnamon, and black pepper.  Toss well.

5. In a small bowl, combine the apple and lemon juice.  Add the apple mixture to the raisin mixture and toss to combine.

6. Spoon the apple mixture into an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with the cornmeal topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes - the topping should be crisp and golden brown. I recommend placing a baking sheet on the rack below the crostata, to catch any drips during baking.

Serve warm, drizzled with the balsamic vinegar.

Nutrition Info:
9 servings (1 piece crostata, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar), Calories 311

Tasting Notes:
This really was a crumble in all but name, but I appreciated the subtle cornmeal flavor to the topping, and loved the unexpected twist of balsamic vinegar on top. The savoriness and acidity helped cut through the sweetness of the filling, which otherwise was no different from other apple-raisin crumble fillings I've eaten. Next time, I would use significantly more apple, both to bulk up the portion size and to offset all that sugar.  That said, the portions are small, but because the flavors run the gamut from sweet to savory and back again, a little bit is really all you need.

Update: if you have leftovers, I do not recommend this dish chilled - the flavor just doesn't work for some reason, and the balsamic becomes overpowering. A quick 15 to 20 second re-heat in the microwave solves the problem.


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