Any of you food bloggers out there remember when you first started out and couldn’t take a decent photo to save your life? Okay, maybe some of you already could take great pictures when you started your blogs, but I was not one of you! When I go back and look at some of those old posts, I cringe. Really! I am utterly mortified by some of those photos.
The other day, I was typing up some recipes for a baking class I’m doing on Friday. The class will be focused on Easter treats and we’ll be making my Torta di Riso and Pizza Rustica recipes. Anyway, I was looking for a picture of each pie to go along with the recipes, and I was appalled to find that I did not have one decent picture of my Torta di Riso. Not. One. So, this morning I made another pie. And, I took lots of pictures. And, a few of them even turned out halfway decent.
Therefore, in an effort to redeem myself in my own eyes (because you are all much too kind to tell me my pictures suck), I present for the second time, Torta di Riso.
Torta di Riso is a rich and creamy egg and ricotta based dessert pie filled filled with cooked Arborio rice and delicately flavored with the essence of orange. Think of it as rice pudding in a crust. In Italian culture, it is traditionally served after Mass on Easter Sunday to “break the Fast” observed by orthodox Catholics during Lent.
Most versions of this torta rely on a traditional pastry pie crust to provide its structure. I use layers of phyllo dough in mine for a few reasons, the first being that I find phyllo is more user friendly for the “doughaphobes” among us. There is no mixing, pulsing or rolling involved. You just thaw out the package and use the phyllo sheets as is. (Remember to keep them covered with a damp cloth while you work, though, so that the sheets don’t dry out.) Second, the phyllo crust bakes up shatteringly crispy and buttery. There is no risk of ending up with a soggy base for your torta – which is a very good thing.
You must make sure you use the right kind of rice for your torta di riso. Uncle Ben’s or Minute Rice will not do! You need a starchy, creamy short grain rice like Arborio, which is the main ingredient in risotto dishes. I also use a rich, dense specialty ricotta called Ricotta Impastata that I get from a local Italian market. If you can find some, grab it. It really makes a difference in the texture of this pie. If not, drain your regular whole milk ricotta overnight in some cheesecloth over a bowl to get rid of the extra liquid.
Here’s another trick I learned from Dorie. To enhance the orange flavor in the filling, mix the sugar and orange zest together in a small bowl and rub them together with your fingers. The friction will release the oils in the zest and flavor the sugar as well. (Your hands will smell great too!) Then, add them to the rest of the filling ingredients.
For those of you who never saw my first post on Torta di Riso, I hope you enjoy this one. I did a little tweaking of the recipe and I think it’s even better this way. For those of you who do remember my earlier post and are bored, just look at the pictures!
Torta di Riso
Makes one 10-inch pie
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
4 cups whole milk (You can use water instead, but the rice won’t be as creamy.)
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla paste
1 tablespoon orange zest
1-2 tablespoons orange flower water to taste
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
16 sheets thawed phyllo dough
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Place the rice and milk or water in medium heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is sticky. The rice should still be firm as it will finish cooking during baking. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
3. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, orange flower water, cinnamon, ricotta and mascarpone and blend until smooth. Stir in the rice and pine nuts. Set aside.
4. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate. Lay 2 phyllo sheets over the bottom and up opposite sides of the dish, allowing the phyllo to hang over the sides. Brush the phyllo with some melted butter and sprinkle a little sugar over it. Top with another 2 sheets of phyllo dough, laying it in the opposite direction as the first sheets. Continue layering the remaining sheets of phyllo sheets, alternating after each layer and buttering and sugaring each sheet until they are all used.
5. Spoon the ricotta/rice mixture into the dish. Fold the overhanging phyllo dough over the top of the filling to enclose it. Brush the top with melted butter. Sprinkle on a little sugar.
6. Bake the torta until the phyllo is golden brown and the filling is set, about 45-50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool completely before cutting and serving. Dust with some confectioner’s sugar, if desired.