Did You Know? Easter Pie has many different names and even more recipes, depending on the section of Italy in question. In Naples it is known as "pastiera," and is made with ricotta cheese and whole grains of wheat to symbolize rebirth.
After a cold and rainy Saturday, the weather finally cleared up to allow for a beautiful Sunday lunch. After a late night of preparations Saturday, I got up early with my Mom and continued the endless mixing, chopping, and roasting. Things went pretty smoothly, and in the end, our kitchen table looked beautiful, and tasted even better. Which brings us to today, and the beginning of an Easter recap. Starting with dessert, I'll post a few other dishes my family enjoyed throughout the week.
Wanting to include a traditional Easter dish, I remembered this Neopolitan pie that was featured on The Martha Stewart Show a few years back. My family has always loved Italian foods, and this sounded like an interesting take on a ricotta pie, a dessert we can't get enough of. The idea of incorporating arborio rice brought about thoughts of a sweet risotto or a tapioca style pudding. Both of which would make for a wonderfully creamy filling between a flaky crust. I researched a few other takes on this classic Italian pie, and came up with something I know will be made again come next Spring.
I let the pie cool to room temperature, mainly for slicing reasons, but I'm sure this would be good both warm or cold. Unlike the cannoli-like filling of my previous ricotta pies, this Neopolitan style dessert was a lot less grainy. The pastry cream added such an intense vanilla richness, and the specks of beans do a great job at making any dessert look gourmet. I was never a fan of tapioca pudding, so what comes to my mind is more of a risotto style pie, sandwiched between a flaky, sugary crust, and dusted with a powder of confectioners sugar. I'd never had orange blossom water, but I read that it was pretty traditional, so I tossed some in. It added such delicate floral undertones, and just a hint of sweet orange flavor. In fact, the only thing that I had a bit of trouble with on this pie was the crust. It called for a sweet dough, combining quite a bit of flour with butter, sugar, and eggs. If I were to make it again, I'd definitely use my stand-by pate brisee. The sweet dough was terribly crumbly, and I ended up just pressing it into the bottom and up the sides of the cake pan. I knew it would fall apart if I tried to interlock the top ribbons of dough, so I made sort of a faux-lattice top. In the end, it looked wonderful, and confectioners sugar does a beautiful job at hiding any imperfections.
Adapted from The Martha Stewart Show
1/2 cup arborio rice
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
12 ounces whole-milk ricotta (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
Pastry Cream (recipe follows)
Sweet Dough (recipe follows)
All-purpose flour, for work surface
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash
Place rice in a medium bowl. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, drain rice, and transfer to a medium saucepan. Add milk, 1 cup water, butter, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Drain, and spread on a baking sheet. Let cool, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta and sugar. Add cooled wheat, pastry cream, and orange blossom water. Stir to combine.
Remove the larger piece of dough from refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 16-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Fit into a 12-by-2-inch cake pan. Pour filling into the crust; set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining piece of dough, 1/8-inch-thick. Cut into 3/4-inch lattice strips. Weave the lattice strips over the filling, pinching edges to seal. Crimp edges as desired.
Brush top of pie evenly with egg wash. Transfer to oven, and bake, rotating halfway through, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Pinch of salt
Prepare an ice bath; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, flour, and sugar; set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk, vanilla bean, and salt. Bring just to a boil.
Using a measuring cup or a ladle, slowly pour about 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Pour mixture back into saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick 1 to 2 minutes.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl set over the ice bath. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream. Transfer to refrigerator until cold, at least 1 hour, and up to overnight. Just before using, remove from refrigerator, and whisk to soften slightly.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
1 1/2 pounds (just under 5 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition.
Reduce speed to low, and beat in the dry ingredients. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide dough, making sure one piece is slightly larger than the other. Place each piece of dough on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, to form two discs. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.