Tag Archives: custard

Torta della Nonna

tortadellanonna (2)

I don’t like chocolate ice cream.  I couldn’t care less if I never had a piece of chocolate cake for the rest of my life.  Mars Bars, Snickers, Milky Way, please don’t bring them anywhere near me.  But hand me a bowl of custard, and I know that any attempts at resistance will be futile.

The custard urge came upon me this weekend, so I thought I’d make this popular Italian dessert, Torta della Nonna.   Word has it that it wasn’t actually made by anyone’s Nonna at all, but it was put on a restaurant menu in northern Italy many many moons ago and named such, and has since become an Italian staple in many a bakery.   It’s a simple tart with a classic custard with a  hint of lemon and adorned with pine nuts.

If you’re like me and can’t avoid the temptation of custard, also check out my attempt at Pasticciotti Leccese and Limoncello Custard. Oh, and if you’re wondering to do with all the leftover egg whites, try a batch of almond bread or amaretti.

For the pastry
400g Tipo 00 flour
150g caster sugar
200g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

Combine the dry ingredients and the butter in a food processor until it starts to look like breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs and process until it starts to come together. Turn out onto a floured surface and kneed until almost smooth. Shape into a disc, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for one hour. While the pastry is resting, you can make the custard filling.

Custard
8 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
80g plain flour
1 litre full cream milk
Rind of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place milk, vanilla extract and lemon rind in a large saucepan over low heat and bring to just before boiling point. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Remove lemon rind from milk.

While the milk is infusing, whisk using an electric mixer the egg yolks, sugar and flour in a bowl and combine well.

Add milk a cup at a time to egg mixture while whisking until all milk has been added. Pour the combined mixture back into saucepan over low heat and whisk constantly until mixture has thickened. You always need to be very attentive with custard, it’s one of those things where it looks like nothing is happening and then thickens in a split second.

Once thickened, remove from heat, and pour into a large bowl. Place cling wrap directly over custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Assembly
50g pine nuts
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Grease a 25cm tart tin with removable base (or you could also do this in a normal springform cake tin). Divide the pastry into pieces in a ratio of 1/3 to 2/3.

Roll out the 2/3 piece on a lightly floured bench and place into tin. Pour in the custard (you may not need to use it all). Roll out the remaining pastry large enough to form a lid and cover the tart, gently pressing the edges to seal.

Rinse the pine nuts with ice cold water (this can help stop them burning), sprinkle them on top of the tart and bake for 45-50 minutes until golden. Allow to cool, remove from tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

tortadellanonna (1)

Today’s cake – Pasticciotti – Italian custard tarts

pasticciotti

I’ve visited lots of parts of Italy over the years but never Puglia – the heel of the boot – though in recent years the tourism to this relatively unexplored region has grown a lot. Some of the beaches look amazing.  Pasticciotti are essentially custard tarts that Puglia is famous for, in particular in Lecce and neighbouring Salento, and they are often called Pasticciotti Leccesi.  They were first made in the 600’s (yes that’s  over 1400 years ago) and are so much a part of the culture that there is now even a feast day every 28 July – la festa del pasticciotto of course!

I had a good look at several recipes in Italian, and had to look up “strutto” which was an unfamiliar ingredient.  Turns out it is shortening, I didn’t know where to get that so used butter, so not sure how much impact that has on the texture – I guess I’ll have to visit Puglia one day and find out.  As with every classic sweet there are so many versions of this – here is mine. For a first attempt they were pretty good.  The custard was devine, I figured if my pastry was a flop I could just enjoy a massive bowl of custard which would not have been a bad outcome. I loved the hint of lemon in it, but many other versions use a vanilla bean instead of lemon rind.

Traditionally these are made in little oval shapes, but if you don’t have these a cupcake tray will work just as well.  Makes 12.

Ingredients for the pastry
500g of 00 flour
250g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the custard
500ml milk
50g of 00 flour
6 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
Rind of one lemon

To make the pastry

  1. Place the flour, baking powder, and sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine
  2. Cube the butter, add to the food processor and pulse until coarse in texture
  3. Add the egg yolks and pulse until just combined
  4. Tip mixture out onto a benchtop or surface and gently bring together with your hands then knead for a few minutes until smooth. Shape into a disc and refrigerate for two hours

To make the custard

  1. Combine flour and sugar in a bowl
  2. Place the milk and lemon rind in a pot over low heat, and heat to just before boiling point. Remove pot from heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes, then remove rind
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks. Constantly whisking, gradually add about a third of the milk. Keep whisking then add the flour and sugar mixture, and continue to whisk while gradually adding the rest of the milk
  4. Return the mixture to the pot, and continue to whisk over low heat until it thickens. Pour custard into a bowl, place a piece of cling film directly on top of the custard (so a skin doesn’t form on it) and allow to cool

Assembly and baking

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Roll out the pastry and shape into your twelve oval tins. Fill with custard, and then top with pastry and seal. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Slide out of tins and eat warm.