Friday, 29 September 2017
Torta della Nonna
Torta della Nonna or Granny's Tart is one of classic Italian recipes which has as many versions as there are Nonnas in Italy. I've been looking at my Italian recipe books as well as browsing recipes online, and the amount of egg yolks for the custard varies from four to eight. Some cooks add vanilla seeds, some add lemon zest, and the amount of pine nuts is also different from recipe to recipe.
I've been planning to bake this simple custard tart with pine nuts ever since I finished reading The Thousand Lights Hotel by Emylia Hall.
This delectable dessert has been mentioned more than once among the numerous food descriptions and menus (one of the protagonists and a love interest is a chef in the eponymous hotel, so food features heavily in the book which I found very enjoyable).
"A wide slice of torta della nonna - she recognised it straight away - sugar-dusted, scattered with pine nuts... She took a forkful of tart, and felt her chest heave. She'd forgotten the flavour of the sweet custard, the toasted pine nuts. Torta della nonna, she said out loud, Granny's tart, it meant, but as a child she'd always called it torta della mamma, because it was her mum who'd made it for her, just as she had done everything else".
Torta della Nonna
For the pastry
150g cold butter, from the fridge
300g 00 flour
100g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
pinch of salt
2-3tbsp icy cold water
1 pt of milk
125g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
2tbsp milk, cold
vanilla, grated or paste
100g pine nuts
Sift the flour and salt into a big mixing bowl and add cold cubed butter. Cut the butter into flour into smaller pieces, so that they are coated with flour. Using hands, rub the flour and butter together until the mixture looks like fine crumbs.
Beat in 4 egg yolks. Add a bit of water to make the dough more pliable. Knead it until smooth and elastic, form into a ball and put the bowl in the fridge for half an hour.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a big circle about 5-6mm thin. Cut out a circle bigger than a round pie/baking dish, so that you have enough to have the sides. Drape the dough disc over the rolling pin and place it inside the pie dish. Gently press down.
Bake for 10 minutes at 180C.
While the pastry case is baking, scatter the pine nuts on a baking tray and place inside the oven on the lower shelf to toast for about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In the meantime make the custard filling. Heat up the milk with caster sugar, then remove from the heat and let it cool a bit. Beat in the egg yolks in a pan or bowl, add a bit of hot milk and whisk, keep adding all milk and whisking. Add vanilla (I used a vanilla grater) and cornflour which has been mixed with a dash of cold milk separately.
Cook custard over the low heat, stirring constantly, or put a pan with custard over another pan with boiling water, and keep stirring. Once custard starts to thicken, set it aside and let it cool slightly.
Scatter half of the pine nuts over a pastry case and pour custard over them, scatter more pine nuts over custard. Place the pie into the oven preheated to 180C for about 20-25 minutes.
This Italian custard tart is lovely warm or cold. My guys loved it. For a more authentic touch dust it with icing sugar before serving. I didn't add more sugar, as the tart is quite sweet as it is.
Have you tried Torta della Nonna on your travels to Italy, or perhaps in an Italian restaurant?