pomegranate panna cotta

The pomegranates were ripening, falling to the ancient staircase below with a thump. The heavy fruit split apart on impact, exposing crimson seeds and fleshy insides.  There was a tree laden with fruit just outside the casale in Tuscany – the magical place where I was staying almost exactly one month ago.

The skin of these fruits wasn’t the familiar mottled, deeply red color of the ones I buy in late fall from produce bins in the grocery store; these were yellow tinged with green, looking more like extra-large Golden Delicious apples than what I’ve come to recognize as pomegranates. Pomegranates are melograno in Italian, derived from the Latin word for apple.

When I first noticed the tree I didn’t recognize the fruits; it wasn’t until I saw them cracked open on the ground that I saw what they were. The property, surrounded by vineyards, was outlined with hedges of bay laurel, rosemary and oleander. All plants that love the Mediterranean climate as much as pomegranates do. [Read more...]

italian summer country cake

I’m eating a piece of cake, remembering when my kids had birthday parties…the clearing of the table right after the cake, just before the presents, and all those paper plates with beheaded cupcakes on them.

Little cakes in paper liners with their fancy frosted tops chewed right off. I know some grown-up children who still consider cake a mere delivery vehicle for cream, fudge or frosting, but for me it’s always been the opposite.  As a girl, I’d scrape off the frosting and go all in for cake.  [Read more...]

italian jam tart

italian jam tart recipe

This is a homey Italian grandma dessert, plain and simple. The crust is a basic sweet dough easily made in a food processor and the filling is good quality jam. I used wild blueberry in this one.

I had an Italian grandma – two, in fact – but I can’ t remember if either one ever baked a jam tart. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of baking in their kitchens, come to think of it.  There were so many traditional family bakeries in the neighborhood that I’m guessing sweets became something my nonnas delegated to the professionals.

There wasn’t a homemade crostata di marmellata, but there was almost always a brown bakery box tied with string sitting in the pantry or on the kitchen table.

italian jam tart

While we wait for fresh summer fruit to come into season, jam tarts come to the rescue. Try to use really good quality preserves, the kind with lots of visible fruit and not a ton of sugar. Hint – the fruit or berry flavoring the jam should be the first ingredient listed, followed soon after by sugar.

If you’re lucky to get your hands on homemade jam, this has your name on it.

italian jam tart

italian blueberry jam tart

Yield: one 9-inch tart

Ingredients

  1. 2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  2. 1/3 cup sugar
  3. ½ teaspoon salt
  4. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  6. 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  7. ¼ cup whole milk
  8. 2 cups good quality wild blueberry preserves (or other fruit)

Instructions

  1. To make the crust, pulse the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor 3 or 4 times to blend; scatter the butter over the flour and process until the mixture looks sandy and you can’t see any butter chunks.
  2. Whisk together the egg, yolk and milk; add to the flour mixture and pulse a few times until the dough just begins to come together (but not until the mixture forms a ball over the blade which will toughen the dough). Add some ice water drop by drop if it seems dry. Remove the dough from the workbowl and knead it gently to form a ball. Flatten it into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator about 1 hour until firm but not hard. If the dough gets too cold and seems hard, leave it out for 15 minutes until it’s workable.
  3. Lightly dust the dough with flour and put it on a lightly floured surface (a smooth countertop is ideal). Slice off 1/3 of the dough and set it aside, covered loosely with a floured towel.
  4. Place the remaining 2/3 dough between two large pieces of lightly floured parchment paper or plastic wrap and roll out to a 12-inch diameter circle. Carefully peel off the parchment, roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll over a 9-inch tart pan. Press the dough into the pan and up the sides, trimming the top edges of the dough flush with the pan by running the rolling pin over the top.
  5. Spread the jam evenly over the tart.
  6. To make the lattice, roll the reserved 1/3 portion of the dough on a floured surface to 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into ½-inch wide strips with a fluted pastry cutter or small, sharp knife.
  7. Lay the strips in a diagonal lattice pattern over the tart, starting in the center with the longest piece, trimming if necessary. Pinch the dough where the edges meet around the diameter of the pan. Put the tart in the refrigerator and chill 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 30 minutes, or until the lattice is golden brown and the jam is bubbling.
  9. Cool to room temperature before serving.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/italian-jam-tart/

A version of this post was contributed to Go Bold with Butter. All opinions are my own.