Kid-friendly Italian Apple Crostata Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Italian Apple Crostata

Recipe: Italian Apple Crostata

Italian Apple Crostata

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Angelo Giampiccolo/Shutterstock.com
prep time
20 minutes
cook time
25 minutes
makes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Italian Apple Crostata

I'm a pie person. I was that kid that had a birthday pie. Forget the cake. I still love pie, but at some point, I began to veer away from it and toward its Italian cousin, the crostata (kroh-STAH-tuh)—essentially a simple tart made with sweet, buttery pastry and filled with jam, fresh fruit, and ricotta cheese. I love its organic shape and the fact that it doesn’t require a dish or pie pan. I like its rustic simplicity. We created a vegan non-roll pie crust to thwart any pie-crust-o-phobia you may have. And, because a crostata is baked directly on a baking sheet, this pie crust recipe retains its flakiness even better than a pie.

This is such a fun recipe to make with your kids—because there are no rules! A crostata can be any shape you choose.

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • chop :

    to cut something into small, rough pieces using a blade.

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • mix :

    to thoroughly combine two or more ingredients until uniform in texture.

  • zest :

    to scrape off the outer colored part of a citrus fruit's rind (skin or peel) using a metal tool with small sharp blades, such as a zester, microplane, or the small holes of a grater (avoid the "pith," the white, spongy lining of the rind that can be bitter).

Equipment Checklist

  • Oven
  • Muffin pan
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Zester (or grater with small zesting plate/side)
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Citrus juicer (optional)
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Fork (optional)
scale
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Ingredients

Italian Apple Crostata

  • Apple filling:
  • 1/3 C granulated sugar + more to sprinkle on top (or 6 to 8 stevia packs)
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free all-purpose flour)**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (also need 1/2 tsp for dough)
  • 1 squeeze lemon juice
  • 3/4 lb apples (2 to 3)
  • 4 T ricotta cheese, optional **(Omit for DAIRY ALLERGY)**
  • Crostata dough:
  • 1 2/3 C all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free flour)**
  • 1/4 C fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp salt, heaping
  • 1 tsp sugar (or 1 stevia pack)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 7 T olive oil (1/2 C less 1 T) + extra for greasing cupcake wells
  • 1/4 C cold water
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (also need 1/2 tsp for filling)

Food Allergen Substitutions

Italian Apple Crostata

  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free/nut-free all-purpose flour in filling and dough.
  • Dairy: Omit ricotta cheese in filling.

Instructions

Italian Apple Crostata

1.
intro

Do you suffer from pie-crust-o-phobia? It’s the rolling-out part that gets to you, right? Dough sticks to the rolling pin and the counter. If this scenario sounds familiar, we are about to make your pie-baking a whole lot easier with our Italian Apple Crostata (kroh-STAH-tuh). Pie-crust-o-phobia, begone!

2.
zest + measure

First, you will make the filling! Have your kids wash and carefully zest the peel of 1 lemon (only the yellow part—the white pith is bitter). In a medium mixing bowl, measure 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 pinch of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (save 1/2 teaspoon for the dough). Mix to combine.

3.
squeeze + chop + toss

Have your kids add 1 squeeze of lemon juice to the mixture. Then chop and add 3/4 pound of apples (about 3). Toss the apples to coat them in the sugar and lemon mixture and, if desired, mix in 4 tablespoons of ricotta cheese. Set the filling to the side.

4.
preheat + measure + mix

Next, you will make the crostata dough! Preheat your oven to 450 F. In a large mixing bowl, measure 1 2/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup fine cornmeal, heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 pinch of cinnamon. Mix dry ingredients with a whisk.

5.
add + mix

Have your kids make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add 7 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup cold water, and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest. Mix with a fork or your hands until it forms into a ball. Give each kid a bit of dough.

6.
shape + fill

Have the kids flatten their dough with their clean hands. Then, using their fingers, shape the dough into circles and fit them inside the greased wells of your muffin pan. Next, they can place the filling in the middle of the crusts. They can also crumb up any leftover dough and top crostatas with it before baking.

7.
bake + bubble + cool

Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle them with sugar before serving if you like! Serve warm or at room temperature. Say, “Buon appetito” or "Enjoy your meal" in Italian!

Surprise Ingredient: Apples!

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Photo by Bozhin Karaivanov on Unsplash

Hi! I'm Apple!

"I'm delighted to be part of your recipe! Not only does "an apple a day keep the doctor away," but I'm also versatile and delicious in both sweet and savory dishes, like pies, cakes, breads, salads, and casseroles, and added to vegetables and roasted meats. Not to brag, but I have a fabulous, round(ish) figure and come in several colors and varieties of sweet and tart flavors!"

