The holiday season is undoubtedly my favorite time of year, mostly because of the incredible baked goods circulating in my house during November and December. The day after Halloween, I entered full-blown holiday mode. I started bookmarking potential gifts for friends and family, purchased a holly wreath and other miscellaneous decor at Crate & Barrel, and began blasting my pride and joy, THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE WAY playlist on Spotify.
With Christmas music and decor a-plenty, the only thing that seemed to be missing (aside from a White Christmas) was holiday baking. But what was I supposed to bake first? Maybe my favorite chocolate truffle cookies, or those flaky orange cookies in the shape of mini-wreaths. Or should I just pull back on the reigns for a second and go for a brandied pumpkin pie?
Despite my excitement about the upcoming holidays, I was able to reason, and concluded that I should probably appreciate the Fall season, too. I'm going to spend this Thanksgiving with my family in New Orleans, a city I've never been to before. Accustomed to eating Thanksgiving dinner with my immediate family and a few cousins, with recipes I've grown up with, I was a bit apprehensive about the prospect of celebrating this year's Thanksgiving at a restaurant 1,454 miles away from home. I decided to bake an apple crostata my mom loves making around the holidays, made extra seasonal with the addition of tart cranberries, so I could have a taste of familiarity before jetting off.
I love this dessert for its simplicity, beauty, and depth of flavor. Lighter than apple pie, this crostata is a rustic tart or galette, with flaky crust cradling layers of apple slices and cranberry. What makes this dessert sophisticated and unique is the addition of crystalized ginger to the filling. This is a must-make, and will definitely outshine all of the other heavy holiday desserts at the potluck.
Recipe, slightly adapted from Bon Appetit's January 2013 issue
1.5 C all-purpose flour
1.5 TBS sugar
.5 tsp salt
10 TBS (1.25 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into .5" cubes
3 TBS (or more) ice water
1.5 lbs (about 4 medium-size) Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and cut into thin 1/8"-thick slices
5 TBS sugar
2 TBS minced crystallized ginger
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 TBS (.25 stick) unsalted butter, cut into .5" cubes
2 TBS whole milk or half and half
.25 C orange marmalade, warmed
heavy whipping cream
FOR THE CRUST
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl or food processor. Add the butter and incorporate with pulses of the food processor, or with a pastry blender/cutter, until the mixtures resembles a coarse meal. Add 3 TBS of ice water. Using the pulse function on the food processor, or a fork, mix in the ice water until moist clumps form; add more teaspoonfuls if the dough is too dry to form into a round. Gather the dough into a ball. Flatten into a disk, then wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.
FOR THE FILLING
Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425ºF. Combine the apple slices, 3 TBS sugar, crystallized ginger, an lemon juice in a large bowl. Using your hands, gently toss the mixture until it is blended.
Roll the chilled dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper to a 14" round. Transfer the parchment with the dough onto a large baking sheet. Starting in the center of the round, arrange the apple slices on the dough in tiered concentric circles, leaving a few inches of dough as a border. Fold the plain edge of the crust over the apples, leaving the apples in the center exposed. Gently fold and pinch any cracks to seal the dough. Sprinkles the apples with 1 TBS of sugar, then dot the apples with butter. Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 TBS of sugar.
Bake the crostata until the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush the apples with warmed orange marmalade. Cool on a baking sheet for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream.