A walk thru Milan by night and La Crostata di Mirtilli (the Blueberries pie)

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It was a precious moment rediscovering Milan, an October night, looking for a small piece of authentic regional cuisine. Milan is the Northern Italian city  that I love the most, the one I know so well, where I spent my youth, studying and discovering the secrets of big city life.. Milan it is a busy center all year long, traffic, beautiful boutiques and stores, with a touch of old Italian provincialism in a super modern city..

When the fog blankets the town in late October nights, everything gets a different look, smoothing the edges of monuments and streets, everybody, the busy citizens and  promeneurs, seems to jump out  of a cloud.. to me this is almost magic.

The place, a small osteria, set in a obscure street, is almost inivisible. Only locals know it well, not sharing the address easily. Pure ‘cucina Friulana’ which means an authentic cuisine made with ‘poor’ let’s call it simple yet high quality ingredients, from the Friuli region. Polenta, beans, goose and real mountain blueberries for dessert..

Crostata, it is a very Italian name for a fruit tart, the crust ‘crosta,crostata‘, being a big part of it as far as great flavors goes,equal to the filling.It so versatile, almost any fuit will do, a crunchy breaking crust at the first bite, becoming soft when you get to the sweetness of the fruits,  blueberries or red berries, sweet and lemony being the best, in my opinion.

There were very few lights scattered throughout  the dining room, only candles on the table. Because of that the pictures here are not superb, yet …the Crostata ai Mirtilli was enough to make the evening a beautiful memory.

The Italian recipe

Pasta frolla or sweet pastry.

  • 17 oz of flour (possibly low in gluten) or  (500 g)
  • 8.5 oz  (200 g) butter
  • 4 fresh eggs yolks
  • 7 oz. sugar (180 g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

In a blender, add cold butter, flour and a touch of salt. Blend till mixture is grainy.Then add sugar.With the flour mixture, make a fountain, add egg yolks and vanilla in the center, and/or baking powder. Quickly combine  by hands to obtain an elastic texture for your pastry, wrap it with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 40 minutes.

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Crema pasticcera or custard.

  • The yolks of 6 very fresh eggs
  • 6 tablespoons (40 g) flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • A vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint (500 ml) whole milk
  • A pinch of salt

Start with egg yolks, lightly whisk, add sugar to get a light colored mixture. Meanwhile heat up, over low heat, 1/2 cup of milk with the vanilla bean. Mix into the eggs mixture flour, using a strainer, whisk gently, making sure you do not have lumps. Whisk in the cold milk first, then the warm milk, gently, avoiding lumps.

Over low heat, heat the custard, whisking constantly (about 120 times). Remove and let it cool.

The blueberries.

Wash and dry them. In a large bowl mix blueberries, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon honey, 2  teaspoons lemon juice. Mix it well. Before assembling the crostata, place half fruits in a blender, puree for 1 minute. Reserve.

To assemble :

Heat oven at 350F.

Remove pastry, roll pastry on a floured board to form a round, covering a 9 inc. diameter tart form.

Spray with cooking spray a  baking pan with removable bottom. Press the pastry with your fingers, making sure you press to and thru sides indentations. Cut off at the edges keeping some pastry stripes.Pat the crust till is even and bake about 12 to 12 minutes till it is slightly browned.Let it cool.

When pastry has cooled off, spread custard evenly over the crust. Add the 1/2 of pureed blueberries, then add the fresh, finish it with the remaining blueberries puree, spreading it with gently like a light glaze. Place across tart diameter some pastry stripes, brush it with melted butter very lightly. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let it cool well before serving.

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