ONE ingredient crostata crust

This probably sounds as hard to believe to you as it did to me, but the crust for this blueberry crostata I made really just takes one ingredient.
And that single ingredient is...almond paste!  I saw this wild idea on TV and I was seriously amazed and had to try it for myself.    

Almond paste is one of my favorite baking ingredients and I normally prefer canned but the recipe calls for the kind in a tube (bonus: it's easy to find in most supermarkets) and I took the safe route and followed directions.  I say just stick with the tube variety for this purpose because it works; I was impressed by how easy it was to roll out.  You literally divide the tube of almond paste into 4 pieces.  Take one piece at a time, smash it down with your palm, and roll it out into a rough 6-inch round.  It literally takes a couple of minutes to make one!  I was worried the almond paste would break apart, be either too dry or too wet and sticky but none of that was the case.
Guess who this fairly-genius idea came from?  Brian Boitano!  As in...the figure skating champ, gold medalist.  He had a show on the Cooking Channel a while back and he was on The Chew recently promoting his new cookbook.  Funny enough, I always thought Brian Boitano was the very picture of seriousness and intensity so who knew (after watching his cooking shows) that he's actually so fun-loving, not to mention good in the kitchen!  

So on this show, he prepared pear and almond crostatas, made with the almond paste crust.  I sat up straighter and kept asking my husband if I was hearing it right!  I hit rewind a few times (watching on DVR) to make sure.  I'd never heard of such an idea and you don't often hear something new...
Now, I know about using almond paste as a layer of filling in rustic tarts, like a galette.  Last Fall, I made an apple-frangipane galette that I'm actually really proud of (because it was my first attempt and was delicious).  In it, I layered frangipane - an almond pastry cream made of almond paste, butter, sugar, and eggs, under the apples.  The frangipane not only added great flavor but created a barrier between the fruit and the galette crust that kept the crust firm and crisp.  But using just almond paste and nothing else for a crust?!
As you can see, I opted to use blueberries instead of pears to make blueberry crostatas (I particularly like blueberry tarts).  I winged it a little and just tossed my blueberries with a little sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch before layering it over the rolled out almond paste.  

I need to tell you that I took shortcut to the extreme with this!  I skipped the cream cheese filling that Brian spreads on top of the almond paste and under the fruit.  Here's my rationale: I was simply making two to eat with my husband and to test the general idea of this crust.  I also wanted to keep it light and quick.  I actually thought mascarpone cheese might be even better than cream cheese but I had neither in the house.  Without the filling though, the bottom of my crostata crust was wet and it was hard to remove from the parchment.  I expected that (though hopeful for a miracle) but if you are making these to serve to guests, follow the recipe and make the cream filling, which will not only add some richness but should act as some barrier to the moisture in the fruit to keep the crust firmer on the bottom.  A "normal" pastry crust would obviously hold up a lot better without a filling.
Now that all disclosures have been made, I have to tell you that I'm really impressed by this idea from Brian Boitano.  You get this nice, tasty crust with so little work.  The crust obviously does not taste rich and buttery.  I love that it's a lot lighter.  There's almond flavor and the texture is crisp yet chewy as you expect from almond paste.  You know the fold-over is the best part of a galette or crostata crust and it's the same way here...that edge is crisp yet chewy and a little extra sweet with the turbinado sugar dusted on top before baking.  

It's always great to learn something new and I think this is a really cool trick!  

I hope you're having a good Memorial Day weekend!  I have a lot of admiration and gratitude toward those who served, and are currently serving, our country.  We are truly lucky to have the freedom that we enjoy.


Here's how simple it is to make the almond paste crostata crust.  Unwrap your tube of almond paste and cut it into 4 pieces.
When rolling dough, I like to do it on top of a sheet of parchment paper and under a piece of plastic wrap.  I dust the parchment lightly with some flour, place a piece of the almond paste on top, and lightly dust the top with a bit of flour.  I place a piece of plastic wrap over it and using my palm, I press the almond paste down to flatten it.  
Then, simply roll it out into a 6-inch round.  It's very easy and the almond paste stays really smooth and easy to pick up and move around.  The best thing about these rustic tarts is you don't have to worry about it being exactly round.  At 6-inches, the crust will only be about 1/8 of an inch thick.
At this point, you would layer on the filling that I mentioned earlier, the one I omitted.  As you can see from the recipe, it's basically a cream cheese filling, sweetened and thickened with egg and flour.  I would like to try it with mascarpone cheese instead of cream cheese.

