Whenever I feel like I’ve lost some direction when it comes to historical cooking, I like to sit down with some of my favorite old cookbooks and flip through until something inspires me. In this case, it was a pie from the 1570s Italian cookbook by Bartolomeo Scappi, and specifically an artichoke pie, which piqued my interest.
This recipe is in the section for crostata, from which I pulled another recipe for a peach crostata. This, like that one, calls for Scappi’s signature coil of dough around the outside of the pie. This time around, I spent more time trying to figure out what the heck one is supposed to do to make the dough “right”. I’m still not positive that I’ve nailed it down, but I can tell you that the pie was fantastic, regardless.
At its heart (small pun intended!), this is a very simple tart- crust, cheese, artichoke hearts, and a few mild spices. The combination of these ingredients, fresh and warm from the oven, is just lovely. The cheese melts into the nooks and crannies of the artichoke hearts, making each forkful a gooey delight. Although you can’t quite tell from the photo, the outside crust is a coil of dough layered with herbs and parmesan cheese, which means that the pie is tasty right through the last bite. It’s going on my list of staples for vegetarian guests, and I look forward to making it again this summer for interesting picnic/potluck foods!
Where in Westeros?
I’m guessing somewhere around the middle or southern end of the continent. It strikes me as a very King’s Landing dish, for whatever reason, but since artichokes thrive in warmer climates, the Reach would also be a strong contender.
Recipe for Artichoke Crostata
“Get artichokes in their season, as is said in the Second Book, on Prepared Dishes, at Recipe 213, and cook them in a meat broth or in salted water. Take the heart, which is their best part, and clean it well. If it is big, slice it and make the crostata or pie of it with the same ingredients as are used with the field mushrooms…” -The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, 1570
Cook’s Note: I went light on the sugar in the dough, since this is a mostly savory dish, but enough sugar layers might result in a nice crispy sort of a dough, similar to that amazing sweet croissant-like pastry whose name currently eludes me, but whose taste haunts me…
Prep: 30 minutes Chilling: 1 hour Baking:45 minutes
Makes 1 pie, or roughly 8 servings
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup chilled butter or lard, plus ~2 Tbs. melted for brushing
- 2 egg yolks
- cold water, about 1 cup
- 1/4 cup sugar (turbinado or demerara are best)
Ingredients for filling:
- 2 14 oz. cans artichoke hearts
- 2 medium balls of mozarella (or provatura, if available)
- 2 Tbs. grated parmesan
- 1 tsp. each dried mint and marjoram
- dash of verjuice, or wine vinegar
Begin by making your dough: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl, then roughly cut in the butter until it is about the size of small peas. Add the egg yolks (the whites can be saved to make custard sauce for dessert- my favorite!), followed by just enough of the cold water to bring the mixture mostly together. Divide into two pieces, then wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.
Once the dough is chilled, take one half of it and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangular shape. Brush the middle of the dough with melted butter, sprinkle with sugar, then fold one side over like a letter. Brush this third with butter, sprinkle with sugar, and fold the last side over. Repeat this process at least once more- it creates layers in the dough- with this and the other half of the dough. Place the first half of layered dough back in the fridge while you work on putting together the pie.
Roll one half of the layered dough out to about 1/8″ thickness, and cut out a circle the same size as the bottom of your pan, and place it in the pan when you’re done (I used a springform pan, but a pie pan should work too). Take the scraps from that cutting and roll them out into a slender rope that is long enough to go around the outside of the pan. Roll it flat, to a few inches width, and spread with melted butter, and sprinkle with about 1 tsp. of the crushed herbs and 1/2 Tbs. of the parmesan. Roll up as you would a cinnamon roll, then give the whole coil several good twists to help keep it from unrolling. Lay the coil on top of the disc of dough in your pan, pressing to the edge of the pan slightly.
Now the fun part- the filling! Preheat the oven to 350F. Sprinkle the bottom of the pie with half the remaining crushed herbs, then a layer of artichoke hearts. Top this with a layer of sliced mozarella and the rest of the herbs, then more artichokes. Repeat this layering until you’ve used up all your ingredients. Sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan, then set the pie aside.
Roll out the other half of the layered dough and cut into decorative shapes to cover the top, making sure to leave air vents. Brush the top of the pie with any remaining melted butter you have left. Bake for around 45 minutes, or until the top of the pie starts to turn a nice light golden color. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!
*If you have a lot of dough scraps, I suggest brushing them with butter, covering with cinnamon sugar, and baking until cooked. They make an amazing, easy, totally delicious dessert, especially if you used those two egg whites to make up some custard sauce!*