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Vegan Torta della Nonna (Italian custard pie) recipe - q.b. cucina

Vegan Torta della Nonna

I’m not vegan, but I have a few friends that are. This dairy-free Italian custard cake, known as Torta della Nonna— or “Grandma’s Tart” is for them.

Planning a dinner party for a vegan is an oddly satisfying challenge. If I were making Indian food, it would be a different story, but I almost always cook Italian food for company. Many of the Italian dishes that I love to make for friends—like this creamy custard tart—use butter, cheese, or animal fat of some kind. 

So I’ve started looking for creative ways to prepare the dishes I love but with plant-based ingredients. Cream-based sauces get a vegan makeover with cashew blends, parmesan cheese gets subbed out for nutritional yeast, and creamy egg-and-milk-based custards turn into coconut cream delights.  

Here I’ve made the pasta frolla, shortcrust pastry, using vegan butter instead of regular butter. The difference is indistinguishable! As for the custard filling, I’ve replaced milk and eggs with a blended mixture of coconut milk, coconut cream, and almond milk, and added cornstarch to thicken it all up (plus a dash of turmeric for color).

It tastes so much like the real thing that your vegan friends will be wondering if you’ve duped them the whole night. This milk-free Torta della Nonna is also great for folks that are lactose sensitive.

Note: For the most accurate measurements, I recommend using a kitchen scale for this recipe. 

Vegan Torta della Nonna

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust Pastry)

3 cups + 3 tablespoons (400 grams) all-purpose flour
¾ cup + 1 tablespoons (160 grams) sugar
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons (140 grams) vegan butter, chilled
6 ½ tablespoons (100 grams) water

Custard Cream Filling

1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut cream
½ cup (4 ounces) almond milk
¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (70 grams) cornstarch
⅛ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon vanilla extract
Lemon zest of one lemon

Toppings

Pine nuts
Powdered sugar



Directions

To prepare the pasta frolla:

Add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and vegan butter to a food processor with the dough blade attachment.

Pulse together until the mixture is crumbly. The idea here is not to over mix, but turn the butter into small bits that are coated in flour. Be sure to use cold butter.

Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients together in a large bowl using a fork until the mixture is crumbly. 

Slowly add in cold water and pulse until a ball of dough starts to form. Do not over mix. The dough does not need to form a smooth, perfect ball. It simply needs to be able to hold together when pressed into a ball shape.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or overnight.

To prepare the pastry cream filling: 

Add milk, sugar, cornstarch, turmeric, salt, vanilla extract, and lemon zest to a food processor or blender and process for a few seconds until smooth.

Pour the mixture in a saucepan and simmer over low heat while stirring constantly, until the cream is thick and glossy. Pour the custard into a glass bowl and allow it to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the cream to set. 

To assemble the tart:

This tart is best baked in a 9-inch springform tart pan. If you don’t have one, you can also line a standard 9-inch tart or cake pan with parchment paper to make it easier to take out once baked. 

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Remove the shortcrust pastry from the refrigerator and divide it into two pieces, in the ratio 1/3 and 2/3.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the larger piece of dough on a flour-dusted surface into a ⅛-inch thick circle large enough to line the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

Carefully transfer the dough to your tart pan, pressing it down around the edges of the pan to secure it in place. 

Pour the custard cream over the dough and smooth it out using a spatula.

Roll out the remaining ⅓ dough into a circle large enough to cover the top of the tart. Gently transfer it to the top of the tart, pressing the edges together with your fingertips to seal the top. Trim excess dough hanging over the edges using a knife or pastry wheel.

Sprinkle pine nuts over the tart.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until golden all around.

Allow the tart to cool for at least 1 hours before serving (this will help the filling set). If serving the next day, store the tart in the fridge. 

Dust with powdered sugar and slice to serve.

Vegan Torta della Nonna

Prep Time: 90 Minutes
Cooking Time: 45 Minutes
Total time: 2 Hour 15 Minutes
Servings: 8-10

Ingredients

Pasta Frolla (Shortcrust Pastry)
  • 3 cups + 3 tablespoons (400 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoons (160 grams) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 10 tablespoons (140 grams) vegan butter, chilled
  • 6 ½ tablespoons (100 grams) water
Custard Cream Filling
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut cream
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) almond milk
  • ¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon (70 grams) cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lemon zest of one lemon
Toppings
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting on at the end

Instructions

1. Prepare the shorcrust pastry: Add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and vegan butter to a food processor with the dough blade attachment. Pulse together until the mixture is crumbly. The idea here is not to over mix, but turn the butter into small bits that are coated in flour. Be sure to use cold butter. Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients together in a large bowl using a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Slowly add in cold water and pulse until a ball of dough starts to form. Do not over mix. The dough does not need to form a smooth, perfect ball. It simply needs to be able to hold together when pressed into a ball shape. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour or overnight.
2. Prepare the pastry cream filling: Add milk, sugar, cornstarch, turmeric, salt, vanilla extract, and lemon zest to a food processor or blender and process for a few seconds until smooth. Pour the mixture in a saucepan and simmer over low heat while stirring constantly, until the cream is thick and glossy. Pour the custard into a glass bowl and allow it to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the cream to set.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. This tart is best baked in a 9-inch springform tart pan. If you don’t have one, you can also line a standard 9-inch tart or cake pan with parchment paper to make it easier to take out once baked.
4. Remove the shortcrust pastry from the refrigerator and divide it into two pieces, in the ratio 1/3 and 2/3. Using a rolling pin, roll out the larger piece of dough on a flour-dusted surface into a ⅛-inch thick circle large enough to line the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Carefully transfer the dough to your tart pan, pressing it down around the edges of the pan to secure it in place.
5. Pour the custard cream over the dough and smooth it out using a spatula.
6. Roll out the remaining ⅓ dough into a circle large enough to cover the top of the tart. Gently transfer it to the top of the tart, pressing the edges together with your fingertips to seal the top. Trim excess dough hanging over the edges using a knife or pastry wheel.
7. Sprinkle pine nuts over the tart. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until golden all around.
8. Allow the tart to cool for at least 1 hours before serving (this will help the filling set). Dust with powdered sugar and slice to serve.
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If serving the next day, store the tart in the fridge.

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