It’s Pi Day today and that’s an excuse for pie. For those not in the know, Pi Day is March 14 or 3.14. For those of us that studied math, it’s a common number. Not that I use it much in everyday life, do you really want to know the area of a pie?!
Like I said, it’s an excuse for pie! My mom is usually visiting my brother in Seattle this time of year since his birthday is the 16th. She is the one who told me about Pi Day years ago during one of her visits. It’s a bigger deal out there, especially since they have several pie food trucks and pie bakeries. I live in a small city and am deprived of these wonderful things.
No fear though, you too can celebrate Pi Day by baking your own pie if you don’t have access to a pie bakery or food truck. This year I’m taking a little leeway with the definition of pie. As a person who has struggled with pies over the years, I opted to bake a crostata. It’s basically a rustic pie so why not.
For a crostata (italian) or galette (french) you take your rolled out crust and layer the filling on top. Fold over the edges and you have a rustic pie. I should have started making these years ago!
For me one of the problems with a traditional pie is a soggy bottom. Nobody wants a soggy bottom. Even with blind baking a crust I find that some pies, especially fruit pies, get juicy and as a result the bottom crust is soggy. The crust on this crostata remained crunchy, and the turbinado sugar makes it even better.
Also, if you’re a person that likes crust, a crostata is for you. By folding over the crust and partially covering the filling each slice has more crust. Now here is the surprise, Jack doesn’t like crust, at all, and this he inhaled. I guess it really was a good crust!
Another advantage of a crostata is that it is much easier to serve. The first slice of a pie is always tricky. Unless you’re very skilled or just lucky, the first slice isn’t pretty. Either some of the crust is missing or the filling oozes out a little. The crostata presents nicely on a cake plate and slices easily without having to pull it out of a pan.
All right, on to the flavor. I myself enjoy almonds in a fruity dessert. Or hazelnuts. This time around I went with almonds since I already had almond meal in the pantry. I chose plums because we all enjoy them so much and I don’t think I’ve ever made the boys a plum dessert before. Something new for them is always nice. I also added the cardamom just for them. It pairs well with cinnamon and plums and is their absolute favorite spice.
When the boys walked in the house from helping Daddy cut down trees they immediately noticed the aroma. The windows were open and the smell of plums, cinnamon and cardamom was flowing all through the house. It was torture waiting for it to cool down before we cut into it. Then I had to fight the boys off from carving a second piece for themselves. It was that good. I’ll need to hide the leftovers to make sure they don’t sneak any.
Almond Plum Crostata
For the crust:
1 3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. almond meal
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
10 Tbs. cold butter, cut into small cubes
6-8 Tbs. ice water
For the filling:
1/2 c. sugar
3 Tbs. almond meal
2 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 1/2 lbs. plums, sliced (peels stay on)
2 Tbs. butter cut into small pieces
1 egg, mixed with 1 Tbs. water for an egg wash
1/4 c. turbinado sugar
To make the crust, place the flour, almond meal and salt in a food processor bowl. Pulse a couple times to combine. Sprinkle the butter evenly over the top, cover and pulse several up to 10 times or so, until the mixture is the size of small peas. Open the feed tube and while running the food processor add 6 Tbs. ice water (yes, it must be icy cold or the butter with soften and you won’t get a flaky crust).
If the dough pulls together and forms a ball you’re done. If not, slowly add a little more water until it is done. Flatten the dough and wrap in plastic wrap, put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Once the dough is chilled roll it out on a floured surface. Roll it out to about a 14 inch diameter circle, it doesn’t need to be perfect (rustic, remember). Wrap the dough around the rolling pin and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
For the filling combine the sugar, almond meal, flour, cinnamon and cardamom. Whisk together to combine. Sprinkle this over the crust, leaving two inches around the edges. Place the plums on top, now is the chance to arrange them in a pretty pattern since there is no top crust!
Place the pieces of butter over the plums. Fold over the outer edge, forming pleats when necessary. Brush the crust with the egg wash. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the plums and crust. Put the crostata in the fridge for 30 minutes. While it is chilling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the crust is browned and plums are bubbly. Cool slightly before serving.
Yields: 8 servings