Mini Orange Crostatas: A Citrusy Dessert in the Hand

I can’t believe it was almost a month ago already that I clicked through my Google Reader, the way I do most afternoons, and saw these gorgeous blood orange crostatas. We made them the following weekend, for our weekly Sunday dinner with friends, and had just enough so every person got one crostata, alongside homemade vanilla ice cream.

An image of a baking tray filled with orange crostatas, ready to go into the oven.

But then what happened? I say I can’t believe it was almost a month ago already because, honestly, I don’t know where the days have gone between then and now.

I mean, I know — into work, into buying furniture, into daytrips to Chattanooga and long weekends like this last one that I spent back home in Chicago for a wedding and to see my family again. But it’s just that the time is getting away from me!

An image of palm sugar on a white plate.

I’m blogging less, I’m taking fewer pictures (sad fact: I lost my camera charger; good news: a new one is in the mail), I’m looking at the calendar and going, I’ve lived here for two months? What?

So before another month disappears, I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you about a new ingredient I’ve introduced into my pantry, especially because it’s an ingredient I’m really excited about in terms of a sugar substitute: palm sugar. Rich in nutrients like potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6, palm sugar looks and behaves almost exactly like regular sugar, but it’s lower on the glycemic index (so it absorbs into the blood stream slower) and is totally natural and unrefined.

An image of a hand holding a knife and cutting palm sugar into smaller pieces.

Like the name suggests, it comes from palm trees — several different types of palm trees, meaning there are different types of palm sugar. I’ve found blonde coconut palm sugar at Whole Foods, all broken up and packaged in neat bags.

But it’s also available at international or Asian food marts, which is where I first bought some. At these stores, you’ll find it in a large, hard sphere that is tough to crack but significantly lower in price.

An image of a white plate filled with peeled orange slices.

With a big knife and some muscle (note who’s doing the hard work in the photo above), you can turn it into the granules we’re more used to seeing as sugar. In the days since those crostatas, I’ve had two kinds of cookies with palm sugar, including another batch of the ones we like in ice cream sandwiches.

In each case, this sweetener behaves beautifully, giving you the right texture and strong sweetness that is hard to find in sugar substitutes. What’s more, unlike Sucanat with its distinct molasses flavor, the flavor of palm sugar is virtually indistinguishable in recipes.

An image of whole ripe oranges on a counter.

But back to the crostatas: for the most part, we stuck close to The Kitchn’s original recipe, just substituting the flour and sugar for nutritional reasons and then the mascarpone and almond extract for convenience. The dough was probably my favorite part: kind of like good strudel dough, it was very easy to work with, soft and pliable, great for stretching into rustic shapes and folding over fruit and cheese.

Next time, I’d definitely try a different fruit, maybe berries, because while the oranges tasted great here when cold, they were kind of bitter fresh out of the oven. And honestly, if you’re going to make a crostata, don’t you want to eat it a la mode?

An image of a pastry dough, scattered flour, and two cups at the back.

I thought so.

Orange Crostatas
Makes 6 to 8.

Complete recipe here.

Our adaptations:

  • All oranges instead of blood oranges (which turned out to be a little bitter, at least when warm; next time, I’d love to try berries)
  • Cream cheese instead of mascarpone (limited grocery options)
  • All vanilla extract instead of some almond (limited pantry options)
  • Spelt flour instead of all-purpose flour
  • Palm sugar instead of sugar and raw sugar

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home,, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

14 thoughts on “Mini Orange Crostatas: A Citrusy Dessert in the Hand”

  1. I’ve been meaning to make these tarts–they were so gorgeous! But I was worried that the oranges might be bitter–good to know this wasn’t unfounded.

    My mom used to buy these sugar discs sometimes; she said it reminded her of growing up in Puerto Rico. In spanish they call these “panela” or “piloncillo” and they make them out of palm or actually also out of unrefined cane. A common way to use it that you might find interesting is to melt it down into a syrup. Essentially just simmering it with water until it dissolves into a simple syrup–you can then use that to sweeten beverages or in cooking. In spanish that syrup is called “miel de panela” (essentially “panela honey”).

  2. Yay – I saw the photos on flickr yesterday and hoped you’d post about it soon because I couldn’t figure out what the filling was, exactly. Now I know. I’m going to have to try them – hopefully I can find some blood oranges (seems as if none of the grocery stores or markets around here have them). And cream cheese is just fine!

  3. I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for palm sugar! Those look wonderful. Did I tell you yet how excited I am to see you in a few days?!?! 🙂

  4. Love that photo of the sliced oranges…dreamy and pretty light. And palm sugar: you’re always introducing me to new ingredients, Shannalee! Glad you’re settling in. Love seeing your new space…xo.

  5. Shannalee, I can always count on you to introduce me to an ingredient I’ve never heard of—one that is healthy and fascinating and delicious to boot. I’m going to be on the lookout for palm sugar now! (And BTW, love the new sponsors. 🙂 )

  6. Alejandra, Well that is great news to hear! We’re hoping to make a simple syrup this very night, in fact! I’ll keep you posted. : )

    Lan, Excellent question, and one I’m still trying to figure out. I’ve done one-to-one substitutions thus far, but because palm sugar is so sweet, I suspect I could start lowering it a little and see how that goes. It’s a learning experience!

    Lindsey, Happy to help! ; )

    Sue, I can’t wait to see you either!! FIVE. DAYS.

    Wandering, I hope you do!

    Megan, Thank you, sweet girl. I love film. And I love your comments.

    Maddie, Thank you so much! I know, I’m super excited about this ingredient, and now I want to tell everyone about it, ha! : ) I hope you spot it somewhere soon. And thanks for checking out Happy Yolks!

  7. Oooooo, I’d love to try palm sugar! These look like such uniquely delicious little treats! I agree that other fruits (like berries) would go really well. I love your pics!

  8. Oh my goodness. These look wonderful! I love orangey desserts too. And, palm sugar? I’ve never used it. So thankful for the recommendation! Thanks!

  9. Food Hound, I hope you do! Thanks!

    Redmenace, : ) You are welcome!

    Julie, Haha! It’s so true that he usually does.


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