Pastiera Napoletana {Neapolitan Easter Pie}

by cakeduchess on April 11, 2012 · 18 comments

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I couldn’t imagine celebrating Easter without baking something typical and wonderful from Italy. I would rather be in Italy eating something typical and wonderful. And this Pastiera Napoletana is something special that shouldn’t be enjoyed just for Easter.

Pastiera Napoletana is a traditional Easter dessert made in Naples and throughout the region of Campania. Some families may bake even up to 6 of these to share with family or friends that come over to visit on Easter weekend. Six! It is so delicious that I could understand why they would bake that many. They even take these on their picnics they have on Pasquetta (Easter Monday).
You may have heard Pastiera Napoletana called Pizza di Grano (grain pie), as that is how Italian Americans also call it.

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It is a tart filled with wheat berries, ricotta and is scented with orange flour water. I know that some bakers do add crema pasticciera (pastry cream) and this is the way I chose to make my pastiera. 
Giorgio Locatelli says of the tart … 
‘The combination of ingredients may seem strange but they are associated with ancient Roman celebrations of the rite of spring; flowers, eggs for new life, ricotta from the ewes, wheat and flour from the land…One of the many legends associated with the dish involves the siren Partenope…she lived in the Gulf of Naples and to celebrate the arrival of spring she would come and sing to the inhabitants. 
One year, to say thank you for her songs, they offered her local gifts – ricotta, flour, eggs, wheat, perfumed orange flowers and spices. She was so delighted she took them to her kingdom under the sea where the Gods mixed them together into a cake.’ 
Every ingredient in the pastiera recipe is symbolic. I know you may be shaking your head wondering, “cooked grains in my pie?”. Trust me…it is wonderful. If you are going to make this, don’t cut out this part of
the recipe.
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It is suggested that you use white wheat berries that you can find in a health food store as they cook up pretty fast. I found at Whole Foods Market the red winter whole grain wheat berries from Nature’s Earthly Choice. It took probably about 20 minutes to cook up. You do want the berries to still have a chewy texture. If they are mushy, it is not the same. I know the unhulled darker berries take a very long time to cook up. You could also substitute with the wheat berries with cooked barley or short-grained rice. Pearl barley would be the closest substitute to the wheat berries as it ends up looking very similar to the wheat berries when cooked up.

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A sweet buttery tart filled with a creamy filling that is not overly sweet. The pastry cream and ricotta together makes it almost like a cheesecake but not quite I know that the first time I made a pastiera I thought the kids would not like it. How would they feel about whole cooked grains in a tart? They loved it. It just works mixed with the candied citrus, cinnamon, and vanilla. The delicate orange blossom water is dreamy with the sweet ricotta/pastry cream filling. The filling sounds heavy but it is actually quite delicate…more delicate than a cheesecake. Here is the thing…make this in steps if you can. I made the dough and the filling the night before. You could even make it a few days before. 

Pastiera Napoletana {Neapolitan Easter Pie}

For the pastry cream: 

filling source: Nick Malgieri The Modern Baker
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk

Filling:
wheat berries:

1/2 cup hulled white wheat berries
6 cups cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt

pastry cream:

1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk

Filling:

pastry cream
1 cup (about 8 ounces) whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon orange flower water
1/3 cup candied orange peel cut into 1/4-inch diced
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
wheat berries

Wheat berries:
Combine the wheat berries with about 2 quarts cold water and the salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then decrease the heat to low and allow the wheat to simmer gently until it is cooked though, about an hour.  
Drain and cool the wheat in a bowl.

For the pasta frolla (sweet pastry dough):
300 grams (10.54 ounces)pastry flour
200 grams (7.025 ounces) unsalted butter
100 grams (3.512 ounces) sugar
1 whole egg and 1 yolk ( 60 grams eggs)

dough directions:

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and sugar and process a few times to mix together. Next add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture looks like wet sand. Add the egg and yolk and process a few seconds more until the dough forms (this should be about 5-7 more pulses). Be sure to not overprocess the dough.

Dump the dough from the food processor bowl onto a lightly floured counter. Form the dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.

When dough is nicely chilled, remove from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap into a 13-inch round about 1/8 thick.

Spray an 11-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom with baking spray. Gently wrap the dough over the rolling pin and place it over the tart pan; release the rolling pin and let the dough fall into the tart pan. Press the dough softly into the bottom of the tart pan. If some of the dough breaks while you press it into the tart pan, that’s not a problem.

