Exactly a year ago, Kerry and I went on a food and wine tour in the Puglia region of Italy. One morning we had the pleasure of visiting the Association Cultural Cooking Experience in Lecce, a bakery and cooking school. Our hostess and baking instructor was Gianna, a sweet lady who was kind enough to share her recipe for Pasticciotto Leccese. Grazie, Gianna!
Some of us had the opportunity to participate, and luckily, I was one of them. My main reason for raising my hand for a chance to experience the process was to feel the pastry. In Italy, they use ‘OO’ flour. It has a different texture…not so powdery like regular flour, but very fine and smooth. I wanted to work the pastry to see/feel how different it was versus a pastry dough made with regular flour. And yes, it felt different…silky and less doughy.
Anyway, we all ate freshly made pasticciotti and they were heavenly. There was so much custard in them, it burst in your mouth with each bite. I think that’s what I liked most about it. But then there’s the buttery pastry…it’s all good!
I have to tell you that I made this recipe twice. The first time with regular flour and the second time with the ‘OO’ flour. What a difference. If you only have regular flour, you’ll enjoy this pastry. But if you can get your hands on some ‘OO’ flour…trust me, you’ll see the difference. The custard recipe also calls for some flour and again, the ‘OO’ flour made a difference here also. The custard was lighter and creamier than when I made it with regular flour. So, for a true pasticciotto, definitely get some ‘OO’ flour. I got mine at a local Italian grocer, but you can also get it on Amazon. It’s worth it.
Makes about 12 - depending on the size of your tins
Use a kitchen scale for measurements.
- 500g flour ’00’
- 250g caster sugar
- 250g of butter or lard
- 2 or 3 eggs
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 extra egg for brushing
- 500ml whole milk
- 75g flour ’00’
- 150g sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tsp. clear vanilla
Note: Caster sugar is a superfine sugar, not a powdered sugar. You can make a cup by placing one cup of sugar plus one tablespoon in the blender. Pulse for a couple of seconds.
Make the pastry. Mix the butter and flour by hand/pastry blender, or pulse a few times in food processor. It does not have to be completely broken down. Add the sugar, salt, baking powder, and 2 eggs. Mix again. If the dough does not hold together, add the third egg. Knead quickly. Form a loaf, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Prepare the custard. Put the milk and half of the sugar in a saucepan and heat, but do not boil. In another bowl, use a spoon to beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar, vanilla, and flour. Do not over beat. Pour some of the hot milk into the egg mixture and blend. Then add the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat with a whisk. Once it thickens, switch to a spoon and stir for 5 minutes. You might need to lower the heat. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap in contact with the custard, so a skin doesn’t form. Refrigerate until dough is ready.
Make the pasticciotto. Lightly flour your cutting board. Cut a chunk of dough off the log. Roll out to a quarter-inch thickness. Cut out a shape to fit your lightly greased tart tin and gently press the sides. Remove the excess dough by pressing with fingers against the sharp edge, or use a rolling pin to roll over top of tin. Fill the tins to the top with custard, as there should not be any air between the custard and the top crust. A pastry bag works well here. Roll out more dough for the top crust. Cut a shape larger than the tin. Place on top of custard. Press the excess dough off gently with fingers along the sharp edge.
At this point, the pasticciotti can be refrigerated for 24 hours. When ready to bake, brush tops with a beaten egg. Bake at 220 degrees centigrade or 428 degrees fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Cool in tins. Remove to serve.