Custard Pie from Lecce
The city of Lecce in Puglia is famous for its custard pies. So much so that tourists and locals queue at Caffé Alvino on Piazza Sant’Oronzo to sample the pasticciotto leccese.
I won’t even attempt to describe the wonder of the traditional custard pies from Lecce. The sweet and slightly crunchy crust hiding a soft vanilla cream is heaven on a spoon.
In contrast to the traditional custard pies from Portugal, Pasticciotto Leccese is all covered in a short pastry crust, which means you can eat it as you go even though the custard cream is slightly runny. That would be a pity if you are in Lecce though. Here the custard pie should be savoured in the shadow of an outdoor cafe along with a strong espresso, while you are people watching and trying to keep the pigeons away.
For the crust
250 g flour
2 tbsp baking powder
120 g sugar
Grated zest of lemon
150 g butter – or lard if you want to be true to the original version
For the custard
4 egg yolks
350 ml milk
100 g sugar
2 tbsp flour
Mix all the dry ingredients including the grated lemon zest for the crust. Chop the butter in the dry ingredients before making it crumble between your fingers.
Add the egg, when the mixture resembles white bread crumbs.
Press the pastry together swiftly without kneading.
Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Whisk 4 egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and keep stirring till the cream is smooth.
Place the lemon zest in the milk and heat it up slowly. It mustn’t boil.
Discard the lemon rind and pour the warm milk over the egg cream, while whisking continuously.
Return the mixture to the pan and heat it up till it thickens. Don’t give up stirring along the way.
Take the thick and smooth custard off the heat, cover it in cling film directly on top of the cream to avoid condensation, and leave it to cool.
Separate the pastry is a large and a small ball.
Roll the large pastry out with a rolling pin.
Cut the pastry in circles and use the circles to line a silicone muffin cup or a greased pie foil. This recipe will make 4-6 custard pies with a moderately sized (7 x 4 cm) pie pan.
Roll out the small pastry ball and cut it in somewhat smaller circles to be used as lids.
Use a piping bag or a spoon to fill the pastry cups with custard,
Place a lid of pastry over each custard pie and press the edges together.
Let the custard pies cool in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking. This keeps the custard cold and reduces the risk of custard leaks.
Bake the pasticiotto leccese at 180 C / 350 F for 20 minutes or until the lid feels firm and the surface has turned slightly golden.
Serve the custard pies with an espresso or a small glass of limoncello.