Monday, 2 May 2011
Italian Classics : Torta della Nonna
Isn't it amazing how powerful and evocative a smell can be? Pine trees, cloves and oranges at christmas. Freshly cut grass and sweet blossoms in spring. Or the simple smell of a custard tart in the oven reminding you of your favourite Italian pasticceria and instantly transporting you back to countless holidays in Florence.
This torta is no exception. Make it and your whole house will smell like a professional bakery.
When I chose to put this on as the restaurant's dessert special for April, I had no idea it would be quite so popular. It is surprisingly simple to make and totally appropriate for our restaurant. L had great fun telling everyone it is a dish that originated in Florence itself.
For the pastry
150g plain flour
60g caster sugar
80g unsalted butter
1tsp baking powder
1 egg yolk
zest 1 lemon
1tsp vanilla extract
For the custard
80g caster sugar
500ml whole milk
49g plain flour
50 grams of pine nuts
Icing sugar to dust
Soften the butter at room temperature.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and add the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
Divide the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and egg yolk and mix together with your fingers until combined, trying not to over work the dough.
Use a little butter to grease a 26cm springform tin.
Roll the pastry out to the thickness of 5mm on a lightly floured surface.
Transfer it to the tin using the rolling pin to lift it, and press gently in.
Prick the base all over with a fork before placing in the fridge to rest.
Perheat the oven to 150C.
For the custard
Place the milk and orange zest into a heavy bottomed saucepan and just bring to the boil over a medium heat.
Meanwhile, put the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl and whisk. Slowly add the sifted flour with the remaining vanilla. Very slowly, and using a fine sieve, pour the hot milk in while stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
Pour this mixture back into the saucepan, and stir constantly over a medium heat until it boils.
Stir for another 2-3 minutes while it thickens to get rid of the raw flour taste that might remain.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and pour the custard over it, spreading it out a little to cover the dough.
Sprinkle with pine nuts and cook in the oven for around 35 minutes until the custard has just set and is just going golden in a few places.
Unmold the cake onto a serving plate and let cool.
Dust it with icing sugar to serve.