The Neapolitan Easter Cake, the Pastiera has ancient origins. It celebrates spring time! The legend says the cake was made for the sea nymph Partenope that lived in the gulf of Naples. Every year during spring time she appeared to greet the people with love songs.
To thank the sea nymph, seven beautiful girls from Naples gave her seven gift, the ingredients of the Pastiera.
- flour, symbol of strength and wealthiness
- ricotta, symbol of abundance, a gift from shepherds and sheep
- eggs, symbol of life
- wheat berry cooked in milk, symbol of the combination between animals and vegetables, the two reins of Mother Nature
- orange blossom water, symbol of the Neapolitan soil
- spices, homage to all the people around the world
- sugar, to celebrate the sea nymph sweetness
Partenope loved the ingredients so much she created the Neapolitan Easter Cake the Pastiera!
In reality, it would be the nuns that got the first recipe of Pastiera, mixing together the ingredients symbol of the Resurrection.
The neapolitan pastiera cake recipe
On the original recipe there is always an open discussion, and every family has its own suggestions.
Every family thinks her recipe is the traditional one, to pass down from one generation to the next.
The traditional recipe calls for a shortcrust pastry made out of flour, eggs, lard (or butter), and sugar.
The filling calls for milk, sugar, sheep ricotta cheese, wheat berry, butter, candied fruit (oranges), eggs, vanilla, lemon and orange zest, orange blossom water, and cinnamon.
- Shortcrust pastry dough:
- 6 cups (750 g) whole purpose flour
- 3 sticks (300 g) butter at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups (225 g) granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 lbs (700 g) sheep ricotta cheese (drained for 12 hours)
- 1 1/4 lbs (560 g) precooked wheat berry
- 3 1/2 cups (700 g) granulated sugar
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- 1 cup (150 g) candied citrus
- 1 1/4 cups (300 g) whole milk
- 1/2 stick (50 g) butter
- 4 eggs
- 3 yolks
- 1 Tbsp orange blossom water
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- 1 lemon zest
Shortcrust pastry dough
In a mixer blow mix all the ingredients: add the gags one at the time.
Once the dough smooths make a ball and wrap it with cling wrap and let it rest in the fridge (overnight would be the best).
Drain the ricotta cheese REALLY WELL and then put it in a tapper ware with the sugar and cover.
In a pan add the precooked wheat berry, the milk, the butter and the lemon and orange peels. Boil it and let it cook for 29 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool down. The texture should be like a purée.
Take off the lemon and orange peels, blend the wheat berry (alla of it or half of it to taste) - we blended almost 40% of it)
Add the ricotta cheese, the eggs and yolks, the sugar and the candied citrus until it smooths
When the wheat berry filling is cold, mix it with the ricotta filling and let it rest.
Roll the shortcrust pastry to 4 mm thick and cover the baking pan with it. Poke the bottom with a fork.
Add the filling to 1/4 inch from the edge of the baking pan. While baking the pastry dough will blow and then deflate while cooling down
Make 7 strips with the shortcrust pastry dough and make the diamond shapes on top of the cake
Preheat the over to 340 F and bake the cake for 70 minutes until it slightly browns.
Turn off the oven and let the cake inside with the oven door open for 30 minutes (the cake will deflate)
Dust with powdered sugar.
The taste is better after 3 days from the baking
Nobody told you that…
The shortcrust: prepare it the day before and let it rest in the fridge overnight. It’s not the classic shortcrust recipe: it should be resistant, not too much crumbly, otherwise it blows during the baking and it breaks when you cut it.
The shortcrust stripes for decoration are important as well. Also, make the border strictly tight otherwise the filling will blow as well.
Butter or lard: the traditional recipe calls for lard, both in the dough and for the wheat berry. Alternatively, the butter is a perfect substitute.
The wheat berry: is the main ingredient. The precooked wheat berry is the most common. If you want to try the original recipe, let the wheat berry soak in water for 3 days (change the water 3 times per day). After that, boil the wheat berry in water for 90 minutes.
Should you blend the wheat berry? Every family has its own opinion. In our experience, blending 30-50% of the wheat berry gives the cake a creamy texture.
The sheep ricotta: do not forget to let it drain very well, with a strainer or a gauze.
Candied fruit: do not forget to add the candied fruit. They give the Pastiera flavor and softness.
Spices: the Pastiera typical flavor is the one from orange blossom water, but also some hint of cinnamon and lemon and orange zest.
Baking and preserving the Pastiera
The typical baking round pan, “ruoto”: it is an aluminum round baking pan with flat sides. From Naples they say that if you don’t have it, the cake will never taste good!
The baking: the Pastiera calls for a wood fire oven. The tradition says the entire family was bringing the cake to the town bakery, and every cake had a different sign to be recognized after the cooking.
Conservation: the preparation is long and complicated. The tradition calls for the preparation on Holy Thursday, so by Easter Day is ready and all the flavors perfectly combined together. It is really important that the cake dries up, so if you can resist, al least wait on eday before eating it! Dust the cake with powdered sugar and let it absorb it.
You can keep the pastiera for 7-10 days, but not in the fridge!
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