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
50g of 00 flour
6 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
Rind of one lemon
To make the pastry
Place the flour, baking powder, and sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to combine
Cube the butter, add to the food processor and pulse until coarse in texture
Add the egg yolks and pulse until just combined
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
Combine flour and sugar in a bowl
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
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
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
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
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.
I was inspired to make these after seeing Silvia Colloca make them on her new SBS show. However the sugar seemed like an awful lot, so I reduced the quantity, and you could probably go even a little less if you didn’t want them too sweet. Some brandy thrown in would work well too!
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
300 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
450 g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tbsp melted butter
pinch of salt flakes
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
200 g blanched almonds
Preheat your oven to 170°C fan-forced and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Place the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the butter, lemon zest and salt and combine.
Fold in the flour, then gently fold in the nuts
Divide the dough into two and using floured hands form two logs the length of your baking tray. Place the logs on the prepared tray, spaced well apart to allow for spreading, and bake for 30 minutes or until well risen and pale golden.
Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature for 3–5 minutes, and using a serrated knife, cut them on an angle into 1–1.5 cm thick slices.
Arrange the slices on the lined tray and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Turn them over and toast for a further 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool at room temperature, then eat! Store in an airtight container.
Who didn’t love the movie Julie & Julia? Wasn’t Meryl Streep just brilliant – and if anyone didn’t know who Julia Child was before the movie, they certainly did afterwards.
Madeleines are a cross between a spongecake and a biscuit and are huge in France – France’s answer to Milk Arrowroots I suppose. One day a friend calls me and says, like a woman possessed, “I HAVE to make madeleines”. I completely understood where she was coming from – every now and again I get in my head that there is something I just MUST make, come hell or high water, and regardless of what other tasks await. I become single minded about conquering a recipe (do not attempt to approach me or disturb me when I am in this state of mind). So off she went to buy madeleine pans, and set about making a batch. After telling me about their buttery deliciousness, and apologising that they had been eaten so quickly there were none left for me to try, she handed over her baking pans so I could make my own. It is fairly straightforward and the good thing is it uses pantry staples, you’ll just need to buy a lemon if you don’t happen to have a tree handy, or a father-in-law like mine who brings over a kilo or two at a time. I think rosewater or orange water flavour would also be nice. You’ll need two pans of 12. Makes 24.
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
115g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
3 drops of lemon juice
Icing sugar, for dusting
For buttering pans
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, combined with 1 tablespoon flour
1. Combine flour and sugar in a mixing bowl and add three quarters of the eggs. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend into a heavy cream – if very stiff, add a little bit of the remaining egg, one droplet at a time. Set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, the butter to a boil until it begins to brown very lightly (it should have a slightly nutty aroma). Pour into a bowl and stir over cold water until cool but still liquid.
3. Beat the remaining bit of egg into the batter and stir in the cool butter. Stir in the salt, vanilla, grated lemon zest, lemon juice.
4. Cover the batter, and set aside in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
5. Meanwhile, paint the Madeleine cups with a light coating of combined flour and melted butter. Put trays in the refrigerator.
6. Preheat the oven to 170° fan forced. Using a spoon and rubber spatula, drop a rounded tablespoonful of batter into each Madeleine cup. Resist the urge to spread the batter to fill the mold, it spreads as it cooks. Set pans on the middle rack and bake for about 12-15 minutes, you’ll see the edges turn a light golden brown. Turn onto a wire rack to cool, then dust with icing sugar
When I read the recipes my mother wrote out for me in a little book, they often make me laugh. Her recipes for biscuits, dough, and bread, contain phrases that translate to “add how much flour the mixture will hold” or “add however much flour it needs” and (a favourite), “cook until ready”. But that’s because she’s never really cooked from a recipe – its always from feel, sight, and taste, so it was a really challenge for her to attempt to convert everything into quantities for me.
And I must admit if you make certain things enough it does work that way. For my morning coffee biscuits, which I make on a regular basis, I never measure the flour – I can tell if it needs more by the texture and the look of the mixture. So for this recipe, which contained two of the aforementioned phrases, the flour amount here is an approximation – add flour such that the biscuit dough will still be a little sticky, but not so sticky that you can’t work with it. I used less sugar than her originally suggested 1 1/2 cups as I didn’t want them too sweet. They are just perfect with a cup of tea. I used a tablespoon measure to measure out the dough for each biscuit, and ended up with 80 or so – Mamma Rosa doesn’t believe in small batch recipes – you need enough to hand out to your neighbours and for any visitors that come by to take home. And she proved to be right – with a few people dropping in and sending some away the first 40 were gone very quickly!
Grated rind of 3 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 900g self raising flour
Icing sugar, for coating
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced
2. Using an electric beater, combine the eggs and caster sugar until light and fluffy
3. Add the olive oil, grated lemon, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined
4. Fold in the baking powder and flour until combined
5. Form the dough into little balls, sprinkle with icing sugar, and place on trays with baking paper leaving 3cm or so between each biscuit
6. Cook until ready (mum’s words) – mine were done in 15 minutes or so. They go from white to brown very quickly so don’t stray too far from the oven!
7. Put on a wire rack to cool and then sit down and enjoy one or two with a cup of tea
The mother of a very good friend of my mother’s used to make a version of these, and very well too. She knew I liked them, so whenever she made a batch she would kindly make sure some came my way. I came across this recipe by Steve Manfredi, so thought I would give them a go. Maybe it was the size of my lemon or my eggs, but I did find the dough way too sticky once combined, so I did end up adding another 1/2 cup of flour in addition to the 200g suggested in the recipe. Also the dough is already quite sweet, so the rolling in the sugar step I’d say is optional. I used a tablespoon measure to form the biscuits, and ended up with about 36. These are delicious!
200g plain flour
100g fine semolina
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
110g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
Grated zest and juice of a lemon
½ tsp vanilla extract
60g caster sugar, extra, for rolling (optional)
1. Mix together in a bowl, the flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
2. Cream together the butter, olive oil and 200g of sugar in an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Add the egg, yolk, vanilla, lemon zest and juice until well combined (may be necessary to scrape down the sides).
3. On low speed add the dry ingredients and mix till soft dough is formed. Wrap the dough in some cling film, flatten into a disc and refrigerate for 90 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the 60g of extra sugar in a bowl. Using lightly floured fingers, take a small piece of dough and roll each biscuit to the size of a golf ball. Roll each ball in the sugar and place on baking sheets covered with baking paper. Each ball should be about 4cm from the other.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes till lightly golden. Cool and store in airtight containers.
These easy to make biscotti are delicious. Next time I want to try throwing in a tablespoon of limoncello.
60g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
Finely grated rind of 2 small lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g natural unshelled natural pistachios
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 egg, extra
1. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon. Add the 3 eggs one at a time until combined
2. Fold in flour, baking powder, bicarb, and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
4. Halve the dough, shape into logs and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and reduce temperature to 160 degrees.
5. Allow logs to cool for 10 minutes, then slice into biscuits using a serrated knife, place on baking trays and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
1. Grease a 22cm baking tin and line the base with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth
3. Add the egg yolks one at a time and combine. Beat in the ricotta and lemon zest
4. Add the lemon juice, baking powder and flour and combine well
5. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites till they form stiff peaks. Add to the cake batter and fold in gently.
6. Poor mixture into cake pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until skewer in the centre comes out clean
7. Turn out and allow to cool on a cake rack, dust with icing sugar once cool