Pine Nut Tart


In Italy, this custardy tart is known as "Torta del Nonna" literally "Grandmothers Cake," which refers to something made in a traditional style. There are as many versions as there are grandmothers, it seems. Ours features golden raisins in a rum-spiked chocolate cream filling, sandwiched between a rich cookie-like crust and a topping of pine nuts. This knockout dessert is perfect for the holidays. The pastry will get soggy over time, so it's best served within 24 hours of baking.


2/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dark rum (such as Myers')
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 large egg yolk
  grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 large egg yolk (beaten, for the glaze)
2/3 cup pine nuts
  confectioner's sugar (to dust the top)


Combine the raisins and rum in a small pan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer for 3 minutes and then remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for several hours or overnight.

To make the pastry: Cream the sugar and butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, zest, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until blended. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead to create a smooth dough. Divide into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten the pieces into discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled thoroughly.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the larger piece of pastry to form an 11-inch round about 1/4 inch thick. Fit the pastry into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. The dough is soft and fragile; if it cracks, just press and patch to fill the holes. Line the tart with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and continue baking until the crust is lightly golden and dry, about 10 minutes more.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Leave the oven on if you're continuing with the recipe.

To make the custard filling: Combine the milk and chopped chocolate in a saucepan and place over low heat. When the mixture is at the start of a simmer, remove the pan from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, then whisk in the cocoa and cornstarch. Whisk in the hot chocolate milk and return the mixture to the saucepan. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and turns glossy, 4 to 6 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and raisin-rum mixture. Spread the filling into the cooled pastry crust; the custard will not completely fill the tart pan. Alternately, you can transfer the filling to a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly against the surface of the custard, and refrigerate up to 2 days before proceeding with the recipe.

Assembly: Roll the remaining pastry into a 9-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Dab the top edge of the baked pastry shell with a bit of the beaten egg yolk, then cover the filling with the pastry circle, pressing the dough firmly against the pre-cooked crust, breaking off any excess. Don't worry if you need to patch the pastry with scraps; the crust will be covered with nuts.

Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and spread the pine nuts in a thin layer. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top crust. Bake the tart until the pastry is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the tart to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To serve, dust with confectioner's sugar.


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