Ingredients for shortcrust pastry:
550g PLAIN FLOUR (=19,40oz=4 ⅓ cups)
250g softened unsalted BUTTER (=8,82oz=1 ⅛ cups)
200g SUGAR (=7,05oz=1 cup)
1 whole EGG (about 65g=2,29oz)
4-5 EGG YOLKS (about 75g=2,64oz)
1 LEMON (zest)
Ingredients for the filling:
300g raw WHEAT (=10,58) or 825g pre-cooked WHEAT (=29,10oz)
525g fresh WHOLE MILK (=18,52oz=1 ½ cup)
375g POWDERED SUGAR (=13,23oz=6 ¼ cups)
750g RICOTTA CHEESE half cow and half sheep (=26,46oz=3 cups)
30g ORANGE BLOSSOM FLAVOURING (=1,06oz) or 60g ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER (=2,12oz)
9 EGG YOLKS
2 EGG WHITES
225g CANDIED CEDAR (=7,94oz)
1 LEMON (zest)
POWDERED CINNAMON to taste
COARSE SALT to taste
If you use raw wheat, soak it in water for a whole night (24 hours would be even better). The next morning, drain and rinse it under running water, then proceed with cooking. Pour the wheat grains in a pot filled with lightly salted water and cook them until softened (I cooked mine about 120 minutes, but I recommend you to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer on each packaging, apart from the suggested quantities of water: use a lot more water, instead of following the normally recommended ratio of 1:3, as this is ok to get to a firm result, while this cake requires it well cooked). Once cooked, drain it (if you use pre-cooked wheat, drain it too).
Bring milk to the boil, then add the cooked wheat and the powdered cinnamon. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, then lower the heat and cook for about another 15 minutes or until the milk is completely absorbed (it should result in a thick cream, which will set during cooling). Stir occasionally, to avoid the formation of a film on the surface. Once cooked, place in a bowl to cool.
In the meantime, start preparing the shortcrust pastry by mixing softened butter and sugar. Then proceed adding eggs, grated lemon zest and 500g plain flour. If you have one, use a kneading machine to avoid warming the dough too much with the hands. If the dough is excessively soft, add another 50g (=1,76oz=⅓ cup) of plain flour. Wrap the dough in cling film and store it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Cut the candied cedro into small pieces (I’m not a candied fruit lover, so I only use cedro, but you can provide your cake with a lot more color using mixed candied fruit!). Even if you do not like candied fruit, it is important not to do without this ingredient, since it is crucial to determine the structure of the filling. I can guarantee that it will absorb the flavors of the mixture, without prevailing.
Drain ricotta to prevent the filling from becoming too moist, then mix it with powdered sugar. Add the yolks (remembering to keep aside 2 egg whites) and the grated lemon zest, then mix again. Add the cooled wheat cream, the candied fruits and the orange blossom water or aroma.
Finally, whip the two egg whites and add them to the filling, mixing from bottom to top not too unwhip them.
Grease 3 aluminum trays with a diameter of 20cm and a height of 4cm: proceed with butter and then coat it with flour or cut a round piece of baking paper for the bottom and use a cooking spray for the sides.
Roll out a piece of dough by laying it on a floured sheet of baking paper and using a floured rolling pin. The dough should be rolled quite thin since the filling must prevail and it also has to be wide enough to cover both bottom and edges. Use the baking paper sheet to lay the dough in the baking tray. Let it adhere well to the baking tray, then remove excess dough using a kitchen wheel. Perforate the bottom with a fork, then pour the filling almost to the brim.
Thinly roll out the leftover dough (always flouring both the baking paper sheet and the rolling pin) and cut out strips of dough with the kitchen wheel. Lay them on the cake crossing them as to lozenges (tradition says you need 7 strips per cake). Eliminate surpluses and seal the strips at the edges of the cake.
Bake in a preheated fan-assisted oven at 185°C (365°F) for about 1 hour (if you proceed with 2 wider moulds instead of 3 small ones, make sure to increase the amount of cooking time). Let cool before removing from the tray.
When I bake Neapolitan pastiera, I never make just one cake. Being a celebratory dessert, I prepare it for my relatives. If you do not want to make 3 (small size) cakes, you can decrease the amount of filling. However, I suggest you to proceed without decreasing the shortcrust pastry amounts, using the leftovers to bake cookies, since its recipe is not divisible and it is perfect for this dessert.
Happy Easter and enjoy your Neapolitan pastiera!
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