Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blood Orange Cardamom Crostata for an early Pi Day

It never fails, blood oranges always transport me back to Florence, Italy 1998. It was then and there that I first had a blood orange.  That I first saw it's gorgeous purplish-red flesh.  It's because of that semester abroad that I have a minor obsession with blood oranges.  Peeling them, eating them, cooking with them reminds me of such a specific time in my life.  A time I long to relive or even just to share with the Boy, who has never been to La Bella Italia, as I so fondly think of it.

It was a time of alot of firsts.  The first time I went to a foreign country where I didn't speak the language, the first time I had even been so far from my family, the first time I was required to cook for myself everyday, the first time I actually enjoyed red wine, my first cooking class and so many more.  It was such an amazing time, to live in and learn about a place, people and culture and to completely fall head over heels in love with everything about it. From the people, to the food, to the landscape, even the random and annoying transit strikes, it all holds a special place in my heart.  Because of the memories this simple piece of fruit (am many other Italian ingredients and dishes) evoke I can't help but snatch them up whenever I see them.

Since I turned many of the blood oranges I bought into a lovely marmalade spiced with cardamom I decided that a crostata was absolutely in order.  In the simplest terms, a crostata is an Italian jam tart.  When I lived in Florence, my tiny one-room apartment was upstairs from a bakery.  Not a fancy pastry bakery, a bread bakery except for one special thing.  If my roommate or I got down there early enough each morning, the minuscule front case would be filled with large jewel-color pastries.  Not just any pastry either, crostata.  At least once a week we'd grab a square and bring it up to share as part of our Nutella and fresh bread morning ritual, that is if it wasn't gobbled up on the way back to our third floor apartment. Oh how I loved the apricot and will occasionally make when the craving strikes.

The crostatas I'm familiar with are made with jam, but the long pieces of candied peel were so gorgeous in the ruby red marmalade that I had to try using it.

Blood Orange Cardamom Crostata
makes 1 8"x11" tart

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter - ice cold and cubed
1/2 cup iced cold water
2 cups Blood Orange Cardamom Marmalade
juice from 1 lemon

1.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, nutmeg and sea salt.  Using a pastry cutter or a butter knives cut the butter into the dry ingredients until there are crumbs no bigger than peas.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the ice cold water and slowly add more until the dough comes together.  Form into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
2.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly butter a 8"x11" fluted tart pan.  In a medium bowl stir to combine the marmalade and lemon juice.
3.  Roll out the dough into an approximately 9" x 12" rectangle and carefully place into the tart pan, trimming the edges if necessary.  Dock the crust all over with a fork and place into the preheated oven and blind bake for 7 minutes.
4.  Remove par baked crust from the oven and spread the marmalade mixture in an even layer over the tart shell.  Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for an hour.

I'm in love with the look of this crostata.  The long pieces of candied peel are just gorgeous and the baked marmalade has a candied look to it.  Even though I'm not into marmalade, baked into this flaky buttery crust it all works really well.  Add that to the nostalgia of blood oranges and crostatas and I'm a happy girl.  Paired with a nice espresso or cafe latte and I'm ready for the perfect afternoon snack.

Even more perfect is that Pi Day is tomorrow and this is one of my two entries to honor 3.14.


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