There has been a lot of discussion in the twitterverse about the new google mandates that will help make recipes more searchable. However, just trying to understand what is a “rich snippet”, and to figure out which google recipe plugin we should use, made me realize that we will all need something sweet to pick us up. Since our girls are very much into baking, I thought it would be good for them to make one of the Sorelle Simili, the Simili sisters, fabulous treats, their Torta Della Nonna, or Grandmother’s cake. Also, we had to honor Pi day. Pi day, at our daughter’s school is a big deal. This year, the winner of Pi day memorized 1266 digits! Although Gabriella didn’t memorize anything like that, she made a valiant effort and definitely deserved to eat Pi. Long ago the sisters Simili had given their recipe of this homey and comforting custard pie to Giuliano. I thought it was a perfect chance for the girls to learn how to make custard and to roll out pie dough. It also worked well for this plugin test, as the recipe is in two parts and I could compare the ease of use for the two WordPress plugins that I found. If you aren’t on WordPress, there is still hope, as there are other suggested plugins in the articles we’ve linked to below.
Margherita and Valeria Simili are twin sisters and good friends of our family. They grew up baking in their father’s award wining bakery in Bologna and learned the art of traditional Bolognese specialties. In 1972 they met Marcella and Victor and assisted in their cooking school. The sisters’ teaching fame spread and they have become authors, television darlings, and made guest chef appearances from New Zealand to America. We still make a point of seeing them when we are in Italy at our own cooking school. Having no children of their own, they dote on Gabriella and Michela and love spoiling them with sweets.
It is said that Torta della Nonna, or Grandmother’s cake, was invented by chef Guido Samorini in Florence for his patrons who wanted something “different”. However, that has been hard to verify. Most people seem to believe it came to popularity in the 18th century when “confectionary custard” became popular. Some authors think that it was originally filled with ricotta rather than cream, like the Sicilian Cassata al Forno; however, there isn’t much information available. Whatever the history, it is a wonderful rustic pie that one could easily imagine a loving grandmother making.
Grandmother’s Custard Pie
Torta della Nonna
Copyright, Giuliano Hazan HOW TO COOK ITALIAN
Recipe: Pastry Crust
Summary: An easy to make and delicious pastry crust
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the crust
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
- Pinch salt
1. Cut the butter into 12 pieces and put it in a food processor with the 2 cups flour, sugar, egg, egg yolk, and salt. Run the machine until the dough comes together and is homogeneous. Remove the dough and place it on a counter. Briefly knead it with your hands to form a smooth ball. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 350° on the regular bake setting
3. Cut the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap the smaller piece with plastic and set it aside. Remove the bottom of a 91/2-inch tart pan and put it in the center of your work counter. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter around the edge of the pan and place the larger piece of dough in the middle of the pan bottom. Flatten the dough a bit with your hands, then use a rolling pin to roll it out 1/8 inch thick. Loosen the edges that extend past the pan bottom with a pastry scraper, then use the scraper to lift the pan bottom and the dough. Carefully lower into the ring of the tart pan. Patch any tears or holes, making sure the dough comes all the way up the sides. Cut off any excess dough at the top. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake until very lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Cooking time (duration): 2 1/2 hours
Diet type: Vegetarian
Dietary restriction: Kosher
Number of servings (yield): 8
Meal type: dessert
Culinary tradition: Italian
The custard thickens all at once and that frightened Michela, she thought she had done something wrong. One should also keep the pie dough topping in the refrigerator until ready to use, as it gets soft very quickly. Since I was making this with the kids, who aren’t dough experts, we didn’t do so well at creating the topping. In fact, we punted and opted for a tart rather than pie. The extra dough was perfect for cookies, and the pie received raves from all who ate it.
TORTA DELLA NONNA FILLING
Note: The pie will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
Prep Time: 45 minutes (for the entire pie)
Total Time: 6 1/2 hours (for the entire pie)
Serving Size: one slice
less if you share it?
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- Pinch Sea salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- While the pastry crust is baking, make the filling. Put the milk and heavy cream in a saucepan and place over medium heat. When the mixture releases steam when stirred, but before it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat.
- While the milk and cream are heating, put the flour, sugar, 2 of the eggs, the egg yolk, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Cut the butter into 4 pieces and add to the bowl. Whisk on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, pale, and forms ribbons, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the milk and cream to a pitcher. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the hot milk and cream. Once all the milk and cream have been added, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens, about 10 minutes.
- Pour the custard into the baked pastry crust. Unwrap the remaining dough and roll it out 1/8 inch thick on a counter sprinkled with flour. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll over the custard filling. Pinch the edges together, cutting off any excess dough. Lightly beat the remaining egg and brush it over the top of the pie. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. Serve chilled.