Daring Bakers November: Torta della Nonna

This was the last Daring Bakers challenge ever. My first Daring Bakers challenge was in October 2007 when we did the Bostini cream pie challenge, and to this day, it's still one of the tastiest things I've ever made, as well as the most high calorie and funnest to plate and photograph.

Granted, the challenge was issued back in November 2016 and I didn't bake it until January 2017 and am not posting it until August 2017, but it's sickly sweet with sentimental value. And it was delicious. For the month of November we at the Daring Kitchen were challenged by Ginger-Z to make the delicious Torta della Nonna. In other words, English words, in fact--grandmother's cake. Cake might translate back into Italian as "pie," but let's not dwell on technicality when we can linger over torta. Which has nothing to do with Mexican sandwiches. Let's just call it what it is--a custard pie with a top crust. Why don't more custard pies have top crusts? Custard, like vanilla pudding, or if you're a dim sum fanatic like me, like the innards of a custard tart. It sets during baking, and the crust crisps up, and the nature of the crust is buttery and tender, but not flaky--dare I say, perhaps it is cake-like. But then. Like ... muffin-top like? Not short crust like because it isn't crisp. It is what it is. Delicious. 

It's even better than it looks.

Mmm, custard...

Dough for the top and bottom crusts.

Rollin, rollin, rollin ... (rawhiiide...)

Dough! I mean d'oh! I'll just squish this massive ravine shut. I'll be more careful with the top crust so it's photogenic. The bottom crust can look like a crazy quilt for all I care.

Like it never happened. Wait, what happened? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Awgawd, that custard, tho!!

Pie top gettin' laid.

That's what I'm talkin' about.

Pat the top crust down carefully to make sure there aren't any weird air bubbles--essentially, burp your nonna like a wee babe. Run your rolling pin around the top edge to seal and slice the excess dough off all at once (patented Julie method). Then lay the traditional pine nuts across the top--I decided to go decoratively, and plus, it made it easier for non-nut people to avoid them when they took a slice.

Isn't she lovely?

Oh, toasty pie crust. You are my friend.

Like a unique and precious snowflake.

We sat in the light of the sitting sun, drinking in the beauty of the desert evening before I devoured her. Not really--I packed her up for a pie-luck (pie-centric potluck) the next day.

Oh, grancake. You spoil me so.



You, too, can bake your own grancake:

Torta della Nonna
2 1/2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup castor sugar
4 tablespoons plain flour
Nutella, as desired
slivered almonds for topping
2 cups flour
pinch salt
2 egg yolks
125g butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup castor sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the custard, heat the milk and vanilla bean until just starts to boil. Set aside to cool slightly. Beat the egg yolks and sugar well until light and creamy. Stir in the flour. With a whisk gradually add in the warm milk. Strain the milk mixture back into the saucepan. Return to the heat and stir until it thickens. Boil for about a minute to cook the flour. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl covering with plastic wrap touching the custard to prevent a skin forming.
To make the pastry, in a food processor place the flour, salt, egg yolks, butter, sugar and vanilla. Process until the mixture just starts to come together. Remove and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
When ready, grease a 20cm pie plate and preheat the oven to 180C. Divide the dough in two pieces, with on slightly larger. Roll out the larger piece between to pieces of non stick baking paper until large enough to fit the pie plate. Carefully lift the pastry and press into the pie plate, trimming the edges. Spread the base with Nutella, as much as you wish, then top with the prepared custard. Brush the edges with water. Roll out the second piece of pastry as you did with the first and fit over the custard, pressing the edges to seal and then trim off excess. Brush the top with water and sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.
Allow to cool and dust with abundant icing sugar. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


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