This article originally appeared in the June/July 2020 issue of Dream of Italy.
When I dream of Italy, I dream of making pasticciotto, a pastry with creamy custard filling, in Puglia with a handsome Italian named Luigi.
When a nicely dressed, handsome Italian with dark curly locks walks into the room, I smile at how much I never expected the person standing before me. Nothing about him says pastry chef and that is what I love about him most.
Everything is happening quickly and mostly in Italian as we go over the details of the recipe. The mood is a bit hurried as our guests were running late but it is comfortable and feels like an evening with friends. With upbeat background music, it is time for the show to start.
With a fork in hand, and a little mountain of flour before me, a few steps are given from Luigi. Then a quick hand gesture and a very Italian vai (go). My hands move just as he told me, as we start off making the pastry dough. He chats with the others and somehow knows when it is time for the next step.
More instructions given and another vai as we move on to the custard filling. Sugar, eggs, flour, milk….vai. I am all smiles as my mind is trying to catch up with all that is happening. My heart and soul are already there.
The evening and Italian words flow as I work in a leisurely hustle. The soft egg yolk tinted dough is pressed into the form and then the custard is smoothed to Italian perfection. Another layer of dough, a wash of egg and a sprinkling of sugar, and it’s as pretty as I could have imagined.
When it comes out of the oven with golden flaky crust, luscious creamy filling, I am in an Italian heaven with the perfect amount of sweetness. We raise our glasses and toast to a pastry and a job well done. (The pastry class was booked through VoomaGo.com).
–Lonielle De Haven
For the dough:
Pasta Frolla (short-crust pastry)
17 1/2 oz flour
7 oz sugar
8 1/2 oz lard or butter room temp
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest
1 egg beaten (for the egg wash)
18 small oval molds – buttered and floured
For the custard:
4 cups whole milk
6 1/2 oz flour
12 1/2 oz sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
5 egg yolks
Rind of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec
For the pasta frolla – mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and lemon zest together. Add the room temp lard or butter and combine until you have a nice, soft consistency. Add the eggs and stir until combined. Split the pastry into two even rounds and then reap in plastic wrap. Let rest in fridge for 2 hours.
For the custard cream – Place the peels from the lemon rind in the milk and let sit for 20 to 30 min. Transfer the milk to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, remove the lemon peels and set aside to rest. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow in color. Add the cornstarch, flour, and combine well. Take the milk (which should be warm) and slowly pour it into the bowl, whisking continuously. When all the milk has been added, transfer to a saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add the Marnier and bring to a boil, whisking continuously. The mixture will become increasingly dense. When it has thickened and starts to boil, remove from heat. Pour into a bowl over and ice bath and let cool for 10 to 15 min. Remove the bowl from the ice bath and cover with plastic wrap, making to sure touch the top of the cream to prevent a film from forming. Refrigerate until cold.
Making the Pasticciotto – On a lightly floured surface roll out half of the pasta frolla to 3/8 inch thick and large enough to cover your molds. Place the rolled out dough over your molds and with a rolling pin cut it. Use your fingers to lightly press the dough into the molds, making sure that the bottom and sides are completely covered with dough. Using a pastry bag, fill the molds with the Italian cream. Roll out the remaining half of the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough and top each mold. Use your fingers to seal the edges of the dough, creating a slightly raised center.
Brush the Pasticciotti with the egg wash and bake in a 380 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the nicely golden brown. Let cool, un-mold and enjoy. An optional dusting of powdered sugar and lemon zest can added.