As the leaves change and the air turns crisp, there’s no better way to celebrate the season than with a delicious dessert that captures the essence of autumn. This rustic apple crostata is a simple yet elegant creation that brings together the natural sweetness of ripe apples, the earthy aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and a flaky, buttery free form crust. With so many apple varieties it’s almost hard to choose a baking apple. Braeburn, Gala, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious apples are all good choices! The dough is simple to work with and creates a beautiful rustic tart with a flaky crust and tender filling. Many bakers coat the crust with an egg wash, butter or jam before baking. I left the crust naked and it browned beautifully. I added a drizzle of honey over the apples before it went into the oven for a bit of extra sweetness. Delicious on its own, but the crostata is even better served with fresh whipped cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream!
In a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cold butter and mix it, breaking up the butter pieces. Sprinkle the ice water over the flour mixture and blend or process until the dough comes together, you should still be able to see small chunks of butter. Transfer the dough to a work surface and pat into a flat disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes.
Peel, halve and core the apples and slice them crosswise into 1/4 inch thick pieces. Place the apple slices in a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over the apples. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss to coat the apples evenly.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle and transfer to the baking sheet. Arrange the apples slices on top of the dough in circles or in slightly overlapping rows, to within 1 inch of the edge. Drizzle the honey over the chopped apples. Dot with the pieces of butter, if using. Fold the dough edges up and over the apples to create a 1-inch border.
Bake the tart for about 45 minutes or so, or until the crust is nicely browned and crisp and the apples are tender. Let the tart cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.