Tag Archives: tart

Torta della Nonna

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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.

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.

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Today’s cake – Pasticciotti – Italian custard tarts


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.

Today’s cake – pear and ginger brown butter tarts


When you read pastry recipes, there is a lot of ‘relaxing’ going on. Which is quite ironic really, because I don’t find myself relaxing – I’m usually huffing and puffing and thinking “this bloody pastry better work out”. So maybe I should take the cue from the recipe and chill a little. I read recently that Gwyneth Paltrow said we shouldn’t yell at water because we “might hurt its feelings” (really, Gwyneth?), so perhaps the pastry can sense my anxiety?

Following the pastry class I went to with Lorraine Godsmark, I decided I would try to make the pear tart with the sour cream pastry at home – that evening we only made the base pastry and not the fillings or toppings, so time to try it myself without The Master’s watchful eye.  In the class she described this pastry as “very forgiving” – and it is too – so it’s a really good one to tackle first up. It comes together nicely, doesn’t stick to the bench, lifts easily into the tin and you can bash it about a bit. Ta da!  And as Lorraine suggested, I filled my tin to the very brim.


In terms of the pear filling – the method she gives isn’t very descriptive (no chef is ever going to give away all their secrets, are they?). For instance, the Buderim ginger comes in chunks, is it meant to be cooked with the pears then removed from the mixture (as it wouldn’t be great to bite into a whole piece), or chopped finely and left? I opted to remove the pieces after cooking. I also found that there was quite a lot of liquid after cooking so I strained the pears.  And the brown butter topping – which is so so delicious – I discovered runs as soon as it starts cooking.  I had heaped my pears into a little mound, which turned out to be not a good idea.  Make sure they are in a very flat layer, and perhaps a couple of millimetres below the top of the pastry case, so that when you pipe on the brown butter topping it can’t really go anywhere. Because it ran, my pears are sticking out a little at the top, whereas they should be completely covered.

Make the pastry and the brown butter topping the day before and the pears the day of cooking. The pastry was enough to make 1 large tart and 4 x 12cm tarts, but the pear compote quantity was just enough for 1 large tart, you’d probably need to double it to have enough for all the pastry.  This was seriously some of the best pastry I have ever had, and the brown butter topping is to die for.  Definitely worth perfecting, and will also try it with apple.

Cream Cheese Pastry (make the day before)
300g plain flour
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
170g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
130g cream cheese, cut into cubes about twice the size of the butter
30g ice water
30g apple cider vinegar

1. Place flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor, pulse for a couple of seconds to sift.
2. Add the cream cheese and pulse for 2-3 seconds
3. Add butter and pulse for further 2-3 seconds
4. Combine water and vinegar and add to mixture and pulse for a final couple of seconds.
5. Turn mixture out onto bench, and using the heel of your hand smear the dough (fresage) across the bench forming streaks of butter and cream cheese through the dough. Use a pastry cutter to bring the mixture back to you and smear another two times. It will be slightly marbled which is fine. (You can find some examples of how to fresage on youtube).
6. Press into a flat disc and allow the pastry to relax in the fridge overnight
7. Remove from fridge and roll out onto a surface 5mm thick. Fit into a flan tin and allow it to relax in the fridge for a further 2 hours

Brown butter topping (make the day before)
3 eggs
200g caster sugar
80g plain flour
185g unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle with a knife

1. Using an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Lower speed and mix in flour.
2. Meanwhile place butter in a small pot, add vanilla bean and heat over a medium-high heat until butter is brown and foamy. Continue until bubbles subside and colour turns dark golden and has a nutty aroma. Strain the butter through a sieve onto the egg mix whisking continuously until well combined. Refrigerate overnight

Pear and Ginger Compote (make the day of baking)
1kg pears
80g unsalted butter
40g sugar
100ml lemon juice
80g ginger in syrup
80g candied orange or marmalade

Peel, core and cut pears into 2cm cubes. Melt butter in a wide saute pan, add pears and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Add sugar and cook until pears are soft. Deglaze pan with lemon juice, add ginger and marmalade and allow to reduce for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and refrigerate until required.

Blind baking and assembly
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Remove your prepared tart tin from the fridge and prick the pastry lightly with a fork
3. Spray a sheet of foil with canola oil spray and place it in the tin. Fill to the brim with baking beans or rice and bake for 20 minutes
4. Remove from oven and remove beans and foil. Lightly beat an egg and using a pastry brush lightly brush the pastry with the egg. Put back in the oven for a further 15-20 minutes until golden
5. Remove from oven, fill with pear, then pipe a thin layer of the burnt butter topping to cover the pear, and return to the oven for 45 minutes then lower the oven the 160 degrees for 15 minutes



Today’s cake – Orange Ricotta Tart

I love all things ricotta and Grand Manier in desserts so I thought I’d give this Neil Perry recipe that appeared in yesterday’s paper a go. A really good pastry and easy to make, whipped it up this morning before we headed out to brunch.



