Thursday, April 12, 2012

Italian Easter Pie- a middle road option.

Life asks us to make choices many times. Do I wake up  early or get that extra 15 minutes of sleep ? Do I choose college or work ? Do I bake or fry ? Choices even apply to desserts- do I make pie, cake or pudding. It seems to me that there should be a middle road between all choices, and it was confirmed when I discovered this recipe.
Pasqua torta di riso-Italian Easter Rice Pie ! At first glance , it looks like a gigantic pot pie or something  ( and note- anything involving pastry crust is lucky to survive my attempts to bake it ). Unlike some of the other women in my family and heritage, I cannot make pie. My husband seems to think I can, but he is a pie junkie and applauds anything in a crust. Good thing, and for this reason I continue to attempt pastry. While this pie has about 9,000 things wrong with the crust after I followed the recipe ( and sharing a picture of a pie crust I made takes a lot more nerve for me than showing up naked for something), the interior is an entirely different story. Note- in re- reading the recipe I discovered that it called for only one layer of crust and not two like I made. Live and learn !
It is a cross between a cheesecake and a rice pudding that is just sweet enough to be satisfying without making you feel you have experienced a sugar overload. It is traditionally served at Easter, somewhat fiddly to make but absolutely worth the effort !
Pasqua torta di riso
(Italian Easter Rice Pie)Makes (one) 10.5-inch pie
Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ stick unsalted butter (chilled)
1 extra large egg or 2 small eggs
1-2 tablespoons ice water, or as much as needed
Filling:
1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice ( not long grain)
4 cups water or whole milk
7 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract (or the zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound ricotta cheese (drained)

For the crust, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a bowl; add chunks of chilled butter, and using a pastry blender or two forks, chop the butter until it resembles little pebbles. At this point, add the eggs and ice water, and stir with a spoon until the dough begins to form. Using your hands and working the dough as little as you can, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough holds together. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic, and chill while preparing the filling. (Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before continuing.)

To make the filling, place the rice and water in medium heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is sticky. The rice should still be firm as it will finish cooking in the oven. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl and using a hand-mixer, beat until well combined. Add lemon extract and vanilla extract, and beat on low for about 10 seconds. Add the drained ricotta and beat on low for a few seconds until just combined. Add cooked rice and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined, making sure there are no clumps of rice. Place in the refrigerator.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Coat the 10.5-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11- inch circle. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plate, gently pressing it into the bottom and sides. No fluted crust is necessary since, like a tart, the crust is flush with the filling. At this point, set the crust in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to get it really chilled, which will make for a flakier crust.

Remove the chilled crust from the freezer and pour the filling to about 1/4 of an inch below the top of the crust, as it will puff up slightly when baking. Note: If you have some extra filling left over, then you can pour it into a small baking dish or ramekins for a crustless version, and follow the same baking instructions.

Bake for 1 hour or until the filling puffs up, turns golden, and is “set,” meaning it should not be jiggly when you gently move the pie plate from side-to-side. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled

Leftover rice pie can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.



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