I am quite the fan of the Pina Colada, so imagine my pleasure when I found out about the Cookthink: Root Source Challenge ingredient for this week: pineapple. Just as a little background, the Root Source Challenge names a new ingredient each week and participants must devise a recipe based on it. I had already been thinking about escaping the winter with a nice tropical drink when I saw the challenge ingredient. So I immediately thought of ways to incorporate both pineapple and coconut in a dish. The result? A take on the apple crostata, one of my favorite winter desserts. Instead of doing the usual apple/cinnamon filling, I decided to use the same ingredients for the topping of a pineapple upside down cake. And since a Pina Colada isn’t complete without coconut, I opted to top the pineapple crostata with a homemade coconut gelato. While the gelato was taken from the food world’s favorite convict Martha Stewart, the pineapple crostata was a result of my own twisted thoughts of adult cocktails.
Since the crostata dough requires at least an hour to chill, I tackled this step first. I have used this recipe for years and I believe I originally got it from the Barefoot Contessa (it’s handwritten on an index card in my recipe box, so I am not 100 percent sure of its origins). This recipe will actually make enough for two crostata crusts (you can always freeze the second one to use later), so if you only want one, cut it in half:
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter – chilled and cut into squares
5 Tablespoons Cold Water
Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor with a steel blade insert. Pulse several times to combine all the ingredients together. Add the butter and pulse again until it’s crumbly. Add the water and pulse until the mixture comes together but before it turns into a ball. Remove the dough from the food processor and shape it into a ball on a floured surface. Separate the large ball into two smaller balls of dough and then flatten each one out to a disc. Cover each disc in cling wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of one hour.
For the filling, I like to use a whole pineapple instead of the inferior canned slices. I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to find a whole pineapple this time of year, but Trader Joe’s turned out to be my savior. Before you think it’s too hard to cut up a whole pineapple, let me tell you it’s quite easy and the difference in taste is phenomenal. However, it is important you have a good carving knife!
Cut the top off a large pineapple and then cut it lengthwise. Once you have the pineapple cut into halves, cut it again into quarters. Then carefully skin the pineapple and remove the core by slicing it out of the middle of each section. Then slice up each pineapple quarter. The remaining ingredients are as follows:
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Vanilla Bean
Before starting the filling, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cut the vanilla bean in half and scoop out the beans from one section. Place all the ingredients, including the vanilla pod, into a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Stir the pineapple mixture occasionally, monitoring the absorption of the liquid. As the liquid starts to absorb, reduce the heat gradually. Once the pineapples turn translucent, which takes approximately 25 minutes, remove them from the heat.
Because the crostata dough will not completely cover the fruit, every crostata usually has some sort of crumble topping. The crumble topping is very easy and can be done in the food processor too. Place 1/4 cup of sugar and all purpose flour into the bowl, along with a half stick of chilled and diced unsalted butter. Pulse the ingredients until you get a nice crumble mixture. Set this aside.
Once the dough has chilled, take it out of the refrigerator and roll it out to about 11 inches. Put the dough on an ungreased baking sheet (I have a baking sheet that doesn’t require greasing, but if you don’t, I suggest lightly greasing it). Place the pineapple mixture in the center of the dough, leaving enough space on the sides to make a border. Fold the sides of the dough onto the pineapples, pinching the edges to make a decorative statement. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the visible pineapple filling and place it in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
This is best served warm, so when it’s cooled down just a bit, place it on a plate, along with a scoop of the aforementioned coconut gelato.
As a side note, since I had a half section of vanilla bean, I scooped out the beans of the remaining half and put it in the gelato (I incorporated it when the final ingredients simmered before being placed in the ice water bath). This is not necessary as the gelato is fantastic on its own. It was just a bit of improvisation on my part.
Feel free to enjoy an actual Pina Colada while tucking into this crostata. I, however, enjoyed it with a cup of hot cocoa (albeit spiked with Kahlua).