My twin sister Toni Brancatisano is our guest blogger today. She shares her delicious recipe for Torta Della Nonna, a classic favourite here in Tuscany which was also featured in our July/August issue. You can read more about this traditional dessert on her blog.
Torta della Nonna is a timeless Tuscan classic, typically served as dessert for Sunday lunch. Before moving to Rome six years ago, I lived in Tuscany (Versilia) for 14 years and I was (and still am) a big fan of this wonderful dessert.
Torta della Nonna, translated to Grandma’s cake is a cake that has become an integral part of typical Tuscan cuisine. I suppose you would call it a cake, although it is like an enclosed custard tart. It is then covered with pine nuts and a generous dusting of icing sugar. There are two versions of this torta; one open, with the pastry base filled with custard and decorated with pine nuts and powdered sugar. The second version which the majority of people insist is the most authentic has a pastry covering, enclosing the custard, with the pine nuts scattered on the top before baking. Before serving, it is then sprinkled with icing sugar.
FOR THE PASTRY
• 2 eggs
• 450g flour
• 160g sugar
• 200g butter
• zest of 1 lemon
• pinch of salt
FOR THE FILLING
• 500ml milk
• 125g sugar
• 4 egg yolks
• 40g flour ‘00’
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 50g pine nuts and icing sugar to decorate
1. To make the pastry dough, sift together the flour, sugar, and pinch of salt into a mound on a work surface, and make a well in the centre.
2. Add the butter, eggs and lemon zest and gradually incorporate the dry ingredients using your fingers.
3. Mix well and knead lightly with extra flour if necessary.
4. Roll out the pastry in between two pieces of baking paper.
5. Line a 24cm round cake pan or deep tart tin and refrigerate. With remaining pastry, roll it out in between two pieces of baking paper and also refrigerate.
6. Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the lemon zest. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and set aside.
7. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and fluffy, and then gently mix in the sifted flour, and the vanilla extract.
8. Add half of the milk and mix well until combined. Add the remaining milk, whisk and then return to the saucepan.
9. Cook over a low heat, whisking constantly until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
10. Remove from the heat and let cool, covered with a piece of plastic kitchen food wrap. Push the plastic wrap onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming on the top of the custard as it cools.
11. Preheat the oven to 160°C.
12. Remove prepared tart tin from the refrigerator and poke some holes in the pastry base using a fork. Spoon the custard filling into the pastry.
13. Remove extra rolled out pastry from refrigerator and place on top of custard filling, seal the edges well and trim off excess pastry.
14. Use the fork again and poke holes into the pastry top. Scatter with pine nuts and bake for an hour or until the pastry top is cooked and slightly golden.
15. Dust surface with icing sugar and serve Torta della Nonna either warm, lukewarm or cold.
*It is delicious eaten accompanied with a scoop of vanilla gelato
* You can also make the pastry dough by putting all ingredients into a food processor and process until a ball forms.
* One of the variations of this dessert is the “Torta del Nonno”, with the addition of cocoa and the use of almonds instead of pine nuts.