I know what you are thinking, because I have great powers that include reading people’s minds, but yes: pizza crema e amarene is the actual name for this superduper tart. The pastry is soft and the custard combined with the conserve is to die for.
I have fond memories of pizza crema e amarene as my mamma Mariolina would make it whenever my schoolfriends came over for lunch and homework. I decided to give it a go myself when a couple of friends come over for Sunday lunch last year.
The theme as usual was Neapolitan, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to make this great pudding. It is easy to make – well, depending on how familiar you are with making pastry and custards – but if you give this recipe a chance, I am confident it will become a regular for your afternoon teas or Sunday lunches!
Last week some friends came over for lunch. It was a special occasion because we were doing some filming for Coochinando.
My colleague Ben, a very talented and clearly generous film-maker, had offered to help, so I had a wonderful day doing two of the things I most love doing: cooking for those who are close to me and eating great food around a table with some of my best friends.
There is something exceptionally amazing in making great food for your favourite people. My heart burst with happiness when everyone polished off the last crumbs of pizza crema e amarena. It really went down well. 😀
During the filming Ben asked me how people feel when they leave our place after having had lunch or supper with us. I thought for a few seconds before replying: “When our friends leave, they feel happy, looked after and they have a full belly!” 🙂
The next day I showed some pictures (which I also shared on Facebook) to my mum, and she was moved to see how beautifully the pizza had come out. She said something that meant the moon to me: “Your granny would be proud.”. Carrying on my family’s cooking legacy is and will always be very important to me. There is so much tradition and history in every family dish, and I am always very proud to make food my grannies used to make in their kitchens over a hundred years ago.
For the pastry
- 350g plain flour
- 175g unsalted butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 5 yolks from medium-sized eggs
- 1 lemon rind (optional)
For the crema pasticcera
- 500ml milk
- 150g sugar
- 3 yolks (from medium-sized eggs)
- 45g plain flour, sifted
- Peeled skin of half a lemon
- Half a vanilla pod or a teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 200g Morello cherry conserve
- High-quality black cherries in syrup (highly recommended: Fabbri)
- Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Sift the flour. Chop the butter into cubes.
Mix the flour and the butter in a mixer until the mixture looks like damp breadcrumbs.
Pour the content into a large bowl and create a well.
In the middle add the sugar and the 4 yolks, and (optionally) the lemon rind.
Start mixing the sugar and yolks first with your hands.
Slowly incorporate the damp breadcrumbs.
Knead rapidly the mixture to bring everything together into a smooth dough.
Wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To prepare the crema pasticcera
If you are using the vanilla pod instead of vanilla essence, cut the pod along its length and scrap the seeds out with the knife (see image, below centre).
Into a medium-sized saucepan pour the milk, add the vanilla seeds and the lemon peel, and cook gently on low heat until the milk is hot but not yet simmering. Take off the hob, take the lemon out and set aside.
In another saucepan add the sugar and the egg yolks. Mix them well with a whisk until they are compact and smooth.
Add the flour gradually and incorporate it into the the sugar and egg mixture until it is all well blended. Pour the milk in and stir well with a whisk until the egg, flour and sugar mix is incorporated well with the milk (below, bottom left). Add the vanilla extract if you opted for it instead of the pod.
Move the pan to the hob and cook gently on a low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon, until it reaches a simmer and thickens into a custard. Take away from the hob, transfer to a glass jug and let cool down.
Making the pizza
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
Take the pastry out of the fridge. Place oven paper on a large surface, sprinkle some flour on it and roll out the pastry to way bigger than the flan tin you are going to use.
We are using the paper to help transfer the pastry into the flan tin more easily than by rolling it onto your rolling pin (this is what I call cheating).
Transfer the pastry to a 23cm flan tin and, with the oven paper still on top, gently push the pastry against the walls of the tin, making sure it adheres properly.
Slowly peel the paper off. There should be a fair amount of pastry left over the edges.
Cut the extra pastry off with a knife and set aside.
Pour the custard in the tin and spread it evenly with a tablespoon. Add the conserve and mix it with the custard using a tablespoon.
Gather the pastry trimmings and join them together to form another pastry ball. On a surface sprinkled with flour, lay the pastry out again (4mm deep) and cut 6 strips, each 1.5cm wide.
Place 3 strips horizontally and 3 vertically on top of the pizza, overlapping (as below).
In each gap add a cherry.
Bake in the oven for at least 40 minutes, or until the surface is pale gold and the top has lost its soft consistency.
Take out of the oven and let cool for at least a couple of hours. Pizza crema e amarene is best enjoyed at room temperature… but when it’s ready to be eaten, it will disappear instantly!