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This one is not for the hurried, not for the dieters, and not for the pastry purchasers. This jammy crostata, however, was a worthy attempt for me because it brought together the inspiration of two women who have made their mark on the culinary scene from different parts of the world, andboth with whom I have had the good fortune to recently connect. It’stheir devotion to organic, fresh foods that gave me one creation worth the effort. If you like the smell of sweet baked goods in your house and homemade breakfast pastry from a notable B&B, indulge with me.

Between Florence and Rome, between Montepulciano and Chianciano Terme, there is a Tuscan farm. And on that farm Pamela Sheldon Johns, cookbook author, runs an olivito (from her 15-acre olive grove), culinary workshops, and a B&B for fortunate travelers who want more out of Tuscan vacation than eating pasta at a village cucina. I met Pamela online before I departed for Italy; she told me to “stop by for some bruschetta and wine.”

Her farmhouse setting, that she shares with her husband and teenage daughter, is romantically rustic, what you’d expect from our Under the Tuscan Sun perceptions, yet equipped with a very modern and large cooking school kitchen, as noted by Travel & Leisure. We drank her homemade wine, nibbled on foccacia, sampled her robust olive oil while we sat on her patio talking with a few of her guests. Before we left, she packed up a plate of crostata for us that she made with her own jam which was made with her own fruit from her own orchard. We created our own B&B the next morning with her crostata. It was out of this world and I knew I just had to make it myself. Pamela, the most hospitable purveyor perhaps in all of Italy, was kind enough to share the recipe from her soon to be published Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking. My copy is already pre-ordered because in our all-too brief encounter, Pamela sent us to our two favorite Tuscan towns, gave us a quick lesson in bruschetta, advised us on preparing squash blossoms that were amazing (recipe to come), and said her goodbyes in crostata, wine, and olive oil.


Akashacouldn’t be further from the rolling countryside of Tuscany…she owns a thriving restaurant in LA, caters for celebrities, and has been personal chef to some of the biggest performers around, yet her commitment to seeking out fresh, local, and organic foods is no different. We ate her restaurant last week and were blown away by the flavors she’s able to produce with even the simplest ingredients. And as a kind gesture, we were given a few jars of her new line of jams. Her inventive flavor combinations for jam rocked our toast. What could Akasha jam do for a crostata? Rule the world.

Here’s the honest truth about making crostata – 4 sticks of butter, two cups of sugar, but really that’s the honest truth about most pastries we don’t personally made from scratch. Bakery pastries taste good for a reason. The difference when you bake them, you put in well-chosen ingredients.

Now, here’s the honest truth about where I went wrong and you don’t have to. I thought that I’d make up for butter and sugar with whole wheat flour. But, the whole wheat flour made the crostata hard to work with and kind of dry because, according Pam, whole wheat doesn’t have enough protein to hold it together. She recommended a combination of white and whole wheat flours.

Yet, even with the flour snafu, the crostata was rich in flavor, boosted by the sweet bites of Akasha jam in each square. And when warmed, the butter overcame any whole wheat dryness.

Give this crostata recipe a try. It’s a marvelous dessert for summer picnics or for a mid-day snack and even better, make a B & B out of your house by giving guests these warm baked goods in the morning. They may never leave.

italian crostata made with strawberry & rhubarb jam

preptime: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour for dough to rest makes 12″x15″ tart, serves 8-10

baketime: 40-50 minutes

4 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour or 1/2 in whole wheat flour

2 c sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 pound cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

5 large eggs

Grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 1/4 c plum jam or your favorite flavor (I used strawberry rhubarb)

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 T water

1 T granulated sugar

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir with a whisk to blend.
  2. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, work or cut the butter pieces into the flour mixture to form pea-sized crumbs. Note: I used a food processor and worked in two batches, pulsing the mixture until the chunks of butter were the right size.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk to blend well.
  4. With a fork, stir the eggs into the flour mixture, blending just until incorporated.
  5. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and press the dough gently into a smooth rectangle about 10 by 12 inches. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. On a lightly floured work surface, roll two-thirds of the dough out to a 12 by 15-inch rectangle. Transfer it to the prepared pan and spread the jam evenly over the pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
  8. Roll out the remaining dough and cut into 1/2 inch-wide strips. Place the strips diagonally on the top of the tart, making a lattice design.
  9. Brush the lattice with the egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden.
  10. Let cool completely and cut into squares to serve.
crunchtimewarp: (faster version, if possible)
  • Use the food processor to cut in the butter.
  • Divide the preparation in parts. Make the dough and refrigerate. Prepare the crostata, but save for baking.
  • Freeze half of it for an instant breakfast on another day.
recipe by Pamela Sheldon Johns from her new cookbook, Cucina Povera: Tuscan Peasant Cooking, and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com.


  1. Susie says Jul 10th 2011 7:11 am

    I love your blog, your philosophy and would I love to get a hold of a little crostini for breakfast today! I firmly believe in a balance in life, and when we indulge, it is home made goodness. I will be back often for inspiration.

  2. Kate says Oct 3rd 2012 7:36 am

    MY FIRST TIME HERE AND I REALLY LIKE YOUR BLOG. Crostata looks sooooo dilicious.Will try it soon.

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