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Pastiera Napoletana

(Neapolitan Easter Cake)

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  Rating:        
Category: Holidays - Easter, Desserts
Servings: 8 - 12
Total time: 3 hrs + overnight to drain the ricotta
Level: Intermediate
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An authentic Italian recipe from our kitchen to yours. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients for the Shell

- 1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cubed

- 2 1/4 cups flour

- 2 medium eggs

- 2/3 cup sugar

Ingredients for the Filling

- 1 1/4 cups cooked wheat berries or cooked pearled barley

- 1 cup milk

- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

- 1/8 teaspoon salt

- 1 teaspoon lemon zest

- 1/4 teaspoon orange zest

- 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese

- 1 2/3 cups sugar

- 3 eggs + 1 egg

- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water

- 1 teaspoon vanilla

- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

- 1/3 cup mixed candied citron and orange peel, diced

- Powdered sugar

Directions

1. The night before preparing the cake, the ricotta must be drained. Place a fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl. Measure out the ricotta into the strainer. Cover the strainer and mixing bowl with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator. Leave them overnight to allow any excess liquid to drain from the ricotta.

2.  The next day, when you are ready to prepare the cake, first prepare the dough for the shell by adding the flour, sugar and cold, cubed butter to a mixing bowl or food processor. If using a food processor, pulse the ingredients a few times until the butter is evenly distributed in small granules throughout the flour and sugar. The mix should have a sandy consistency. If mixing by hand, use your hands to break up the butter into the flour and sugar until it is evenly distributed in small pea size pieces throughout the flour and sugar.

3.  Pour the mixture from the food processor into a mixing bowl and add the eggs. If mixing by hand, add the eggs to the flour, butter and sugar mixture. Using your hands, work quickly to combine all of the ingredients together into a smooth dough. Once the dough is formed, shape it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour.

 

 

 

4.  While the dough is resting, prepare the filling for the cake. First, remove the drained ricotta from the refrigerator and set it aside.

5.  In a pan, over medium heat, add the cooked wheat berries, butter, salt and the milk. Stir all of the ingredients together until combined well. Add the lemon and orange zest to the mixture and stir once again. Continue stirring and cooking the mixture until it becomes the consistency of custard, about 20 to 30 minutes. Pay careful attention not to bring the milk to a boil.

6.  When the mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and set the pan aside so the mixture will cool.

7.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

8.  In a mixing bowl, add the 3 eggs and the sugar. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth.

9.  Add the strained ricotta to the eggs and sugar (discard the liquid drained from the ricotta) and whisk again until the mixture is velvety and well combined.

10.  To that mix, add the wheat berry mixture as well as the cinnamon, vanilla and orange blossom water. Whisk one final time until all of the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated resulting in a smooth cream.

11.  Finally, using a spatula, fold into the mixture the diced candied citron and orange peel pieces. Continue folding until the citrus is evenly distributed throughout the filling mixture.

12.  Set the filling aside and remove the dough for the shell from the refrigerator.

13.  Flour a work surface and roll out 2/3 of the dough into a large, round sheet, a little more than 1/8 inch thick. Roll the dough out large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round springform pan.

14.  If your springform pan is not nonstick, either line it with parchment paper, spray it with nonstick cooking spray or butter and flour the pan to prevent the cake from sticking.

15.  Take your sheet of dough and place it into the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan so that it is evenly distributed.

16.  Using a knife, cut off the excess dough and set it aside with the other piece of dough.

17.  Using a fork, prick holes throughout the dough lining the bottom of the pan.

18.  Gently pour the ricotta and wheat berry filling into the pan.

19.  Roll out the remaining dough on a floured surface to a sheet about 1/8 inch thick. Cut the dough into strips 9 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide.

20.  Lay the strips of dough over the cake in a diagonal lattice design. Cut off any excess dough and discard.

21.  Crack the remaining egg into a bowl and whisk it thoroughly. Using a pastry brush, carefully brush each strip of the lattice on the cake with the egg wash.

22.  Place the cake on the center rack in the oven and bake for 60 minutes.

23.  After 60 minutes, if the cake has become very brown on top, cover it with foil and bake another 20 to 30 minutes. If the cake has not browned, continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes. If, at any point, the cake does begin to turn too brown on top, cover it with foil until it is finished baking.

24.  Once the cake has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool at least 3 hours prior to serving. This cake is best after resting overnight in the refrigerator and served the next day at room temperature. Serve with powdered sugar dusted over the top of the cake.