‘Tis the season of overflowing Hot Cross Bun recipes while we remember how Jesus died and rose again for us. If you want something different however.. something custardy and something you won’t find discounted in packs of 6 at the supermarket, then bake this pie! We’ll have something in common …because I’m making it again too It’s an Easter cake or pie, also known as “Pastiera Napoletana”. This very delicious sweet treat was inspired by Easter cakes as seen in Fleisher’s shop window (a patisserie in Malvern, Melbourne).
Key Ingredient: Pearl Barley!
Easter Pie (Pastiera Napoletana)
FOR THE PEARL BARLEY:
*1/2 cup of pearl barley
*Cold water, enough to generously cover pearl barley and more to top-up as water evaporates
PIE CRUST DOUGH (OR PASTA FROLLA)
*Plain flour x 2.5 cups
*Caster sugar x 1/3 cup
*Baking Powder x 1/2 teaspoon
*Salt x 1 pinch
*Butter, cold x 200 grams
*Eggs x 2 large
*Vanilla paste (or extract) x 1 teaspoon
*Cinnamon, ground x 1/4 teaspoon
*Eggs x 1 large + 1 yolk
*Caster sugar x 1/4 cup
*Plain flour x 2 tablespoon’s
*Milk x 1/2 cup
*Vanilla paste or extract x 1/2 teaspoon
*All of the pastry cream
*All of the cooked pearl barley
*Ricotta, fresh, full fat x 1 cup
*Caster sugar x 1/4 cup
*Eggs x 2 large
*Orange flower water x 1 teaspoon
*Orange marmalade x 2 tablespoon’s
*Orange zest x 1/2 teaspoon
*Ground cinnamon and icing sugar for dusting on top of the pie when it’s finished
*Oil spray for your baking tins – Recipe provides enough filling for almost two pies and that’s what I did..I made a full-sized pie and a smaller one.
-Start recipe by putting pearl barley into a saucepan, generously covering with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for an hour, topping up water as you need it. While it’s cooking you can get on with the rest of the recipe, but when it’s finished, drain the pearl barley in a colander while rinsing under cold water.
-The dough is easy to make in a food processor and no rolling pin is required afterwards! Put all dough ingredients except butter and eggs into a food processor. Add cold butter which has been chopped into large chunks. Pulse the food processor until the butter’s combined with the flour and the mixture looks crumbly. Add the eggs and mix in with a few more pulses until you have a soft dough.
-The dough won’t necessarily be in one ball, rather you’ll probably need a spatula to scrape it out into a bowl. Don’t be alarmed by how soft it is. Pat it with your hands to form a soft ball, then break it into two pieces..with one ball being a bit larger than the second ball. Put these dough balls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
-Make the pastry cream (resembling thick custard) by whisking egg yolks in a small saucepan with sugar until combined well, then add flour and continue whisking until well combined. Whisk in milk and then put on stove top to heat and come to a gentle boil. It’s easy to burn the bottom of the saucepan with the pastry cream, so be patient when continuously stirring this. Once it reaches the correct temperature it’ll thicken up almost instantly before your eyes. Remove from heat when it’s thick and keep vigorously whisking with a fork to make sure the mixture isn’t lumpy. I did this on top of a bowl full of cold water (in the kitchen sink) to stop the cooking process.
-To make the final filling, be sure to have your cooked, drained pear barley at hand + the pastry cream. When the pastry cream is done transfer to a large bowl, then with a fork, mix in ricotta, getting rid of as many lumps as you can. Then mix in eggs and then the sugar, followed by the orange blossom water and orange marmalade. Do these steps one at a time, rather than all at once. Finally, stir-in the cooked pearl barley and then preheat your oven to 175-180 degrees celcius.
-Remove pastry from fridge, spray a 20-25cm pie tin with oil and add larger ball of dough. With your clean fingers.. flatten the dough in the tin and work it out to the edges. The dough will yield to pressure and the warmth of your hands. Work the dough up the sides of the pan as if you were making a tart. Make sure you have what looks like a pie shell and an even distribution of pastry. If some parts of the base appear to have more dough than others.. do some ‘patch up’ jobs and make it even. It’s surprisingly easy and forgiving once cooked. My finished crust looked like it had been rolled out with a rolling pin to a precise measurement. The crust is supposed to be thin (see blog photo’s).
-With the final ball of dough you want to make pie-like criss-cross patterns on top of the pie. Usually recipes ask that you roll out the dough, cut it into strips and layer the strips over the pie. I say pinch off some dough and roll it in your hands as if you were making a sausage. Then place the sausage of dough on a clean surface and with your hands roll it so you end up with a sausage “strip” of dough. Layer these rolled dough strips in a diamond pattern on top of the pie and try and press the edges onto the edge of the pie crust..so they ‘connect’. Make it look tidy. No need to glaze with egg wash.
-Bake pie in preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the top is browned evenly and slightly puffed up.. and the edges of the crust will have browned and pulled away from the pie tin. I let the pie rest for about 10 minutes, then I dust with ground cinnamon, followed by a dusting of icing sugar. I put a plate on top of the pie dish and quickly, but gently flip it over. The pie should easily fall out onto the plate. Lift away the pie tin carefully.. and you’ll see your pie upside down, hopefully in one piece and a lovely golden colour. For the final unveiling, place your presentation plate (top side down) on top of your upside pie, then flip the pie over carefully, but quickly again. Lift away top plate and voila! Your Easter pie is ready. Hopefully the icing sugar will be more prominent on the criss-crosses. Slice into wedges as required and serve warm or at room temperature. A dollop of double cream may not be traditional, but it’s optional.