I was first introduced to pasticciotto when my husband and I were on holiday in Lecce, a beautiful baroque city in southern Italy. Breakfast in Italy usually isn’t a grand affair. Typically, you just take a coffee or cappuccino and and a cornetto; the Italian cousin to the French croissant. However, in Lecce, pasticciotto is the breakfast staple of choice at the local coffee bars and pastry shops. Every morning at the little b&b we were staying at, there was always a plate of these delectable gems of golden brown flaky short crust that envelope a luscious creamy vanilla speckled center. I am a little embarrassed to say how many I was able to inhale. It is good thing we don’t live in Lecce or I would probably have to do an intervention on myself.
The traditional version uses a vanilla pastry cream, but you can also find it with chocolate pastry cream, pistachio pastry cream…and the list goes on. In several of the pastry shops in Lecce they advertise the “Obama” pasticciotto…an all chocolate pasticciotto; chocolate crust filled with a chocolate pastry cream…no joke!
The history of pasticciotti dates bake to 1745, to Andrea Ascalone. He and his family had a local pastry shop in the town of Galatina near Lecce. One day, he noticed that he had pastry dough and pastry cream left over from a cake he had made. Not having enough to make another large cake and not wanting to waste the ingredients, he took a small copper pot and created a smaller cake. He asked one of his customers to try it. The customer liked it so much he asked Andrea to make some more to take home to his family. Andrea, who had not planned to make more, realized he might a new product on his hand. Since it really came about by accident, Andrea decided to call his new creation a pasticcio or “mishap.” Thus was born the pasticciotto.
What can be more delicious than flaky, buttery short crust filled with a luxuriously rich vanilla pastry cream. I initially though that making pasticciotto would be difficult and I was, frankly, a little intimidated to try to make them. I finally decided to bite the bullet and what do you know…they really are not that difficult to make. However, I am not sure that this is a good thing or not since I now don’t have to travel to Lecce to indulge in these delightful pastries.
You don’t always need complicated recipes with copious amounts of ingredients to have sublime results. In fact, you probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge to make the traditional pasticciotto since all you really need are flour, sugar, butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla.
If you don’t have individual oval pastry tins, you can certainly use a muffin tin; just make sure you grease and flour it well. It is also important to fill your tins to the top with the cream. This will ensure that there are no hollow spaces between the filling and the crust.
Once filled, add another layer of your rolled short crust dough and pop them in the oven. When you take them out of the oven, leave them in the tins for about ten minutes before turning them and letting them cool on a wire rack. They are great warm, but I also like them after they have been in the fridge and the pastry cream is chilled.
Pasticciotto are not just great for breakfast, but would make a great addition to a brunch, or dessert after dinner. Even better, you can make them a day ahead…either in their entirety or just the pastry and cream and assemble and bake them the next day. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Buon appetito!
- 500 grams (3 ¾ cups) all purpose flour (00)
- 2 teaspoons (5 grams) baking powder
- 250 grams (1 cup plus 2 T) butter (or lard) softened
- 250 grams (1 ¼ cups) granulated sugar
- a pinch (¼ teaspoon) salt
- 1 liter (4 cups) whole milk
- 8 egg yolks
- 300 gram (2 cups) granulated sugar
- 90 grams (3/4 cup) all purpose flour
- 1 vanilla stick
- a pinch (1/4 teaspoon) salt
- In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add to the mixture the softened butter and combine until it has a crumbly consistency.
- Turn the dough mixture onto your counter press the mixture together until it forms a dough. The dough will be relatively dry. This is okay.
- Divide the dough into two parts and form to discs, wrap in platic and refrigerate for a minimum 30 minutes to 1 hour (or overnight if you prefer.
- In a heavy bottom pan such as ceramic lined dutch oven or a heavy bottom stainless steel, place the milk in it. Cut the vanilla stick in half and with the back of a knife scrape the vanilla seeds from each side and put in the milk along with the pod. Begin heating the milk over a low-medium flame and whisking occaisionally. Heat until hot, but not scalding
- Meanwhile, in a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, add the sugar, flour and salt and whisk until blended.
- Add the egg yolks and mix until the mixture is pale yellow in color and has a smooth, ribbon like texture and has slightly increased in volume. Make sure you scrape down the sides a couple times while mixing.
- Making sure the milk is hot, but not scalding, take it off the heat and add the egg mixture and whisk until it is well combined with the milk. By taking the milk off the flame, this will ensure that you don’t cook the egg.
- Once combined well, put the mixture back over medium heat and whisk constantly until you have a loose pudding like consistency. This will take a few minutes. Once you have reached the desired consistency, remove from the heat immediately.
- Cover the pastry cream and refrigerate until well chilled; about 1 hour or overnight.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about a ¼ (4 mm) thickness. Line the greased and floured molds with the dough. With your fingertips, press the dough into the mold so that the dough sits against the bottom of the mold and goes all the way up the sides.
- Fill the crust lined molds with the pastry cream. The cream should reach the top of the mold.
- Top the filled molds with another layer of pastry dough that is a little larger than the mold. Using your fingers, press around the top edge of the mold to make a cut in the dough. Along the edges of the mold, press down with your fingers to seal the pastry.
- Brush the tops of each with egg wash and bake at 375 F for approximately 15 minutes. The tops should be golden brown.
- Allow to cool on wire racks for about 10 minutes before turning the pasticciotto out of the moods and let them cool a while longer before serving.