Torta Della Nonna – Grandmother’s Torte

Recipe from Tuscany published March 2011, AUD$49.95. www.phaidon.com.

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 1 hour

Serves 8

For the pastry (pie) dough:

300g (2 ¾ cups) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

80g (scant ½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

150g butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing

1 egg

1 egg yolk

Grated zest of 1 lemon


For the filling:
500ml milk

Thinly pared strip of lemon zest

3 egg yolks

120 g (scant 2/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar

50g (1/2 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour

Pinch of vanilla powder or a few drops vanilla extract

To decorate:

1 egg, lightly beaten

Chopped almonds and/or pine nuts, for sprinkling

Icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted

To make the dough, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a mound on a work surface (counter) and make a well in the centre. Add the butter, egg, egg yolk and lemon zest and gradually incorporate the dry ingredients using your fingers. Mix well and knead lightly. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other. Shape each into a ball, wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and let rest in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Pour the milk into a pan, add the lemon zest and bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat and set aside. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Gently fold in the flour and vanilla, add the milk, combine thoroughly and pour back into the pan. Cook over low heat and let cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 24cm round cake pan with butter. Roll out the large piece of dough onto a lightly floured surface into a round slightly larger than the prepared cake pan. Ease it into the pan, leaving an overhand. Spoon the filling into the pastry. Fold the overhanging dough onto the outer edge of the case and brush with a beaten egg. Roll out the other piece of dough into a round to fit the pan. Put it on top of the filling and seal the edges well. Brush the surface with the beaten egg and sprinkle with almonds and/or pine nuts in patterns. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown in colour. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool slightly. Remove from the pan and dust with icing (confectioner’s) sugar. Serve hot or lukewarm.

What’s your favourite dessert or cake?