Authentic shortcrust pastry with amaretti and jam just like mama made

Kitchen Cabinet: Pastry is even nicer the next day if you can manage to resist

Mrs Cravedi’s shortcrust pastry with amaretti and jam

Mrs Cravedi’s shortcrust pastry with amaretti and jam

 

As a result of the pandemic, I spent the best part of 2021 in Italy at my parent’s house in Lombardy. The months spent in lockdown turned into an incredible food journey that allowed me to reconnect with my home traditions.

I had forgotten what it was like to have your day marked by simple moments: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have your mother ask, “What would you like to eat today?” first thing in the morning, when all you can think about is a cup of hot coffee.

My favourite part of the day was planning dinner and watching mum cook dishes I have eaten all my life. I started recording as many traditional recipes as I could, anything that caught my attention, not just mum’s. I love to observe how a dish evolves from one region, town and household to the next.

In August, my interpreter friend Paolo Maria Noseda spent some time in a heart rehab centre surrounded by wonderful ladies of a certain age, who spent a lifetime cooking. He befriended a lady whose name is Pierina Cravedi. Besides being a fabulous storyteller and a source of historical cooking habits, Pierina contributed to my project by jotting down her recipes as well as those handed down to her by her ancestors.

Mrs Cravedi is your typical Italian mother, a little blonde lady with golden hands, a son who made it to Rome and works in the Parliament, and another, Flavio, who was the mayor of the small town of Bornasco in the province of Pavia, where on July 16th, the day of the Madonna del Carmine, people cook ravioli con il brasato, a dish of ravioli filled with braised beef, traditionally prepared to celebrate the festivities.

Pierina Cravedi sharing recipes with Paolo Maria Noseda
Pierina Cravedi sharing recipes with Paolo Maria Noseda

Her father owned 15 perches of land, and worked another 30 perches as a tenant, which meant two thirds of his crop went to the landowner. When she got married, she moved into a farmhouse with her husband. “A very old house,” she says, “but large and with good land”, that allowed her to rear animals and have good eggs, butter and delicious vegetables. Her eyes were sparkling as she was talking about how her husband was eventually able to purchase more perches and how he used to take her to concerts because “working the land did not mean you forget about culture.”

She told us the secret recipe of her pastafrolla con amaretti (shortcrust pastry with amaretti biscuits) which is always auctioned during the town festival fair and sold for incredible amounts of money. I don’t know if I will ever do it justice, but for sure I will cherish it for a long time to come.

Bertolini dry yeast is an absolute must in any Italian household. We grew up with grandmothers and mothers who swore by it. It is a little blue sachet with a picture of a fruit cake in the front and generally a lovely simple cake recipe at the back. To this day, I put a box in my suitcase when I travel home to Ireland. I am sure you can source it here. Also, I know the few people would have a wooden stove in their kitchen at home these days, but I loved the fact Mrs Cravedi thought somebody might. Happy cooking.

Manuela Spinelli is Secretary General of Euro-Toques Ireland

Mrs Cravedi’s shortcrust pastry with amaretti and jam

(Pastafrolla con amaretti della signora Pierina)

 

Ingredients

For the pastry:
250g 00 flour or a “very very good flour”
150g unsalted butter (plus a little extra for coating the tart tin)
½ sachet of Bertolini dry yeast (or 6g dried yeast)
100g sugar
1 whole egg, plus 1 yolk for the pastry

For the filling:
1 egg white, beaten until stiff
1 jar of homemade jam, or Gran Grans Food jams. I used fig jam I made with my dad’s figs in summer.
100g amaretti biscuits, broken into pieces with your hands
Icing sugar to decorate

Method (as recounted by 80-year-old Pierina on a long Italian summer afternoon. Try picture her, as you read along)

Pierina says:

1 Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2 Bring all the ingredients of the sweet pastry together and mix very well using your hands. Remember to wet your hands in olive oil, the good one. Don’t ever spare pennies on the quality of your olive oil.

3 I never add lemon zest to my pastry because I am using amaretti biscuits and I think either you use one or the other.

4 After mixing the dough very well and patiently, wet your hands in olive oil again and divide it in two parts.

5 Rest the dough in the fridge for an hour.

6 Roll out the pastry nicely in two round shapes big enough to cover your tart tin, not to thin and not too thick. The bottom layer needs to be larger so to cover the sides of the tin.

7 Remember to coat the tart tin in good butter and dust with flour. We did not have oven paper in my time but you can use it if you find it easier.

8 Place a layer of pastry at the bottom of your tart tin. Then cover the pastry with the amaretti biscuits, place them in the middle, leaving a nice space around the edges. Next, spread jam over the biscuits, I use apricot or cherries. You can use what you like, but please make sure to use homemade jam and not too sweet, otherwise you won’t taste the fruit. The jam must cover the biscuits well.

9 Beat your egg white until stiff and cover the amaretti and jam. At this point close the tart with the second layer of pastry. Sprinkle icing sugar all over the sweet pastry.

10 Cook in the oven at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes. If you have a wooden stove, cook the tart after you have baked your bread. If you don’t trust the timing I gave you, use a toothpick to prickle the surface of the tart to check if it’s nice and dry.

11 My advice to you, says Pierina, is to eat the tart the next day; the shortcrust is even nicer and then you can at least look at it for a while, with your mouth watering at the thought of eating it.

Kitchen Cabinet is a series of recipes for Food Month at The Irish Times from chefs who are members of Euro-Toques Ireland, in support of Ireland’s food producers. #ChefsMeetProducers

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.