350g plain flour
250g cold unsalted butter, cubed
60g caster sugar
1 egg yolk, lighty whisked, with 30g water

1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
250g ricotta
75g icing sugar
Finely grated zest of one orange
1 tbsp Grand Manier
125ml double cream

Making it
1. Lightly grease a 25cm tart pan with a removable base

2. For pastry, process flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and process until the mixture just comes together. Form the mixture into a ball with your hands, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes

3. Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured surface (I find it works better rolled out on baking paper) to 5mm thick. Line the tart pan and trim the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Prehead oven to 180 degrees. Cover pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, remove weights and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, make filling. Place egg, egg yolk, ricotta, sugar, orange zest and Grand Manier in a bowl and combine well. In a separate bowl, whip the cream in a small bowl with an electric mixer on high until soft peaks form. Fold the cream into the ricotta mixture then spoon into tart case.

6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Allow tart to cool on a wire rack. Serve with double cream if desired.

Today’s Cake – Fig and pistachio frangipane tart

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30g pistachios
250g plain flour
125g cold unsalted butter, chopped
75g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
2 tbs ice cold water
Zest of half a lemon

Frangipane Filling
125g pistachios
120g unsalted butter, softened
120g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
100g almond meal
40g plain flour
Zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

4-5 fresh figs, quartered

Making it
1. To make pastry, process pistachios to form fine crumbs. Add flour, butter, sugar, zest and salt.  Process to form coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and water. Process until mixture just comes together. Shape into a disc and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes

2. Roll dough between two sheets of baking paper until 3mm thick and  large enough to line a 12cm x 36cm tart tin. Remove one of the sheets of baking paper, flip the pastry into the tin, remove other sheet and push  pastry  into sides and base. Freeze for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 160 degrees

3. Line pastry with baking paper and weigh down with baking beads or rice. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and baking paper and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until pastry is golden and crisp. Allow to cool.

4. Meanwhile, process pistachios into a fine crumb.

5. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating after each addition. Add almond  meal, flour,  lemon zest and ground pistachios  and beat until just combined. Spread mixture into tart shell.

6. Layer figs on top of filling and gently press

7. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until golden

8. Serve with yoghurt or cream

Today’s Cake – Neil Perry’s Date Tart

Following a recent visit to Rockpool on George, I thought I’d give the date tart a go. This recipe is definitely a keeper – though I need another go to perfect it as I got a lot of pastry shrinkage so I didn’t get enough filling in. I also recommend flattening the dates so that they are covered. Note that although this is often referred to “Neil Perry’s date tart”, having been on the menu for some 25 years at Rockpool, it was actually the joint creation of Perry and Lorraine Godsmark, who was the pastry chef at Rockpool at the time. No idea how accurate this recipe is, but it was apparently published in a magazine some 15 years ago.


10 fresh dates, pitted and halved
7 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
700ml fresh cream
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

180g cold butter, chopped roughly
25g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbs milk
250g plain flour, sifted

Making it
1. For pastry combine butter, sugar, egg and milk in a food processor and process until butter is in small lumps. Add flour and process until mixture just comes together in a ball.

2. Gently knead pastry on a lightly floured surface to from a smooth ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

3. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a 25mm deep round 28cm flan tin (with removable base). Cover and refrigerate for ½ hour.

4. Place tart shell on an oven tray, line with baking paper, fill with dried beans or rice and bake at 200C for 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans and bake a further 10 minutes or until golden.

5.  Meanwhile, cream egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy, then stir in cream and seeds from the vanilla bean.

6. Place dates on pastry in two circles. Pour cream mixture into tart shell, to cover dates, then bake at 180C for about 30 minutes, or until just set. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Today’s Cake – Ricotta Tart



300g self raising flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, cubed
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 egg yolk, for glazing

Filling450g ricotta
1/3 cup caster sugar
40ml rum
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 tbsp plain flour

Making it

1. Combine flour and sugar in a bowl, rub in butter until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Stir in the egg until mixture comes together, knead on a floured surface until dough is smooth. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes
2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, process ricotta, sugar, rum, egg and flour until smooth
3. Take about 2/3 of the pastry, and roll out to fit a 10x34cm rectangular tart tin
4. Pour filling into tart shell
5. Preheat oven to 160 C
6. Roll out remaining pastry and cut into 1cm strips. Lay them across the tart to form a lattice, brush the strips with egg yolk, trimming any excess pastry. Scatter pine nuts on the top
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and ricotta set. Cool in tin.


Today’s Cake – Classic Lemon Tart

Lemon tarts are great any time of year!


300g plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
Iced water

5 eggs
200g caster sugar
200ml double cream
Juice (strained) and finely grated rind of 3 lemons
Icing sugar for dusting

Making it
1. For pastry, place flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of iced water and process until it comes together. Form into a disc, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour
2. Roll pastry out on a lightly floured surface till about 5mm thick and line a 22cm tart tin, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Line shell with baking paper, fill with weights or rice, and bake for 20 mins. Remove weights and bake for anotehr 5 mins or until slightly brown. Reduce oven to 150 degrees.
4. Meanwhile, place eggs and sugar in a bowl (or easier in a large jug if you have one) and whisk until sugar dissolved, add cream, lemon juice, and lemond rind and combine. Pour into tart shell and bake for 45 minutes or until just set.
5. Once cool, dust with icing sugar and serve.