History

  • Here's a story about the Granny Smith apple that is long but cute: In the year 1868, near Sydney, Australia, a grandma named Marie Smith had been testing different types of French crabapples for cooking, and she ended up throwing the used apple cores out her window as she worked. Granny Smith saw that a new apple tree (or cultivar) had sprung up below her kitchen windowsill. She cultivated the tree and found that the apples it produced were good for cooking and eating. They were tart, sweet, and crisp. Grandma Marie Smith took a stall at a farmer's market in Sydney, where her apples stored exceptionally well and became very popular. She sold her apples once a week and called them Granny Smith's Apples. Smart (and enterprising) fruit merchants in the 1890s and 1900s experimented with methods to transport the Granny Smith apples overseas in cold storage. Because of its excellent shelf life, they could export the Granny Smith apple long distances and most times of the year. Since growing fruit from the seeds of the Granny Smith apple produces trees with fruit that isn't as good as the original, grafting or cuttings are required instead. All Granny Smith apples grown today are from grafts of Grandma Marie Smith's original tree in Sydney.
  • Apple trees were domesticated thousands of years ago. A wild apple native to the mountains of southern Kazakhstan in Central Asia is considered the ancestor of most domestic apple varieties.
  • Worldwide, 7,500 varieties of apples are grown! If just 12 kids were growing that many, each of them would end up with 625 different kinds! 
  • Apples are victims of (or blessed by, depending on how you look at it) their own genetic creativity. An apple from a tree grown from a seed will be nothing like its parents. And because of this, historically, thousands upon thousands of varieties of apples have come into existence. Apples have evolved to adapt to all environments. They can be grown all over the world. Now, the number of apple varieties is much more narrow due to farming practices and consumers' desire for the "perfect red apple." The only way to ensure genetic repeats of apples is to "graft" the trees.
  • Grafting apple trees involves combining a bottom rootstock of one tree to the scion, or budding branch, of another tree to grow a new successful apple tree.

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Apples come in all shades of reds, greens, and yellows. They are members of the Rose family. Other members include strawberries, pears, plums, peaches, and raspberries.
  • Every spring, apple trees bloom or flower. At the bottom and inside each blossom is an ovule. Inside the ovule are the seeds that will eventually turn into an apple! It takes about 4 to 5 months from the time the blossoms are pollinated for the apples to be ready to pick.
  • New apple trees take four to five years to produce their first fruit!
  • A raw apple can contain 86 percent water! 
  • If you put an apple in water, do you think it will sink or float? It will float! That's because about 25 percent of an apple's volume is air. And that's why you can play a game of "bobbing for apples" at Halloween parties!
  • An apple tree can grow to more than forty feet and live over a hundred years!
  • A Japanese farmer picked the heaviest apple on record in 2005. It weighed 4.1 pounds! 
  • The word "apple" came from the Old English "æppel," which is Germanic in origin. Until the 17th century, "apple" could refer generically to any nut or fruit other than berries. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • August marks the beginning of apple season. Apple season peaks in September—some of the most delicious apple varieties are available then: the Honeycrisp (our fave!), Cortland, Macintosh, and Gala. October apples are perfect for baking. 
  • Apples are picked by hand when it's time to harvest them. Choose apples that have smooth skin and are free from blemishes. They should feel heavy for their size and feel firm. Then, give it a sniff—fresh apples smell almost floral-like and super pleasant.
  • It is so fun to go to an orchard in the fall and pick apples for yourself. Of course, apples are available year-round in most grocery stores and are most affordable during the months when they're in season (August through October).
  • Farmers often use honeybees to pollinate apple trees.
  • You can eat apples in so many ways. Try dicing half an apple and adding it to a spinach salad with walnuts or pecans, red onion, and goat cheese. Stuff and bake them for a cozy autumn treat. You can juice, blend, or grind apples to make juice, cider, or smoothies. Slice, chop, or mash them and add them to a variety of apple treats: pie, strudel, cake, donuts, tortes, turnovers, dumplings, galettes, fritters, muffins, and crisps or crumbles. You can thinly slice and dehydrate apples to make chips or cook and mash them to make applesauce, adding a dash of cinnamon for extra flavor. Apple marries beautifully with a ton of different sweet AND savory foods like fennel, cheddar, caramel, cinnamon, butternut squash, rooibos, sauerkraut, and sausage.    

Nutrition

  • "An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away." This saying originated because people believed fruits were important to a nutritious diet. A 2015 study found that people who ate an apple a day took fewer prescriptions. 
  • Red Delicious and Fuji apples contain the most polyphenols, micronutrients found naturally in plants with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can help prevent heart disease, control blood sugar, lower cancer risk, and help your immune system function properly. More polyphenols are found in an apple's peel than its flesh, so be sure to eat the peel, which will also add to your fiber intake!
  • Isn't it amazing to think that our bodies are hard at work keeping us strong and healthy while we go about our daily activities? Think of it: just now, your body is pumping blood through your veins and arteries, delivering nutrients to your cells to create energy, building proteins to protect you from getting sick, and so much more. That's why it's so important to eat nutritious foods, like apples!

