Apple-Peanut Butter Crostata
This is a family recipe that I was taught while in high school. Since, it has become one of my favorite desserts to make because once you learn the basics of making pastry crust (or have one in the freezer), it's a breeze to make. Don't let the several steps intimidate you. I like it because there isn't much extra sugar called for in the filling. It can be made even more health-conscious-friendly by omitting the crust and baking it as a cobbler.
It's also always a crowd-pleaser, even more so now that I have added a thin layer of peanut butter underneath the apple filling before baking. While I generally refer to it as a pie, it is technically a crostata, as it is free-form, not baked in a pie tin.
Pastry crust (makes enough for two pie crusts):
- 1 ¼ cups AP flour (sifted), plus extra for rolling
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, very cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4-8 tbsp ice water
- 4-6 gala apples (or other not-too-juicy apples)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp agave nectar or 1 tbsp sugar
- Fresh-grated ginger (optional)
- Peanut butter
- 1 egg for an egg wash (optional)
- 4 tbsp (½ stick) butter
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
For the pastry dough, start by filling a small bowl with water and ice. Then, place the flour in a medium-size bowl. Add salt and sugar. Whisk well to blend. Place butter/Crisco in a larger mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut into smaller pieces, so it looks like crumbs. Add the flour mixture in at least two batches, using the pastry cutter to blend. Once the flour is well-combined with the butter, add the ice water one tablespoon at a time. It is likely you will need 6-8 tbsp of water, but it depends on the humidity, heat, and voodoo of the day. When the dough starts sticking together roll into a ball. Split the ball into two, cover, and refrigerate if not using immediately.
For the filling, begin by washing the apples. Wash the apples and then grate them using a cheese grater (do not peel). Place in a bowl and toss with lemon juice, cinnamon, agave nectar, and ginger. Set aside while making the topping.
For the topping, cut butter into pieces and use the pastry cutter to form crumbs. Add the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix well with the pastry cutter.
When ready to assemble the pie, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a round pizza pan or a large cookie sheet. Use extra flour to coat the rolling surface, dough, and rolling pin. Roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the flat crust onto the cookie sheet or pizza sheet. Don't worry if some hangs over the edge. Coat the center of the crust with a thin layer of peanut butter, leaving about 1 ½ inch margin around the edges. Cover the peanut butter with the apple mixture. Cover the apple mixture with the topping mixture. Fold over the crust around the edges of the pie so it looks like a pizza. If you desire a shiny crust, whisk together one whole egg in a small bowl and lightly brush the egg wash over the crust. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown and the topping is crispy.