Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Mother in Law Lia's Italian Crostata- The Experience of Intuitive Baking

She's a cool chick.

Let's start out with the fact that I have never ever, ever, ever (did I say ever?) seen my mother-in-law follow written, cookbook style recipes. Lia cooks intuitively, she has recipes in her head - who needs a cookbook when you've got recipes in your head?

Her mother single handedly ran a restaurant in her hometown between Rome and the Mediterranean sea, her father expertly butchered all the meat and later performed classical guitar with the house band for the customers. 

Italian's have a birthright of food - a heritage of recipes that get passed down over and over because everyone helps in the kitchen, everyone sees how mama makes risotto, or zeppole, or a ragu. 

Fast forward to about a year ago when I asked Lia how to make her son's favorite Italian dessert, the crostata, a tart-pie hybrid with a pastry crust and a jam filling. She willingly gave me the recipe from her head, but I could tell it wasn't easy for her. 

The recipe depended on the way the dough looked, how much butter you wanted to use that day, if you felt like making it less dolce by removing some sugar, rather than standardized cups and teaspoons...intuitive baking. But in my world, baking relies on chemical reactions, precision, anything but intuition. 

About a week ago, I decided to make a crostata for Alex and the recipe kinda cracked me up. I bet it made sense when I wrote it down a year ago, but for a baking recipe it's pretty sparse, and well, indecisive (1/2 cup of milk or less, 100/150 grams of sugar...or less). Directions...what directions? How long should it cook? Mystery. 

I love it though - I love the fact that I got to be a little carefree and intuitive with baking; a true experiment of my Italian-by-marraige heritage. I had a little mason jar of my mom's winter white peach jam ready to go and felt my way through. For the lattice work, I got creative and made a spiderweb since it is October and all. 

In the end, I took it out a smidge too soon, but overall the result pleased my crostata loving husband, which, in turn, pleased me. 


Anel said...

With most cooking you can get intuitive and creative, I never thought you could do that with baking...that's cool. ~Anel

lindsay said...

Thanks for the comment Anel! Yes, baking intuitively totally runs against everything I know, and to be honest, its not something I want to do regularly ;)...but it was a different experience for sure!

Julie C. said...

I'm with you Lindsay, if I'm going to spend any of my increasingly limited time cooking, I want to be sure what I make comes out well. So while whipping up a fantastic meal with just the recipes at hand and my imagination, in reality, I think I'm better off following the directions of those who actually know what they're doing in the kitchen.

lindsay said...

Hi Julie! Yeah, I think we are in the same camp ;) If I have made a dish a million times, I don't need a recipe, but I like having at least a guideline from someone more expert than me when doing something totally new, and for sure with baking which depends on precision. Thanks for the comment!