 

What is a Crostata?

Photo by Annalisa Troian/Shutterstock.com
  • A crostata (kroh-STAH-tuh) is a rustic Italian baked tart or pie. When it comes to a tasty combination of chunky fruit filling in a crusty pastry, the crostata is clearly a winner. 
  • As a form of tart that hails from Italy, as early as the late 15th century, the crostata can be prepared with a variety of fruit fillings and made into any size that the cook desires. This means the crostata can serve as a bite-sized accompaniment to a freshly made sorbet or take center stage as a full-sized Italian tart garnished with a glaze.
  • Sweet crostatas can be filled with fresh fruit that is in season, frozen fruit, or any range of home-canned preserves, and even canned fruits and jams purchased in the supermarket. Ricotta cheese is also sometimes included. Savory crostatas are made with cooked meat, fish, or vegetables.
  • The pastry may be prepared in an open-faced style, with the crust on the bottom and sides and the outer top edge folded a little over the filling. Or, the top may be covered with a lattice design.

Let's Learn About Italy!

Photo by Marina Andrejchenko/Shutterstock.com
  • Italy became a unified country in 1861, only 150 years ago. It is sometimes called "bel paese" or "beautiful country."  
  • Italians invented the piano and the thermometer! 
  • In ancient Roman mythology, two twin brothers named Romulus and Remus founded Rome, Italy's capital city. The myth says the twins were abandoned and then discovered by a she-wolf before being found and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Eventually (and after many exciting adventures), they found themselves at the location of Palatine Hill, where Romulus built "Roma." The Italian wolf became Italy's unofficial national animal. 
  • In the 1930s and 40s, Mussolini, Italy's prime minister, and dictator tried to eliminate all foreign words from the Italian language. How did he do that? He just changed them! For example, in soccer, "goal" became "meta." Disney character names changed, too: Donald Duck became "Paperino;" Mickey Mouse became "Topolino;" and Goofy became "Pippo." Although they're not banned anymore, these words and names have stuck. So now if you go to the Italian Disneyland, called Gardaland Park, you will see Topolino and Pippo! 
  • About 60 million people call Italy home, and it is 116,350 square miles, slightly larger than the US state of Arizona. If you compare that to the United Kingdom, 67 million people live there, and it is about 94,350 square miles. So, the UK is smaller than Italy but has a bigger population! 
  • The Italian flag is green, white, and red. These colors represent hope, faith, and charity.
  • The average Italian eats close to 55 pounds of pasta annually. If you think about how light pasta is, that is a considerable amount! There are more than 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy today. 

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Italy?

  • Kids begin school at 6 years old. They grow up speaking Italian, but they learn English in school, so many become bilingual in Italian and English.
  • The most popular sport for kids is football (soccer). The Italian word for soccer is "calcio," the same word they use for "kick." A favorite of younger kids is "Rody, the bouncing horse," a plastic horse that a small child can hop onto and bounce around the room. Rody was invented in Italy in 1984.  
  • The family ("la famiglia") is a central characteristic of Italian life. Children have great respect for their older relatives. It is traditional to name the first male child after the grandfather and the first female child after the grandmother.
  • If kids live close to school, they can go home and have lunch with their families! Lunch at school might be pasta, meat with vegetables, a sandwich, or a salad with lots of ingredients. Families typically eat dinner later (7 to 8 pm), so kids end up staying up later, too!
  • Between lunch and dinner, kids often enjoy "merenda," which is an afternoon snack that translates to "something that is deserved." It is really a mini-meal that can include both savory and sweet foods. Examples of savory foods are a salami or mortadella sandwich, a slice of rustic bread rubbed with a cut, raw tomato, or "pizza bianca" (white pizza without tomato sauce). Types of sweet foods eaten during merenda are "gelato" (a lower-fat type of ice cream), any kind of cake, or biscotti dipped in warm milk.

That's Berry Funny

What reads and lives in an apple? 

A bookworm.

The Yolk's On You

What do you get if you cross an apple with a shellfish? 

A crab apple!

Lettuce Joke Around

What did the apple tree say to the hungry caterpillar? 

"Leaf me alone!"

Lettuce Joke Around

What can a whole apple do that half an apple can't do? 

It can look round.

THYME for a Laugh

What kind of apple has a short temper? 

A crab apple!

THYME for a Laugh

Why did the apple cry? 

Its peelings were hurt!

THYME for a Laugh

Why did the crostata go to a dentist? 

Because it needed a filling!

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