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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
I thought so.
Makes 6 to 8.
Complete recipe here.
- 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, Houzz.com, 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.