This month's What's Baking? challenge was to bake your happy place. Bake something that reminded you of a happy time. That didn't take too much thinking on my part! Sitting down with my whole family to a big pasta dinner is awesome in and of itself, but when it's followed up by a tray of Italian pastries, then it's REALLY my happy place! So, I decided to make one of my absolute favorite Italian pastries--pasticiotti. Pasticiotti are little tarts that have a sweet, almost sugar cookie-like crust and are filled with either vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, or ricotta filling. The ricotta is my favorite, so that's what I made here. My dad likes the vanilla pudding. It's all up to your taste! I customized the recipe a bit to suit my tastes (of course), but I haven't strayed too far from the original, and I've kept pretty traditional Italian flavors. These were not difficult to make, and they really weren't very time-consuming, either! The pudding fillings would take a bit longer to make, so be sure to factor that into your plans! I was really happy with the way these turned out. The one thing I would say is to make sure that you seal them well--I had the tops start to lift off on a few of them! But, so long as the South has a tragic lack of Italian pastry shops, these will help keep my cravings at bay in between trips to the North to get my fix!
Pasticiotti (adapted from Diana's Desserts)
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 large egg, well beaten
- 2 lbs ricotta (low fat works fine)
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sift or whisk together the first 4 ingredients (flour through salt). Cut the butter into the flour using two knives, a pastry cutter, a food processor, or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Mix together the milk, almond extract, and egg until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and stir to combine. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Stir together the ricotta, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Told you it was easy!
Separate the dough in half. Roll half of it out to about 1/4" thick. Use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds out. Fit them into the bottom and up the sides of your tart pans (muffin tins would work in a pinch, too!). Fill the tart shells most of the way with filling. Roll out the remaining dough, and cut rounds for the tops of the tart shells. Make sure you seal them well! An egg wash might help here. The original recipe also recommends an egg wash on the tops, which I did not do, and I should have--they were not nicely browned.
Bake pastries at 425* F for 12-15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. This makes about 1 dozen 3-inch pasticiotti.