Posted by: marthabernie | September 29, 2014


It has gotten so hot here in Pasadena in the past week, I have not turned the oven on, even late at night.  On days when it’s 105 degrees or more, we are lucky if it gets down under 95 degrees by sundown and it’s still 90 degrees at bedtime.  Today I ran the A/C on 86 degrees and it felt almost frigid inside compared to the outside temperature!  So all cooking has been taking place on the stove top, in the slow cooker, or in the Sharper Image convection air cooker.

Before the heat wave set in, however, I did try one recipe from the recently released book The Sugar Cube by Kir Jensen.  It contains fifty “deliciously twisted treats from the sweetest little food cart on the planet.”  Ms. Jensen operates a pink food cart (aka truck) in Portland and it apparently is such a hit that she decided to write the cookery book.  For a food truck, I was amazed at the complexity of some of the recipes but they do appear to be out of this world.  The following is the recipe for Apple-Apricot Crostatas and they are WONDERFUL!

For the dough:

2 cups unbleached flour

1 rounded tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup (one stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

2 tablespoons very cold rendered leaf lard, cut into small pieces.

1/4 cup ice water

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt and pulse a few times.  Add butter and lard and pulse until pea-size pieces are formed.  While pulsing, slowly drizzle the ice water through the feed tube.  Continue pulsing until the dough comes together (it starts to ball up).  If dough seems dry, add one teaspoon very cold water at a time, but be careful not to get dough too sticky.  Turn the dough out onto a clean, dry, lightly floured work surface and gather it into a ball, kneading a few times.  Flatten it into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigertor and let stand at room temperature for a few minutes to soften a bit.  With a lightly floured rolling pin on lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 15 inch circle that is 1/8 inch thick.  Make sure to turn the dough frequently as you roll it to prevent sticking.  Use a scraper to dislodge any areas that stick to the work surface and dust the area lightly with flour.  If there is excess flour on your dough when you are done rolling, be sure to brush it off.

Line a baking sheet with parchmen paper.  Use a 5 inch round cutter to cut out six 5 inch rounds and place them on the prepared sheet.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill while you make the caramelized apples.

Caramelized apples:

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter cut into pieces.

1 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 vanilla bean

3 medium to large Granny Smith apples, about 1 pound 9 oz, peeled, halved and cored

1/4 cup apricot preserves

heavy cream for brushing

superfine or vanilla sugar for sprinkling

vanilla bean ice cream for serving

In a 10 inch saute pan that is at least 2 inches deep, stir the butter, sugar, salt and lemon juice.  Split the piece of vanilla bean lengthwise and scrpe out the seeds with the back of a knife.  Add to the pan along with the pod and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is bubbly and turns a light nut brown, 5 to 8 minutes.  Add the apple halves, cut side down, and cook for 5 minutes, spooning the caramel over the apples to promote even cooking.  Lower the heat a bit if the caramel is getting too dark.  Turn the apples over and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, spooning more caramel on top.  You want the apples to be cooked but still hold their shape and be slightly firm to the touch.  Remove from heat and use a slotted spoon to transfer the caramelized apple halves to a clean plate.  Let cool.  You can discard the leftover caramel in the pan or use it to top the crostatas.  Just add a little cream and whisk until smooth.  Make sure to strain out the apple bits and vanilla bean pod.

When cool enough to handle, cut the apples into 1/2 inch slices, four to six slices per half.  Do not fan the slices or mix them up, keep in the half apple shape.  They should be easy to cut yet slightly firm since they are going to bake for another 20 minutes.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator.  Drop 1 rounded teaspoon of apricot preserves in the center and spread it out a bit, leaving a one inch border.  Place a caramelized apple half, cut side down, on top.  Fold the edges of the dough up against the apple, pressing the seams together where the dough overlaps.  The center of each crostata will be open (see photo below).  If the dough seems too firm to fold, let  it stand at room temperature for a few minutes until slightly softened but no longer than 5 minutes or it will be too soft to work with.  Freeze the crostatas until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degreees F.  Lightly brush the edges of the chilled crostatas with cream and generously sprinkle the dough and fruit with superfine sugar.  Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through.

Melt the remaining apricot preserves in a small bowl in a microwave for about 25 seconds, or in a small saucepan over low heat.  Thin with a teaspoon of water if necessary.  Let the crostatas cool slightly before brushing the tops of the apples with the melted preserves for added tartness and a pretty shine.  Serve warm with ice cream.

NOTES:  You can, of course, start with store bought dough, but the pastry recipe here is a good one.  She recommends freezing the lard and/or butter in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before mixing.  You can make the dough by hand, but she cautions not to over mix, especially after adding water.  Also, be sure to let the dough rest in the fridge after mixing.  She also cautions not to skip the freezing step before putting the crostatas in the oven.


I can’t wait to try the Breakfast Clafoutis, Shortbread Bars, Hazelnibbies, Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie and the Raspberry Brown Butter Creme Fraiche Tart…just as soon as the weather cools down!

Photos by Lisa Warninger.


  1. That’s awesome 🙂


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