Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Jul 10, 2012

Nectarine Crostata

Libations used: 3 Tbs of vodka
Libations left over: Make yourself a drink while the crostada are in the oven...
What's the secret to a flaky pie crust?  VODKA.  Yes, the baking gods are on my side.  I started using vodka in my pie dough last fall when I made my mom's signature Dutch Apple Pie (of course, I also added brandy) and it really makes a difference.  Karen Hatfield of Hatfield's Restaurant in Los Angeles, and the new Sycamore Kitchen also uses this same libation in her pastry dough.  I've seen her recipe for Nectarine Crostata posted on KCRW and Los Angeles Magazine's blogs a couple of times, and now that stone fruit is in season, I was ready to give it a try.  I picked up a mixture of yellow and white nectarines—not only do they look pretty together, but they have slightly different flavors that balance each other out nicely, with the white being sweeter and the yellow being tarter.  You'll want to start making this recipe a day ahead so the dough has ample time to chill.  I got a little confused when Karen's recipe said that it served 6 to 8 because the dough made enough for nearly 2 dozen crostatas.  Well, I figured it out when I finally brought these to a Cinespia screening to share with friends.  They're small enough that each person will easily eat 2 or 3 on their own!  Immediately after devouring nearly all of them, they asked me when I'd be making them again.  Soon enough, my friends...soon enough.

Nectarine Crostata - serves 6 to 8
Ingredients for the dough:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour (I used pastry dough, but all-purpose is fine)
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 6 oz butter, cold and diced
  • 3 1/2 oz vegetable shortening, cold and diced
  • 3 Tbs cold vodka
  • 1/3 cups ice water
Ingredients for the filling:
  • 2-3 medium-sized white nectarines
  • 2-3 medium-sized yellow nectarines
Ingredients for the egg wash:
  • 2 Tbs cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup raw turbinado sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
To make the dough:
- Measure the shortening and spread the cubes on a dish in the freezer for about 20-30 minutes.
- Combine the vodka and water and place in the freezer to chill for about 10-20 minutes.
- Add the flour, salt and sugar into a stand mixer and combine.
- Add the butter and mix until the butter is roughly in 1/4" pieces.
- Add the shortening and mix until everything's broken up, but don't overmix before you add the liquids.
- Add the vodka and water and mix until the dough is formed and combined.
- Roll into a ball and cover with plastic wrap and let chill overnight.
- Roll the dough out very thin (about 1/8" thick) and cut out 3" circles.
- Place them on a sheet tray and set aside in the freezer.

To make the crostata:
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Pit and slice the nectarines into little halves.
- Arrange 3-4 slices of nectarine in the middle of each pastry round, alternating the yellow and the white.
- Brush some egg wash on the inside edges of dough for each pastry round.
- Make about five folds around each crostata and press the edges to form around the fruit.
- When all the crostatas are folded, brush some egg wash on the outside and make sure to really press in those folds so they don't come apart in the oven.
- Sprinkle the turbinado sugar on the outside of the tart.
- Generously sprinkle the granulated, white sugar on the fruit slices.
- Bake for about 12-15 minutes, rotating half-way (I had to cook mine twice as long for some reason - could have been the pastry flour I was using!) until the crust is golden-brown.
- Be sure to transfer the crostatas to a baking rack so the bottoms don't get soggy.