….Italian Custard & Cherry Cakes
So last Summer I was the lucky recipient of a brilliant gift, a day long cookery class at Caldesi in Campagna in Bray, Berkshire @CaldesiCampagna with Giancarlo Caldesi @MrCaldesi – a man so intelligent and thoroughly charming that he made me swoon, properly swoon, more than once. I had a truly wonderful day making fresh pasta – chocolate flavoured and filled with blue cheese, yes seriously – amongst other things. My class, which I shared with 3 delightful gentlemen, was finished with a sublime 4 course lunch in the restaurant which in part we’d prepared ourselves. I wholeheartedly recommend this experience as a gift for others or yourselves, I’m planning a return visit.
So anyway, I bought some amazing books while I was there, and one of them – The Amalfi Coast, A Collection of Italian Recipes – has become a firm favourite in our house, and this dessert a true ‘go to’ when in need of something decadent and indulgent but really pleasant and stress free to prepare.
A pastry chef I am not, my sister is brilliant with anything sweet so it’s always a bit of a difficult and brave choice to go up against her. I hope I’ve done Giancarlo justice in my efforts, I can say that my family groan with pleasure when I cook this. My only alteration is to use 100% butter and not a split with 50% lard, I hope this small change he’ll forgive me!
You’ll need decent quality moulds for these to transfer the heat well. I use 4 steel dariole moulds, larger than the original recipe but I split each in half as a portion.
Serves 8 people happily if you make 4 large cakes and cut each in half
For the pastry
175g ’00’ flour plus extra for dusting
100g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g butter at room temp plus a little for greasing
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk (optional)
For the filling
Cherries – a bit loose on detail yes so here you go:
Giancarlo says use Amarena Fabbri morello cherries in syrup, but good luck finding those. I’ve used all sorts, I now tend to buy a tin of good quality cherries in syrup, any leftovers can be used as a kind of sauce for the final product, more info to follow.
For the custard
250ml full fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract/paste
4 large egg yolks
75g caster sugar
Start with the pastry
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until a pastry forms.
If making by hand, use your fingers to rub the flour, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla and butter together in a large bowl to breadcrumb consistency. Still using your hands mix in the egg to form a dough, if it’s a little dry add the milk.
The pastry may seem a little grainy or ‘pasty’, this has happened each time I’ve made it and it’s turned out perfectly.
Chill pastry in the fridge for 20 mins wrapped in cling film.
To make the filling, drain the cherries and reserve syrup for later, cut cherries in half.
For the custard
Heat milk and vanilla in a saucepan until very warm. In a bowl whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornflour. Whisk in a little of the warmed milk, then pour the mixture info the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Stir carefully and thoroughly with a wooden spoon over medium heat until mixture thickens, this could take a few minutes but will happen very suddenly. When it’s really quite thick remove from the heat, pour the custard into a bowl and cover the surface with cling film, touching the actual custard to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool.
To assemble for cooking
Grease moulds with a little butter. Roll out the pastry on a well floured surface to a thickness of around 2mm, you’ll be surprised how many times you’ll sprinkle flour onto the surface. Cut around the moulds leaving an extra rim of around 2 inches, press the shell into each mould very gently. It may break and you can patch it quite effectively with extra pastry. Pop in the fridge to chill for 10 mins, then trim the edges with a very sharp knife.
Half fill the moulds with custard, add 3 or 4 cherries to each then spoon more custard on to reach 3/4 full. Roll out remaining pastry to make lids and seal the edges, trimming with a knife if necessary, cut small slits in the top of each one. Pop back in the fridge for a few minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 180. Place moulds on a baking tray and cook for 20 – 25 mins. Cool for a few minutes in the tin before turning out carefully to cool further on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
My favourite way to serve is room temp liberally dusted with icing sugar with a bowl of the remaining cherries doused with kirsch served alongside.
They are rich, luscious and completely delicious, you must try them!