Simply piece the dough together. Press the sides of the dough about 1/2 inch up the side of the tart pan. The rim of the tart should be lined with a slightly thicker layer of pastry than the bottom  (about 1/4-inch thick). Cut off the extra dough from the sides and keep these excess pieces to make the lattice topping. Place this tart pan in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes (or even longer if necessary) to chill. (while dough chills in tart pan, make the filling).

When the dough is chilled and ready to fill, remove the tart pan from the refrigerator and prick the pastry bottom with a fork a few times.

Set a rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

For the pastry cream:

Whisk the egg and yolk together in a bowl and whisk in the sugar and flour. Whisk in the milk and scrape the mixture into a small saucepan. Place over medium/low heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for a few seconds after the cream reaches the boil.
Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl. Immediately whisk in the ricotta until smooth. Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs one at a time. Stir in the orange flower water, candied orange peel, vanilla, cinnamon and the wheat.

(we made the filling/dough the night before. My little baker boy couldn’t resist helping me.)

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Scrape the filling into the prepare crust.

Remove the other portion of chilled dough from the refrigerator to make the lattice strips.  Use a serrated cutting wheel to cut it into 3/4-inch wide strips. Arrange 5 of the strips parallel and equidistant from each other on the filling, letting the excess dough hang over the edge of the pie. Place the 5 remaining strips on exactly the same way, but at a 45-degree angle to the first ones.

Gently press the ends of the strips to adhere to the edge of the bottom crust. Carefully remove any excesses pieces of dough with your fingers or with the back of a knife.
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Bake the pastiera until the filling is set and slightly puffed and the crust is baked through, about 40 minutes.
Cool on a rack.

Storage: Keep the pastiera at a cool room temperature on the day it is baked. Wrap and refrigerate leftovers. Bring to room temperature before serving again.

Hope you had a FANTASTIC holiday weekend. Thank you for your comments and support:)

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

A Thought For Food April 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm

This is such a lovely pie! In fact, I have some wheat berries in my cabinet that have just been chilling there. I think I may have found the perfect recipe for them!

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Shulie April 11, 2012 at 5:48 pm

You know I love all your creations but you just killed me now with this one. Pastry cream and wheat berries?! I would commit a felony for this one! You can’t even imgaine, well maybe you can, cause’ you now know my voice intonation and all how crazed I am about pastry cream and especially those berries though I never had them in a dessert form, but I can totally c it!

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Kiri W. April 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

I’ve seen this on a few blogs now, and it looks fantastic. Next Easter, I’ll give this a try :) Lovely photos!

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Rachel @ Baked by Rachel April 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Love the rustic lattice top. I’m always scared to attempt that pattern! Cute kitchen helper you’ve got :)

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Lizzy April 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I’d love this…so unlike anything I’ve ever eaten, yet tempting with wheatberry/pastry cream filling! I look forward to seeing what you bake for the holidays, Lora…always an amazing dish!

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Paula April 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm

This is the second post I’ve read this week that has wheat berries in the recipe. I’m only just hearing of wheat berries because of you and Brenda at A Farm Girl’s Dabbles. She made a gorgeous salad and you and your little baker boy made a beautiful Easter Pie! Thanks for sharing.

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Jen @ The Scrumptious Pumpkin April 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Love how you used the wheat berries in this – yum!

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Lemons and Anchovies April 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm

So many delicious layers in this pie from the pastry crust to the berries to the pastry cream. I’ve never made anything like this but I can understand why it would be so popular–and you’re right, not just for Easter. :)

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LV April 13, 2012 at 2:51 am

This looks amazing!

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Monet April 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

You are always introducing me to the most unique (and beautiful) Italian desserts. I can’t wait to try this. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, my friend. You deserve days of laughter, eating, and friendship!

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Aggie April 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm

This is so beautiful!! We haven’t had an Easter pie in so many years. It kind of makes me sad. I think I’m the one who will probably need to start making them for the family. Your plates remind me of my zia. :)

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Karriann April 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Your Neapolitan Easter Pie looks beautiful! Can I have some? ;)

“Happy Cooking”

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Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels April 17, 2012 at 2:00 am

I want to eat the entire dessert, seriously. It looks ammmmazzzing. :)

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Lisa April 18, 2012 at 3:47 pm

I thought I had commented on this already for some reason. Probably because I was thinking about it so much! I could eat pastry cream like pudding, and to add wheat berries to it is unique and a bit of ‘healthy’ within each bite. Plus, it’s beautiful, like all of your creations!

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essay October 14, 2012 at 6:25 am

Your all recipes on this blog are really awesome to make just as this one…your Easter pie came out really well when I prepared it last week at a casual dinner of my family…awesome recipes!!

Reply

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