The due morsi of Firenze

photo 3Torta della Nonna

When I went to Italy last fall, the first dessert I had in a proper sit-down restaurant was the Torta della Nonna: Crema pasticcera layered between a top and bottom pate sucree-like crust, topped with pignoli and a generous dusting of zuccero al velo. The restaurant, a neighborhood trattoria around the corner from my Florence hotel, was about as homey as you could ask for. And on a chilly evening (after a carbonara worthy of many international texts), the waiter brought over the torta (complimenti della casa) and from the first bite, I was hooked. When I was down to my last forkful, the waiter came by; I told him I was sad because the dessert was almost over. He gently took my fork and divided that last bite into two micro-bites. “Due morsi,” he said with a smile. (That concept of “two bites” came to define my experience of Florence.)

When I got home, torta della nonna was the first thing I wanted to bake. But I held off. I wanted it to be a pure experience – which, for me, meant I wanted to bake it from an authentic Italian ricetta written in authentic Italian. Just about one year later, I made it.

The recipe: Torta della Nonna

The crust: Pastry continues to be my culinary rovina (bête noire). It simply doesn’t like to photo 1work for me. Pate sucree is a particular challenge: I have never successfully rolled it, it’s always a patch job of scraps layered and smoothed into the dish. This waphoto 3s no different. I assembled the bottom crust in pieces and for the top, I rolled it between waxed paper sheets and chilled it for 10 minutes. It worked, but it took work to aphoto 1chieve and it was, in the end, too thick. The crusts I had in Italy were very thin. Mine was about 1/8-inch and a bit like al dente pasta. (The ricetta did not call for blind baking the bottom crust, but next time I will because the pastry gives me such a hard time.)

The crema pasticcera: Friends, I could live on this and it’s something I can make in my sleep. The ricetta asked for farina rather than cphoto 2ornstarch as a thickener; it also called for what, in my opinion, was a huge amount of zucchero. The flavor was terrific (if sweet) with the lovely limona and vaniglia notes. The texture was a bit off, not super smooth like you get with cornstarch. Next time I would dial up the limona and vaniglia, cut the zucchero by a third, and use cornstarch in the crema.

Finish: Super easy, especially if you’re a dab hand with the crust. The downside is that you absolutely have to let the torta cool completely and then photo-4chill a bit before cutting. I could not wait and my portion, while tasty, was not at all pretty.

This ricetta makes a large 10-inch dessert. That’s alotta torta. I’ve got half in the freezer, will report back on how it holds up. With a bit more practice, I think Torta della Nonna will become a spring dinner party staple. Ciao!