The torta della nonna (literally grandmother's cake in Italian) is a well-known classic Tuscan dessert. Despite the name, this dessert likely originated in a restaurant and not grandma's kitchen. The homespun name is more a nod to the simplicity of the recipe. Creamy, lemony cream is baked into a top and bottom crust made of sugary pastry, then topped with crunchy pine nuts and powdered sugar. The crunchy, nut-topped pastry and the soft creamy center make for a delicious combination in this tempting dessert.
- For the Pastry Crust:
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon (zested)
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (chilled and cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- For the Pastry Cream Filling:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (divided)
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 lemon (zested)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- For the Topping:
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (rinsed and mostly dried)
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Gather the ingredients.
Make the pastry crust. Add the all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, lemon zest, and unsalted butter to a food processor.
Pulse a few times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add the egg and egg yolk and pulse until a dough ball forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Make the custard. Add the whole milk and 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar to a pot over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, flour, and salt.
Temper the egg mixture by adding a ladle full of the hot milk into the bowl and whisking well. Then, pour the egg mixture into the pot with the rest of the milk and return to the heat while quickly whisking.
Continue cooking for another couple of minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin forming) and allow to cool, at room temperature, while the pastry dough chills.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Divide the chilled pastry into two pieces with one being about a third larger than the other.
On a well-floured surface, roll the larger piece into about a 12-inch circle and drape it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
Pour in the chilled pastry cream.
Roll out the second, smaller piece of dough to about a 10-inch circle and drape it over the top of the tart. Pinch the top and bottom dough ends together and trim off the excess.
Sprinkle the lightly damp pine nuts on top of the crust and press them down gently. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the pastry is lightly golden brown.
Allow the tart to cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar and serving.
- Leaving the pine nuts slightly damp will help keep them from burning while baking. You can also bake the tart without the pine nuts on top. Toast them separately for a few minutes in a hot cast iron pan and sprinkle over the baked tart instead.