Neapolitan Easter Pie

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Preparation info

  • Makes one 9 inch 23 cm ) pie,

    8 to 10

    servings
    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

The Modern Baker

The Modern Baker

By Nick Malgieri

Published 2008

  • About

The official Italian name of this pie is Pastiera Napoletana, though many Italian Americans also refer to it as Pizza di Grano, or grain pie. It’s a sweet crust filled with ricotta, pastry cream, and cooked wheat berries, and scented with orange flower water. If you live near an Italian grocery store, they will always have wheat berries around Easter—you just need to ask for wheat or grain. Or you can buy it in a health food store. Take care when you purchase the wheat: The wheat berries you need to buy are white, not brown or red. White wheat berries cook relatively quickly, whereas the unhulled darker ones take forever to cook. If no wheat berries are available, substitute an equal amount of long-grain rice or pearl barley, either of which work equally well.

Ingredients

Wheat Berries

  • ½ cup hulled white wheat berries
  • quarts (6 cups) cold water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Pastry Cream

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk

Filling

  • Pastry Cream
  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces/225 grams) whole-milk ricotta
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon orange flower water
  • cup candied orange peel, cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) dice
  • Wheat Berries
  • 1 double batch Sweet Tart Dough, half lining a 9-inch (23-cm) pie pan, unbaked, the other half rolled into a 9-inch (23-cm) square and chilled
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Method

  1. Early in the day you intend to bake the pie, combine the wheat berries with the cold water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and allow the wheat to simmer gently until it is tender and cooked through, about 1 hour. Drain the cooked wheat berries and transfer them to a bowl to cool.
  2. Set a rack on the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
  3. For the pastry cream, whisk the egg and egg yolk in a bowl and whisk in the sugar and flour. Whisk in the milk and scrape the mixture into a small saucepan. Place over low heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a gentle boil. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for a few seconds after the cream reaches the boil.
  4. Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl. Immediately whisk in the ricotta until smooth. Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs one at a time. Stir in the orange flower water, candied orange peel, and the wheat.
  5. Scrape the filling into the prepared crust and sprinkle some cinnamon over the filling. Paint the edge of the crust with water.
  6. Remove the chilled square of dough from the refrigerator and use a serrated cutting wheel to cut it into ¾-inch (2-cm) wide strips. Arrange 5 of the strips parallel to and equidistant from one another on the filling, letting the excess dough hang over the edge of the pie. Arrange the 5 remaining strips in exactly the same manner, but at a 45-degree angle to the first ones.
  7. Gently press the ends of the strips to adhere to the edge of the bottom crust, then use a bench scraper or the back of a knife to cut off the excess dough at the rim of the pan.
  8. Bake the pie until the filling is set and slightly puffed and the crust is baked through, about 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Serving

Serve wedges of the pie; it needs no accompaniment.

Storage

Keep the pastiera at a cool room temperature on the day it is baked. Wrap and refrigerate leftovers, then bring to room temperature before serving again.