easter pies

Since my sister and her family recently moved to North Carolina, my mother and my littlest sister drove up there for Easter.  My mom and I usually make the traditional Italian Easter pies on Holy Saturday and serve them up on Easter Sunday.  We were fortunate to be invited to a friend’s house to celebrate Easter tomorrow, so I’ll be making the pies solo this year to bring with us.  For many people, Easter isn’t Easter without a ham; for me, it’s these pies.

I’ve written about the savory pie (pizza rustica) before (click here).

This year I’m trying a new sweet pie — the usual one is a “Pizza Grana” or grain pie that includes a filling of ricotta cheese and boiled wheat berries.  Not knowing if our hosts would dig that very traditional recipe, I’m using one that was sent to me by Lynn Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table and subbing dried apricots for the candied fruits.

Pastry:

  • 1-1/4 cups (6.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (preferably organic)

  • 1/4 cup (1.25 ounces) cake flour (preferable organic)

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • Shredded zest of 1 medium lemon

  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

  • 3 to 5 tablespoons cold water

Filling:

  • 3-1/4 cups (about 30 ounces) high-quality whole-milk ricotta

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

  • 1 large egg, separated

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) plus 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon Galliano liqueur (or another liqueur of your choice)

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1/3 cup (1.5 ounces) mixed candied fruit, cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts or coarsely chopped blanched almonds

  1. To make the crust, butter a 10-inch metal pie pan. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl or food processor. With your fingertips or pulsing by machine, work in the butter until it is the size of small peas. In a small bowl, beat together the yolks, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons of the water. Add to the dry ingredients, tossing with a fork or pulsing only until the pastry forms small clumps; another 1 to 2 tablespoons of water may be needed. Shape the dough into a ball.

  2. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 15-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Fit it into the pie pan and trim the edges to a 1-inch overhang. Roll the rim under itself and flute it into a high border standing on the pie pan’s rim. Chill 1 hour or up to overnight.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line the pastry shell with foil or parchment paper, weight with dried beans, and bake 15 minutes. Gently remove the liner and weights and bake another 2 minutes, or until the crust if firm. Cool on a rack.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Puree the ricotta in a food processor and transfer to a bowl, or pass it through a fine sieve into a bowl. Blend in the cream, yolks, the 1/2 cup of sugar, the Galliano, vanilla, and salt. Stir in the fruit. Turn the ricotta into the pastry shell. Tuck the chocolate pieces in here and there.

  5. In a medium bowl, beat the egg white until foamy. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat the meringue until it is the consistency of very thick cream – not quite to soft peaks. With a spoon, make a zigzag stripe of meringue thickly over the filling, not covering it completely. Sprinkle the nuts over the meringue.

  6. Make a foil ring and cover the pastry rim with it. Place the tart in the oven and turn the heat down to 325°F. Bake 40 minutes. Remove the foil rim and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted an inch from the rim comes out with a few streaks. The filling will jiggle a little when shaken, but will set up in cooling. Remove the tart to a rack and cool.

  7. If there’s time, cover and chill the tart an hour or so – its flavors seem to open up with this step. But bring it to room temperature before serving, cut into narrow wedges. The tart keeps well, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, but it is absolutely prime the day it’s made.

One thought on “easter pies”

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