Our family favorite…..Grandma’s Cake – Torta della Nonna

Since my return from cooking class at Casa Ombuto in the Tuscan countryside last summer my family has fallen in love with this classic Italian dessert.
Now, I must admit the recipe requires patience and time. But if you add a bit of love to your preparation I know it will become your family favorite as well.
So, just turn up some Andrea Bocelli on on your iPod and let yourself drift to a place where green rolling hills are dotted with sunflowers and the bell towers above the terra cotta tiled roofs of the stone farmhouses ring out a gentle welcome.
To make you feel like you truly are in Italy, I am leaving the measurements in Metric. If you have a food scale or a computer you will have no trouble.

Pasta Frolla (short crust Pastry)
1 liter of milk
1 lemon, 1 orange
250 g of sugar
1 vanilla pod
80 g flour, 20 g corn starch
7 egg yolks
100g pine nuts – for decoration

Prepare the crust –

250 g flour
125 g butter at room temperature
1 to 2 tsp cold water or milk
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg

1 Cut the softened butter into pieces. Combine in a bowl with the egg and sugar and mix and crush with a spatula.
2 Sift the flour with the salt and add to the egg and butter, mixing with the tip of a knife.
3 Add the cold water or cold milk if the dough feels too dry. Do not overwork.
4 Transfer to a lightly floured surface and work the dough with the palm of your hand, then form into a ball. Work quickly, as the dough must not be handled too much. It does not matter if you see little bits of butter not properly incorporated into the dough.
5 Wrap into a plastic bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour minimum.

1 Heat the milk together with the lemon and orange skins and add the vanilla.
2 Whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar, then add the flour and the corn starch and finally the hot milk.
3 Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring until you have a thick creamy texture.

1 Grease a cake tin with butter, and dust with flour.
2 Line the tin with the pastry and make small holes in the base (with a fork). Cover with a layer of baking foil with dry beans or rock salt over it, so the pastry does not rise too much when baking.
3 Bake the pastry in a preheated oven at 180 C ( 355 F) for 12 minutes. Remove the baking foil and beans/salt and bake for another 8 minutes.
4 Take the tin out and pour the cream into the pastry base.
5 Roll out the rest of the pastry to make a “lid” for the cake. Brush the top with egg and cover with pine nuts.
6 Cook for a further 12-15 minutes, with only the top part of the oven heated. Dust with icing sugar (confectioners)

The cream will have more flavor if the milk cools with the aromatics left in the pot. ( lemon, orange and vanilla pod)
Cut two pieces of parchment paper and dust with a bit of flour, then roll out the dough between the sheets. It is simple to transfer the rolled dough to the tin this way.

Although this Italian Recipe is named “cake” it is more like a pie. I will normally double the recipe since it is so time consuming and prepare another for a friend.

Torta della Nonna - Grandmas' Cake

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