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Pasticciotto, a delight from Salento A typical treat from Lecce and its surrounding areas, made with a sweet crust and pastry cream.
You can find exquisite ones in all the famous pastry shops, but making them at home is not very difficult.
They are best eaten fresh out of the oven
by Dario Ersetti
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Pasticciotti. With genuine ingredients, like fresh milk and eggs, sugar and lemon rind, you prepare the
cream to fill them. Photo by Dario Ersetti

       It is curious that an exquisite treat that is easy to make has remained the property of a single geographic region: Salento.

      Nobody knows from where it came, but the most credible hypothesis is that it is the child of a double crust cream pie, that itself was related to a sweet ricotta cake, both born in the beginning of the 1700s in local pastry shops in Salento. In practice, it is a single serving cake with a crust. The city of Lecce has named the pasticciotto as the typical Lecce cake, and it is listed on the national food product list of traditional foods by the Ministry of Political Agricultural Foods and Forestry (according to Art. 8, in the legislative decree of April 30th 1998, n. 173).

      There are places you must not miss if you want to taste great pasticciotti and compare them. The first pasticciotto bakery that comes to mind is named Ascalone, in Galatina, about twenty kilometers from Lecce. Wikipedia and other experts claim Ascalone as the inventor of the pasticciotto, and some also fix the date at 1745. Then in Martano, also near Lecce, there is the Ficile pastry shop, that changed owners a few years ago on condition that the original pasticciotto recipe was included in the deal. For the people of Lecce, the pasticciotto reference points are Natale Patisserie, the CinCin Bar, and Alvinos Bar, all located in St. Oronzo Square (because they use the original shortening crust). Other traditional bakeries that make great pasticciotti in other parts of Lecce are Franchini, Capilungo, Citiso, and Carmelino. Nobile, in San Cataldo (Lecce) is also famous for its pasticciotti which are baked fresh daily, more than once a day, and immediately sold out.

      An original marketing ploy by pastry chef Angelo Bisconti from the Chèri pastry shop in Campi Salentina, is a pasticciotto dedicated to President Obama of the United States. It is a pasticciotto made with a chocolate crust and has chocolate cream, certainly not as an offense but as a tribute to an exquisite President.

Recipe

Makes about 10 pasticiotti:

 

For the PASTRY DOUGH:

 

- 250 g of all-purpose flour

- 125 g of butter or shortening

- 125 g of sugar

- 2 egg yolks

- 1 teaspoon of baking powder

- a pinch of salt

 

For the PASTRY CREAM:

 

- 1/2 liter of milk

- 125 g of sugar

- 4 egg yolks

- 50 g of all-purpose flour

- 1/2 of a vanilla bean stick or a little lemon zest

 

      To prepare the crust, cut the butter into small pieces with two knives and leave it to soften. Shift the flour into a pile on a cutting board and mix it with salt, baking powder, and sugar. Put the butter into the center of the pile and using your fingers, mix with flour mixture until butter has been absorbed. Add egg yolks to mixture and mix thoroughly, then quickly round mixture into a ball. The result should be homogeneous, but not flakey. Cover with plastic film and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least a half an hour, or until you are ready to use it.
     While the dough is chilling, prepare the cream. In a pan, bring the milk to boil with vanilla bean or lemon zest. Remove from heat and let mixture cool for a few minutes. Then remove vanilla bean. Mix flour and sugar in a bowl and add egg yolks. Mix well with a wire whisk then add in a little of the hot milk mixture. Slowly add the egg mixture to the pan with the milk mixture, a little at a time, stirring constantly with wire whisk, or it will stick to the bottom of the pan. Boil on low heat until cream is thick.
     Roll the chilled dough out with a rolling pin till it is three or four mm. thick, and cut to shape with pastry cutter form. Place bottom pieces into individual oval shaped molds, making sure the crust stretches up to the top of the sides. Fill with pastry cream and cover with top crust, pinching the crust edges together. Brush top with beaten egg yolk and cook at 200° c for about a half an hour. Best eaten hot, fresh out of the oven.

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