So do you guys know what the difference between a crostata an a galette is? Apparently nothing! The only difference is that a galette is French in origin, while a crostata is Italian. Aside from that, both are free form pies (that is, made from pie dough but not molded into a pie plate), often times filled with fruit. The crust dough shares the same ingredients as pie dough — flour, butter and just a touch of sugar and salt.

Today’s crostata crust, however, has a secret ingredient. Want to know what it is?

Aged Gouda cheese.

Now before you run away in a panic, I swear to God that I’m not crazy! I was skeptical at first too. But the recipe is from Valerie Gordon’s SWEET cookbook, and Valerie Gordon is the owner and founder of Valerie Confections in Los Angeles’s hip Silver Lake district. Her baked goods have been praised by Alice Waters and Nora Ephron, as well as Bon Appetit, House & Garden and Food & Wine. According to Valerie, apple pie and cheddar cheese is an old-time favorites in the diners and coffee shops of yesteryear and her recipe for crostata, which uses Gouda cheese instead of butter in the crust, is simply an update to the classic. When baked in the oven, the cheese caramelizes and provides a wonderful contrast to the salted caramel and apple filling:

Unless you’re looking for it, it’s almost impossible to tell that there is actually cheese in the crust.  I mean if you’re a cheese lover, don’t panic — there’s definitely a salty, savory quality that’s hard to miss in this crust that reminds me of the super-grilled parts of a grilled cheese. But despite this, it’s almost as if the cheese takes on a new flavor, one that’s more similar to caramel and butterscotch. Valerie’s addition of cornmeal to the crust is also some kind of genius, giving the crostata its unique, crunchy texture and beautiful golden color.

So yeah, cheese in pie crusts? I guess I’m one of the converted now. Bring it on. Can’t wait to try the other recipes in Sweet:

A few baker’s notes:

    • The dough recipe makes enough for two medium-sized crostatas. If you don’t want two crostatas, you can store half the caramel sauce in the refrigerator and freeze half of the dough and keep it for up to 1 month. Be sure to let both thaw before using. Divide the Salted Caramel and Apple Filling recipe by two as well. 


    • The recipes are listed in the order you should make them — first make the caramels, then the crostata dough, then the filling. If you want to reduce your workload, you can make the caramel up to 4 weeks in advanced and keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge. 


    • Aged Gouda is a cheese made from a Dutch cow’s milk; the longer the Gouda is aged for, the sharper and saltier it will taste. If you’re still feeling a little skeptical about the cheese in the crust, I recommend using a young Gouda since it will have a milder and sweeter taste. If you can’t find aged Gouda anywhere, substitute with an aged cheddar or parmesan cheese.


    • Another awesome thing about this recipe is that its super easy to roll out — unlike butter, the Gouda holds its shape well and doesn’t melt quite as quickly. That being said, after grating the Gouda, it helps to freeze it for about an hour or more since it will be quite soft after grating. This is the secret to a flaky tart.


  • Head’s up that the dough still needs to be chilled for a few hours, or preferably overnight before you roll it out, so plan ahead.

Get the Recipe: Salted Caramel and Apple Crostata

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For the Caramel Sauce

    (makes 1 cup, enough for 2 crostatas)

    • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

    For the Aged Gouda Cornmeal Crust

    • 1 cup aged Gouda, grated
    • 1 3/4 unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
    • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

    For the Salted Caramel and Apple Filling

    • 3 pounds medium, tart apples (Valerie recommends either Granny Smith or Pink Lady; I used a combination of the two)
    • 1 cup dark brown sugar, tightly packed
    • 1 recipe Caramel Sauce
    • 1 recipe Aged Gouda Cornmeal Crust
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 teaspoon Maldon, or any other flaky salt


    For the Caramel Sauce

    • Place 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar into a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium heat. In a separate, smaller saucepan, combine 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup light corn syrup and place over medium-low heat.
    • As the sugar heats, you will see it start to melt around the edges and turn golden in color, around 2 to 3 minutes. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, nudge the sugar slightly on one side. You will see liquid caramel slowly move out from underneath the granulated sugar. Very slowly start to move the sugar into the liquid caramel. Don't rush this! If the caramel starts to look grainy, you're incorporating the sugar too quickly. If the caramel starts to smoke or get very dark, remove the pan from heat until the smoking subsides and replace on lower heat.
    • Meanwhile, keep your eye on the cream and corn syrup mixture. You want it to come to a boil just when the sugar reaches the liquid caramel stage, so adjust the timing accordingly by raising o lowering the heat underneath the mixture. If the mixture comes to a boil too early, don’t be afraid to remove it from the heat.
    • When the sugar has completely melted and is dark amber in color, remove from the heat and pour in the cream — it will bubble substantially. When the caramel has settled down, stir the ingredients together until smooth. Add 4 tablespoons cubed unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon kosher salt and stir until smooth, about 30 seconds.
    • Transfer the caramel into a heatproof jar or container and let cool completely. The caramel sauce can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

    For the Aged Gouda Cornmeal Crust

    • Prepare 1 cup Aged Gouda cheese by grating and storing in the freezer for one hour. Prepare 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter by cutting into 1-inch cubes and storing in the freezer for one hour.
    • When both the cheese and butter have chilled, make the dough. Whisk together 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Add chilled and grated Gouda cheese and whisk to combine. Add 1 3/4 sticks cubed unsalted butter and use a pastry dough blender to incorporate the butter into the mixture until the butter is completely integrated and the largest pieces only resemble pea-sized crumbs.
    • Drizzle 2 tablespoons of ice cold water over the dough, mixing the water in with the pastry cutter. Add more water (up to 2 tablespoons) if necessary, mixing until the dough just comes together.
    • Remover the dough from the bowl and form it into 2 equal disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month; thaw in the refrigerator before using.
    • For the Salted Caramel and Apple Filling and Putting It All Together:
    • Prepare a 13 by 18 inch baking sheets by lining with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Set aside.
    • Peel, core and thinly slice 3 pounds of apples. Place the prepared slice in a medium bowl, and sprinkle 1 cup dark brown sugar over the mixture, tossing to combine. Set aside to allow the apples to macerate.
    • Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator and place on a cool, floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 13-inch circle. To create a perfect circle, start from the center of the dough and roll outward, rotating the dough 2 to 3 inches after each rule to help create a true circle.  Once you've finished rolling out the dough, use an offset spatula to help release the dough from the workspace by running it underneath the dough. Transfer to the freezer and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
    • While the dough is chilling, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 (F).
    • Once the dough is finished chilling, the crust should be cold and firm to the touch. Remove from freezer and use a sharp knife to cut off the very edges of the border, so you’re left with a smooth edge. Arrange half of the apples on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Drizzle 1/2 cup caramel sauce over the apples.
    • Lift one side of the dough over the apples and press it down over the fruit, making 5 or 6 large pleat folds. Continue around the crostata, creating the pleats and pressing down so they adhere.
    • Once you’ve finished making the pleats, place the baking sheet with the crostata back in the freezer and chill for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is cold and firm to the touch.
    • Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the dough with 1 beaten egg. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt over the fruit.
    • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is golden. When the crostata is finished baking, let the crostata cool completely on the baking sheet on a wire rack.
    • Repeat steps above for the second crostata. The crostatas can be stored, covered at room temperature for up to 2 days.


    Excerpted from Sweet by Valerie Gordon (Artisan Books). Copyright ©2013
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