So all I did was take a cup of blueberries (for the two small crostatas I was making) and tossed it with a little less than 1 tablespoon of sugar (my blueberries were really good, hardly tart), 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch (to absorb some of the juice from the berries as they bake). 
Heap the filling onto the center of the crusts, leaving a half inch border.  
Then gently fold the border over the edge of the fruit.  This border is the best part of the crust!  
Then, brush that edge with egg wash and sprinkle it with some coarse turbinado sugar.
These take about 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven.   polished it off very quickly, soggy bottom and all!  


Recipe:

Blueberry Crostatas
Adapted from Brian Boitano's Pear and Almond Crostata recipe

- For 4 six-inch crostatas - 

For crust:
One 7-ounce tube of almond paste

For blueberries:
1 pint blueberries, washed and dried
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch

For filling:
4 ounces (half package) cream cheese, softened (Suggestion: try using mascarpone cheese)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons flour (plus more for dusting)
1 egg, to be divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (coarse or raw sugar), for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and position oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Make crust: Divide the tube of almond paste into 4 equal pieces.   Lightly dust work surface or a piece of parchment paper with flour.  Working with one piece at a time, press the almond paste down with your palm to flatten.  Lightly dust a rolling pin and roll almond paste out into a 6-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  Set onto the lined baking sheets (2 per sheet).

Prepare blueberries: Toss the blueberries together with the sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch to combine.  Set aside.

Make filling: Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat lightly.  Remove half to another small bowl and mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons water to make an egg wash; set aside.  In a medium-size bowl, combine the remaining half of the egg, the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla together using a wooden spoon or hand mixer until mixture is smooth.

To make crostatas, spread about 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese filling evenly around the center of each crust, leaving a 1/2 inch border all around.  Divide the blueberries among the crostatas, placing them on top of the cream cheese filling.  Fold the border of the almond paste crust over the edge of the berries, pressing down lightly where necessary to secure it in place.  Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the edges of the crostata with the egg wash and sprinkle each with turbinado sugar.

Bake until crostatas are golden brown, about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.





39 comments:

  1. From the look of the photos, they look like individual serving size crostata --they look so cute! And they baked up beautifully. Great post Monica. :) Hope you're enjoying your weekend.

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    1. Yes, they're mini, almost 6-inch, crostatas. Enjoy the rest of the Memorial Day weekend!

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  2. I love the simplicity of berry crostadas! This looks delicious.

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    1. Thanks - rustic tarts are great and low-pressure.

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  3. Um this has to be the most brilliant thing I've seen all week! What wonderful little berry treats! I only wish I had some almond paste in my pantry. I'd be making these tonight! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Monet - yes, Brian Boitano is "the man", as far as I'm concerned! ; ) Seriously, I could not believe what I was hearing when I saw him on the show talking about this crust.

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  4. This gives the phrase "what would brian boitano do?" a whole different meaning in my mind. Because evidently brian boitano, aside from being so adorable i could squeeze his cheeks, is a genius. WHAT A FABULOUS IDEA.
    Yesterday we made a list and set out to get all the things for our own memorial day celebration. on the agenda? galettes, which are either very similar or just like a crostata (we're making peach and strawberry). I'm making regular crusts, because i had no idea about almond paste crust, but next time? watch out. This gives me so many ideas, and i bet those taste just divine.

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    1. That's exactly what I was thinking, Shannon! He is a Genius! I was wondering if it was just me living under a rock that I'd never heard of it before! It's really cool to learn something new.
      I'm sure you are cooking up delicious eats for Memorial Day - I think galettes are pretty much the same as crostatas, and yours sounds great...a regular crust is most certainly divine (that fold-over edge!).

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    1. I agree...I was pretty shocked when I heard it. You'd think he was talking about putting the paste on top of the crust, not using it as the crust itself!

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  6. I am making this ASAP because almond paste is my most favorite ingredient ever...seriously. I love the flavor. I can't believe you can make a crust with just that! Thank you for posting this!!

