Apple, pear, fig and plum crostada

This is a post I wrote for Masterchef Monday on the Home Baker's Guild. 
Hang on tight, it's a long ride. 

Raised and schooled in Singapore, followed by 6 years of college education and hostel life in Madras, it was marriage that took me to the township of Ramachandrapuram, on the outskirts of Hyderabad city some 30 years ago. Living at the back of beyond, trying to run a home and an almost nonexistent kitchen, was quite something else, culture shock is too mild a term. A kitchen with no sink, running water at odd hours, no gas and not one but 2 kerosene stoves! Early on, I understood how important it was to keep the wicks trimmed so the flame would burn blue, there would be less pot scrubbing to do later. Still, no amount of French perfume could mask the unmistakable smell of kerosene on one’s hands. Ahh, the travails of a quintessential party girl!!

What did I miss the most? Definitely the oven at home. I had collected a whole sheaf of recipes for cakes, breads and cookies, thinking I could carry on with baking in my spare time but Hyderabad found me with lots of spare time and no oven.

Then my husband’s colleague lent me her “round oven”. Something was better than nothing but after a point, I got fed up with the little I could do with it.

Around that time, my mother in law decided to donate her secondhand oven to me. She lived in Ranchi where the power situation those days was pathetic. She had given up all hope of baking as anything put into the oven ever baked to completion. Neither she nor I ever realized the direction my life would take from that decision onward.

One evening, we received a note from a transport company to say that we were to pick up a consignment from their office. And there it was- in a big crate. A friend helped us get it home and husband and I set about opening it. Slowly, the small compact tabletop oven within was revealed, ironically named Jackson Giant. A bit battered and bruised, and weighing a ton, I loved it nonetheless. Despite its size, it could fit two 9”x 13” pans on the 2 racks. It had a baffle plate for toast, a plate warmer on one side and an enormous electric hob on top which my husband promptly disconnected. I quickly measured out flour, butter, sugar and eggs, intending to do a test bake.

We removed all the packing material from inside and then plugged it in and switched it on. The next second, there was an almighty THUP and the husband and I found ourselves sitting in pitch darkness. The house fuse had blown!! Marrying an electrical engineer has its perks- he repaired the fuse and a quick check with a multimeter revealed the fault was with the wiring of the oven and not with the oven itself. Phew! I could live with that!

By the next evening, he set right everything and got the oven up and running.

I loved baking apple pies and somewhere along the way, crostadas became a favourite. A crostada is nothing but a free form pie.

My recipe for apple, pear, fig and plum crostada has a secret ingredient which makes it absolutely delicious- thickened condensed milk. Google and HBG abounds with experiments on home made dulce de leche. If you’re not confident of doing it in a pressure cooker, do it my way- in the microwave.

Apple, pear, fig and plum crostada (makes 1 pie)

180 gm plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons sugar
90 gm unsalted butter, cold and cubed
2 egg yolks beaten with 2 tablespoons water
Iced water to mix

½ a can sweetened condensed milk
2 apples- Granny Smith is fine
1 large China pear
1 large purple plum
2 figs

Open a can of condensed milk, pour half the contents into a large microwave safe glass dish, cover the top with cling film and fold back a corner. 
Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stir with a whisk and microwave for a minute or so more if necessary. It should still be a little runny. Cool to room temperature. 

Sift flour and salt into a bowl, add in the sugar.
Rub in the butter till the mix resembles breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre of the bowl, pour in the yolk and water mixture and mix lightly to form a dough.
Add a little more water, in drops, if necessary so the dough comes together does not crack when pressed.
Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for about ½ hour.

For ease of handling, place a sheet of plastic on a worktop.
Dust it lightly and roll out the pastry into an 11” circle. Don’t worry if it isn't a perfect round but it should be of an even thickness.
Place a large sheet of greaseproof paper over the pastry and flip the whole thing over.
Remove the plastic sheet.

Drizzle a little of the thickened condensed milk on the base, leaving clear a margin of 1½” all around the edge.
Peel and cut the apples and pears into chunks, stone the plums, slice them, also the figs.
Mix all the fruits in a bowl, place them on the pastry, spreading them out.
Drizzle the remaining thick milk over the fruits.
Fold the pastry over, pleat it down where it sticks up.
All dressed up for the oven

Lift the paper and place it on a 10” baking sheet, bake at 200ºC for the first 15 minutes then lower the heat to 180ºC for another 20-30 minutes or until the pastry is golden coloured.
Remove the crostada carefully onto a wire rack to cool.
Serve in wedges hot, warm or cold and with ice cream if you feel you deserve the extra calories.

Or with a custard.

In case you have a smaller capacity oven, just make half the recipe. Or even 2 small ones.
In case you do not want to use eggs in the pastry, you can leave them out. 

Bon appetit!

Apple, pear, fig and plum crostada


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