celebrating grandparents day with torta della nonna

Sep 9

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A few months ago, we were desperately searching for a place to eat dinner after a long day of shopping at the mall.  We weren’t familiar with the town so I launched my Yelp app and found an Italian restaurant that almost had a 5 star-rating from Yelp reviewers.  Trusting in Yelp, we decided to eat there.  The food was okay, but the dessert was outstanding!

I almost didn’t get any dessert, but when asked to see the dessert menu–gosh I never turn that down!
There was one that caught my eye and I never heard of before . . . torta della nonna.  It was described as a light delicate tart filled with lemon pastry cream and served with fresh fruits and mascarpone.  The kids didn’t think much of it since they had complimentary ice with their meal.  But when my torta della nonna came out . . . everyone wanted a taste!  It was devoured in no time and I ALMOST asked for a piece to go.

Since then I’ve been thinking, wanting, DREAMING some torta della nonna.  I finally turned to the web and did a search.  As expected, search results came up in a wealth of recipes.  Although most had the same base of pastry dough or pasta frolla, there appeared to be two types of filling–ricotta and pastry cream.  This helped me limit my search results, since the one I had at the restaurant was filled with a lemon pastry cream.

I may have mentioned in the past that one of my criteria when searching for a recipe are the positive reviews.  The next are the photos–since of course we eat with our eyes first.  I was drawn to the recipe for torta della nonna by Ciao Chow Linda.  Her photos were beautiful and her torta della nonna looked exactly liked the one I had at the restaurant.  I knew this was the recipe for me since she also had a lemon pastry cream.

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If you read my blog, you know that I often make some adjustments to a recipe.  In this case, I substituted 1/4 cup of almond flour for the flour, decreased the sugar in the pasta frolla to 1/3 cup from 1/2 cup, and brushed some honey on the pine nuts.  Other than that I kept to the recipe.  Please visit Linda’s blog for her original recipe and spend some time reading her posts.  Her photos are just amazing and her past journalism experience shines through in her writing.

Note:

Linda from Ciao Chow Linda warned in her post about eating pine nuts from Asia.  In my haste to purchase pine nuts, I quickly grabbed a package from Trader Joes thinking this would be safe.  Only after I started getting symptoms of Pine Nut or Pine Mouth Syndrome did I really look at the back of the package.  Unfortunately, it indicated that the pine nuts came from three sources: Korea, Russia, and Vietnam.  I have surely learned my lesson the hard way and will never purchase pine nuts sourced from Asian again.  Pine nuts grown in the Mediterranean and in the United States seem to be fine.  So what were the symptoms?  A distinct metallic taste while eating that discourages you from finishing your meal!  You really do lose your appetite.  After a week the annoying taste did disappear with no other harmful side effects except for losing a few pound.  Hmm . . . I may have found the secret to weight-loss.

Torta Della Nonna

Serves 8
Prep time 6 hours
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 6 hours, 35 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Website Slightly Adapted from Ciao Chow Linda
Torta della nonna or Grandmother's cake is a classic Italian dessert. Light lemon infused pastry cream surrounded by a delicate pastry crust and topped with pine nuts, which are then lightly brushed with honey.

Ingredients

Pastry Dough

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 stick unsalted butter (or 14 tablespoons and very cold cut into cubes)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice cold water (if needed)

Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • honey (to brush on top of the pine nuts)
  • powdered sugar (to dust over the top once cooled)

Directions

Pastry Dough
Step 1 In a food processor bowl, add flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse for a few seconds. Add cold butter and pulse until it resembles coarse sand with a few pea-sized lumps of butter.
Step 2 In a small bowl mix together the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix until it just comes together. If the dough appears too dry, add a tablespoon at a time of the ice cold water and pulse until it just comes together. Remove dough and shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate dough for a few hours or overnight.
Pastry Cream
Step 3 In a heavy saucepan, add milk and lemon zest. Simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, do not boil.
Step 4 In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until it becomes thick and pale yellow. Add flour and beat until combined.
Step 5 Initially temper the egg yolks mixture with the hot milk by adding a few tablespoons at time and whisk to mix thoroughly. Once this has become warm it is safe to whisk in the rest of the hot milk. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and starts to gently boil.
Step 6 Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cool slightly and then place plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream to prevent it from forming a skin. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
Assembly
Step 7 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the pastry dough in half and roll out to fit a 10-inch tart pan with removable base. Gently press the dough up the sides of the pan and cut any overhang.
Step 8 Place the pastry cream evenly over the dough.
Step 9 Roll out the remaining dough to fit the top of the tart and the pastry cream. Cut any overhang.
Step 10 Beat egg with water and brush over the top.
Step 11 Sprinkle pine nuts on the top and bake for about 25 minutes. Brush pine nuts with honey and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until evenly browned.
Step 12 Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Slowly remove from the pan and cool completely. When ready to serve dust with powdered sugar.

Note

You can make the pastry dough and pastry cream a day ahead, probably most preferable.  The next day the torta della nonna will be easy to assemble.

Important Note on Pine Nuts:

Linda from Ciao Chow Linda warned in her post about eating pine nuts from Asia.  In my haste to purchase pine nuts, I quickly grabbed a package from Trader Joes thinking this would be safe.  Only after I started getting symptoms of Pine Nut or Pine Mouth Syndrome did I really look at the back of the package.  Unfortunately, it indicated that the pine nuts came from three sources: Korea, Russia, and Vietnam.  I have surely learned my lesson the hard way and will never purchase pine nuts sourced from Asian again.  Pine nuts grown in the Mediterranean and in the United States seem to be fine.  So what were the symptoms?  A distinct metallic taste while eating that discourages you from finishing your meal!  You really do lose your appetite.  After a week the annoying taste did disappear with no other harmful side effects except for losing a few pound.  Hmm . . . I may have found the secret to weight-loss.

Finally last but not least, to all the loving and patient Grandparents-Happy Grandparents Day!  Such a perfect dessert to honor your Grandmother and even your Grandfather!

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Comments: 4

  1. Bluejellybeans September 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm Reply

    Hi Angela! Your torta looks divine :) I had no idea about the pine nuts from Asia, and I never pay attention to their origin… From now on, when I needed to lost some weight I’ll buy only Asian nuts ;)
    Hehe! Thanks a lot for such wonderful recipe and images :)

    • ai love baking September 11, 2013 at 3:46 am Reply

      Hello my dear Giovanna! Gosh it was scary yet funny at the same time. Only after I figured it out did I relax and thought of the “benefits” of losing my appetite lol.

  2. Danielle @ TheBestDessertRecipes.com September 18, 2013 at 10:40 pm Reply

    I never thought of putting pine nuts on top of a dessert like that (which makes me sad because I love pine nuts)! I’ll definitely have to try this!

    • ai love baking September 20, 2013 at 6:01 am Reply

      Hi Danielle! Gosh me too I love pine nuts, but after my experience I’ll have to read labels more thoroughly lol. In any case, this has become one of my favorite desserts!

ai would love to hear from you!