There are many types of crostata, an Italian fruit tart. This free-form version is rustic and relaxed – a dessert to serve at a barbecue or a picnic. It’s also good when made with small, dense purple plums in place of black cherries.

Black cherry crostata with cream cheese pastry and brown butter streusel

This is a great dessert to make if you’re not skilled at rolling out pastry dough. It’s a free-form tart and, if you can’t roll the dough into a rough circle, you can make it into a rectangle, an oval or whatever shape the dough decides to take. Just tell your guests you made it that shape intentionally.

The dough is adapted from a recipe in The Pie and Pastry Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. It makes enough for two crostata; the leftover dough keeps for about a week in the fridge or several months in the freezer. The streusel recipe makes far more than you’ll need for this crostata, but it keeps for months if stored in an airtight container in the freezer; you can use it to top cakes, pies and pastry.

For the dough:
370 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling
¼ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp baking powder
170 grams cream cheese, chilled
225 grams unsalted butter, chilled
40ml ice water
15ml cider vinegar or rice vinegar

For the streusel:
80 grams butter
140 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
75 grams muscovado sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt

For the crostata:
One disc of dough
500 grams sweet, ripe black cherries
25 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
5 grams cornstarch
5ml fresh lemon juice
½ tsp almond extract
Panko or another type of dry breadcrumbs
About 5 grams sliced almonds
1 egg
Icing sugar, for dusting

Make the pastry dough. Put the flour, salt and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine thoroughly. Cut the cream cheese into 2cm chunks and add them to the dry ingredients. Process until the cream cheese is the size of small peas. Cut the butter into 1cm pieces and add them to the other ingredients, then pulse until the butter is also the size of small peas. Mix the ice water with the vinegar and, with the motor running, add the liquid through the feed tube. As soon as all the liquid is in the machine, stop the motor. Put the ingredients in a large bowl and knead briefly, to form a cohesive mass. Divide the dough into two even pieces then shape each one into a flat disc. Wrap the discs in cling-film and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Make the streusel. Put the butter in a saucepan and place it over a low-medium flame. Heat until the butter is melted then drape a paper towel over the top of the pan and cover it partially with the lid. Make sure the paper towel isn’t close to the flame. (The paper captures the splatters of the sizzling butter, so there’s less mess.) Cook the butter until it stops sizzling then remove the lid and paper towel. Continue to cook until the butter is medium brown and smells nutty. Set aside to cool slightly.

Thoroughly combine the remaining streusel ingredients in a bowl, then add the butter. Stir with a fork until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened with the butter. Refrigerate the mixture until firm, then use your hands to finely crumble the ingredients.

Make the crostata. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Celsius. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out a disc of dough so it’s roughly 35cm in diameter. Transfer the rolled-out dough to a tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, pit the cherries and mix them with the sugar, salt, cornstarch, lemon juice and almond extract.

Take the rolled-out dough out of the fridge and spread a very thin layer of panko over the surface, leaving a border of about 7cm around the entire perimeter. Spread the cherry mixture in an even layer over the panko. Fold up the edges of the pastry to partially cover the cherries. Whisk the egg and brush it over the pastry, then sprinkle with the slivered almonds.

Spread a layer of streusel over the exposed cherries then slide the tray into the oven. Immediately reduce the heat to 220 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the crostata around halfway through. Further reduce the heat to 180 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the pastry is firm and medium golden. Cool for about 20 minutes, then dust with icing sugar and serve.

Styling: Nellie Ming Lee

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