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    1. Amy - aside from chocolate, almond paste is my second favorite ingredient to use. I love it intensely! : ) I was shocked by this idea too (in case you couldn't tell).
      Do you like Italian tri-color/rainbow cookies? I use the recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it is one of my family's all-time favorites. I keep cans of almond paste around just in case the urge hits!

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  7. This blueberry crostata looks amazing Monica! Love blueberry desserts! Such genius that this crostata only requires almond paste too, sounds so simple and delicious! Thanks for sharing:)

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. I was happy to try it...crazy idea!

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  8. I did not know you can make crust with almond paste.... just love these Blueberries filled crostata.
    I would like mine with some whipped cream.

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    1. I definitely didn't know either, Balvinder! Whipped cream is a wonderful idea, particularly since these crostatas are pretty light without the usual more rich, buttery crust (nothing wrong with that either)!

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  9. What a terrific idea for an easy to prepare dessert.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! Brian Boitano is one smart fella!

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  10. Thumb up for both the idea and execution. Easy crust yet looks so nice!

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    1. I agree...Brian Boitano has my admiration!

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  11. Whoah. This is awesome. I had no idea that almond paste could be turned into a crust like that. Another gold medal for Brian Boitano!

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    1. LOL! You cracked me up on the "gold medal"! Good one! : )

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  12. What a quick and fun crostata to make. I'm impressed with this too. A crust doesn't get any easier than this. I always keep almond paste in my pantry to make frangipane tarts. So, I can't wait to give this a try. Hm....Cream cheese got quite bit of moisture too, I wonder if that's enough to keep the crust crisp. I guess I'll need to give that a try to find out. ;)

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    1. I think we can trust Brian Boitano, Amy! He wouldn't steer us wrong, I don't think. ; )

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    2. Amy, I also wanted to point out that he did use pears in his recipe instead of blueberries like I did. On the show, he said that you could use berries and to add cornstarch, which I did, because of all the natural juices in them...

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  13. Nice sweet bites!
    great quicky dessert.,
    btw, i've never seen any instant almond cookies like that....

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    1. I had never heard of using just almond paste as the crust either...it is the coolest idea! Thanks for stopping by!

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  14. I think it is definitely a cool idea to do this. Good tips for what we should do versus what you tried! Hopefully you had a nice Memorial Day weekend!

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    1. haha...a bit of "do as I say, not as I do" here but I'm always honest (hope that counts for something!) ; )

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  15. That's so awesome! I'm a figure skater myself, so Brian Boitano is someone I really respect as one of the giants of the figure skating world. I think it's kind of funny that he went the culinary route afterwards, but I would really love to try out his recipes. And this crostata looks amazing! I especially love the blueberry filling (: Thanks for visiting Pass the Cocoa, and I'm so happy to discover your blog! All of your recipes look super delicious.

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    1. I remember watching figure skating back then when Brian Boitano was huge. I loved that he was so consistent and like "ice" (haha) all the time; you felt like you could always depend on him to do well under pressure. So it was kind of shocking to see how fun and jokey he is! Seems he is an excellent cook!!

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    2. Hi Monica! I just wanted to let you know that I just made these Blueberry Crostatas and they turned out beautifully and wonderfully aromatic because of the almond paste base. I include the cream cheese filling in my crostatas, so it was very easy to remove the crostatas from the parchment paper. I can't wait to dig in, and I plan on blogging about this recipe, so I'll let you know when the post is up on Pass the Cocoa! Thanks so much for this delicious recipe!

      Cheers,
      Monica

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    3. Yes!! Brian Boitano is the man! I totally trust him and his recipes now. : ) I like how light the almond paste crust is too and the chewiness is a bonus. Glad you made it and enjoyed it.

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  16. A very creative way of using almond paste as the crust! Total yum!!

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    1. That's what I thought when I first saw the idea, too.

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  17. Blueberry desserts are a favorite so this is definitely on the YUM list!

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    1. I got some amazing blueberries today at the market. So good just straight up!

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  18. This is really great, especially if you make your own almond paste, this is the best one around!
    http://www.simplysogood.com/2013/07/my-favorite-almond-paste.html

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