Carolyn Eichin : Versatile rustic pear-blackberry crostata
Our bed and breakfast guests frequently ask me how long I have been cooking (more than 50 years) and where did I learn? From my mother. Most people say their mother was a good cook, but my mother really was a good cook. In the early 1950s, she appeared on live television in San Francisco making her artisan French bread. I barely remember seeing her on a tiny black and white TV while Gramma was in charge of baby-sitting duties. Mom was ahead of her time with French bread in the ’50s era of Twinkies in Jell-O.Mom discovered this pie crust recipe on a can of Snowdrift shortening sometime in the 1950s and we have been using the recipe in my family ever since. I now like to use butter-flavored Crisco for pie crust and I used Bartlett pears with wild blackberries for the crostata pictured.Mom’s Pie Crust Recipe:3 cups of all-purpose flour1 tablespoon sugar1 teaspoon salt1 cup butter flavored shortening1⁄2 cup very cold milkMix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter. Many people use a food processor for pie crust, but I still make it by hand with a pastry cutter. Measure the 1⁄2 cup very cold milk into a larger measuring cup and slowly add the flour/shortening mixture to the milk, stirring. Continue adding flour until the mixture forms a shaggy moist dough and then add the mix into the remaining flour/ shortening. Mix well. Refrigerate the dough while preparing the filling.Pear-Blackberry filling:2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice4 small pears or 3 medium to large pears, peeled and thinly sliced1⁄2 cup fresh blackberries, washed and drained1⁄4 cup granulated sugar1 tablespoon all-purpose flourPreheat oven to 375 degrees. Place lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl and peel and slice the pears into the juice tossing or stirring to keep the pears from turning color. Add the washed and drained fresh blackberries, the sugar and flour and gently toss until everything is well mixed. Roll out about 1⁄2 of the dough on a floured cutting board. (Reserve the other half or freeze for a later project). Roll as little as possible in rolling out the dough.Using a small dessert plate as a template, cut two circles of pie dough and place on a greased baking pan or on baking parchment paper. Place 1⁄2 of the filling mix in the center of each dough circle leaving about 11⁄2 inches of crust on the edge of the dough. Carefully pick up the crust and fold it back over the filling, crimping the crust at about 1 inch intervals. Make an egg wash with 1 egg, well beaten, to which 2 tablespoons of cold water has been added. Brush the egg wash over the crust portion of the crostatas and sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar per crostata, over the crust. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly and tender. Makes two crostatas.The rustic crostata is a great opening course or baked goods course at our B&B. It is also my “go to” recipe for gluten-free guests, when I substitute gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour in the pie crust. Bob’s Red Mill makes a good gluten-free flour. Omit the flour in the filling for gluten-free baking. This is also a great “vegan” recipe when using butter-flavored Crisco and omitting the egg wash. Try other fruit combinations: peach and raspberry, apple with golden raisins, apricot and pecan, and so on. The crostata pictured was made with an 8-inch dessert plate.• Carolyn Eichin owns B Street House Bed and Breakfast in Virginia City.