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
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.
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.
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.