Literally translates to ‘grandmother’s cake’. It’s a delicate Italian shortcrust pastry which encases silky soft crème patisserie and topped with pinenuts.
Traditionally known as a Florentine dessert, but then again, everyone’s nonna claims it as their own, making it slightly different.
This dessert brings me back to my childhood, where Italian torte and the like were served at family gatherings to celebrate birthdays and religious events. This is where my love affair of Italian sweets began. Torta della Nonna is a simple dessert with a refined flavour – synonymous with Italian desserts.
Consequently, its with a heavy heart that I inform you that I hadn’t actually ever eaten my ‘grandmother’s cake’. My nonna lived in Italy and I only met her once when my parents endured the long haul flight back to their home land with three small children – the youngest being me at the age of 3yrs young. I was a teenager when she passed away. I didn’t know her personally, or even whether her Torta della Nonna was any good, but according to the stories of her robust character, I believe it would have been a sensational torta.
You will need to commence this recipe by preparing an elegant shortcrust pastry. I have attached a link to my delicate recipe for Italian Shortcrust pastry – the ‘how to’ video is here http://www.apieceofcake.tv/?p=84. It has a moorish bite and compliments well with the baked custard filling.
The filling, crème patisserie, is simple to make so don’t be afraid. I encounter so many who fear the process, or more so the outcome, of making this luscious creamy custard. Just follow my recipe and you won’t falter.
It is such a simple dessert with such a sophisticated flavour and the addition of pinenuts is masterful as it adds another dimension to the flavour as well as texture.
- FOR THE ITALIAN SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY:
- 100g Butter, unsalted, cold, diced
- 60g Pure Icing Sugar, sifted
- 220g Plain Flour
- Pinch of Sea Salt, fine grand
- 1 Egg, yolk
- 1 Egg, whole
- 1 Vanilla Bean seeds, or 1 tsp (5g) Vanilla Bean Paste
- FOR THE CREME PATISSERIE (MAKES ABOUT 900G CUSTARD):
- 8 Egg Yolks
- 100g Castor Sugar
- 50g Plain Flour, sifted
- 700ml Full-cream Milk
- 2 Vanilla pod or 2 tsp Vanilla bean paste
- FOR COATING:
- 100g Pinenuts
- 1 Egg, lightly beaten (egg wash)
- Pure Icing sugar for dusting
- FOR THE ITALIAN SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY:
- Process flour, butter, icing sugar, vanilla bean seeds or paste, and pinch of salt in food processor until fine crumbs form.
- Combine egg yolk & whole egg – lightly beat. Slowly add egg mixture into food processor (pulsing) till mixture comes together.
- Turn dough onto very lightly floured surface and bring together.
- Wrap in cling wrap and rest in fridge for at least 30 mins.
- FOR THE CREME PATISSERIE:
- Put the egg yolks and sugar into a large bowl and whisk for 3 minutes. Add the flour and whisk to combine.
- In a saucepan, bring to the boil the milk with the vanilla pod and seeds, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the pan from the heat, pour about half into the egg mixture while whisking quickly. Then pour egg mixture back into the pan with remaining milk mixture.
- Put the pan back onto medium heat and bring to the boil while continuously whisking. Cook the crème patissiere for 1 minute at the same temperature once it starts to boil, to cook off the flour.
- Pour the cream into a large bowl through a very fine sieve (use a large bowl because the crème needs to cool down quickly). If you don’t sieve the vanilla bean seeds will be visible.
- Place a layer of cling film over the top, in direct contact with the surface of the cream to prevent the formation of a crust. Cool before use.
- TO ASSEMBLE:
- Preheat oven to 160c.
- Lightly spray a 24cm spring flan tin with olive oil.
- Divide the pastry into two portions, one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece (keeping the other still wrapped in the fridge) to 3-4mm thick and line the flan tin. Brush the top edge of the pastry with a little egg wash.
- Pour in the cool custard filling.
- Roll the second piece of pastry to 3-4mm think and place on top of the filling to cover completely. Seal together both pastry base and lid by pressing down gently with a finger along the edge. Then trim the edge to ensure that the custard is well enclosed in the pastry.
- Brush the top with egg wash then sprinkle with pinenuts.
- Bake for 40-45 mins or until golden. Cool completely in the tin and then release slowly out of tin. Dust generously with pure icing sugar and serve