I like San Gimignano in the early morning, when it is still not crowded with tourists, when you see the local people passing along the streets almost incredulous to have San Gimignano for themselves, yet still for just a few more minutes. I like it when the footsteps echo on the cobbled shady streets, resounding between the high walls of the houses.
I like the gray colour of the stones, especially when they have just been washed by the rain of the early spring. In San Gimignano, along the main street that goes to the Cathedral from the park outside the walls, just after the main gate on the left you find the Pasticceria Armando e Marcella, one of my favourite pastry shops in the world. Every time that mum took me there as a little girl, just entered my question was always the same: Mum, could you buy me a rice tartlet?
The subtly lemon scented rice pudding tartlets were my favourite sweet treat as a child, whether bought by mum on a common Saturday when we went to visit my granddad Remigio who lived there, or by my aunt Silvana in an early morning before going to the market when I used to spend in San Gimignano a few days during the summer holidays.
It might depend on their special character or in their essence interwoven with childhood memories and flavours, but they are still my favourite choice on the rare occasions when I have breakfast in a bar, or when I enter in a baker’s shop and they have just been baked and are still warm with a gentle creaminess inside.
I baked them just before leaving for London, in one of those days when you need comfort from food and memories, using my grandma’s rice cake as basic recipe and working on it.
I scribbled down the recipe, took a few pictures and came to London meaning to write this post from here, from the warm and cosy kitchen in South East London, where there is always an Italian coffee. But then, as it always happens to me abroad, I felt like cooking home food and I baked again my rice pudding tartlets for breakfast along with minestrone, my mum’s veggie soup (not for breakfast!). The rice pudding tartlets, changing the country, have changed as well.
In Italy they are and should remain the tartlets you buy in a pastry shop, or better, in your favourite baker’s shop, round or softly oval, wrapped in a paper towel. They are supposed to be eaten standing up, perhaps with a coffee if you’re a grown-up or with a thick pear juice if you are a child, they are covered with icing sugar, that icing sugar that will inevitably dust your best dress in sweetness in the most important morning of your life.
Here in London, in the foodblogger headquarters, where any excuse is good to take new pictures or experiment a new combination, we played around with flavours and presentation. No icing sugar but a spoonful of thick greek yogurt and a drizzle of raspberry sauce, cooked with just a hint of sugar, to add a nice tart note. It goes well with our plans for tomorrow and a cup of Earl Grey.
Now you are spoilt for choice on how to serve these subtle lemon scented rice pudding tartlets, I already tried and tested the recipe for you!
Lemon scented Italian rice pudding tartlets
For the rice pudding:
- 1 l of whole milk
- 300 g of pudding rice
- 1 tablespoon of organic vanilla essence or 1 vanilla bean
- zest of one organic lemon
- 6 tablespoons of raw cane sugar
- 8 g of baking powder
- 2 free range eggs
For the short pastry shells:
- 200 g of organic plain flour
- 100 g organic whole rice flour
- 150 g of raw cane sugar
- 150 g of butter
- 8 g of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 free range egg
- First thing first, let’s make the shortcrust pastry. Sieve the plain flour with the rice flour and mix them with the raw cane sugar, the salt and the baking powder. Add the diced butter and rub all the ingredients with your fingertips as to make soft crumbles, just as grated Parmesan cheese.
- Beat the egg in a bowl, then add it to the crumbles and keep rubbing the ingredients with your fingertips until you have a nice and smooth ball of dough. If you have rubbed throughly the butter and the flour it will take only a few minutes and you won't overheat the pastry, which will eventually be crumbly and light. Flatten the dough ball with your hands, wrap it in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge.
- Now pour the milk in a large thick-bottomed pot and bring it to the simmer with the lemon peel and the vanilla pod. When it starts simmering, add the pudding rice and let it cook completely (it will depend on the kind of rice you chose: it must be throughly cooked, soft and sticky). Mine took about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Let it cool down completely.
- When the rice is cold, mix in 2 egg yolks, the baking powder and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Whip the egg whites and fold them gently into the rice pudding.
- Preheat oven to 170°C.
- Roll the pastry with a rolling pin on a floured surface in a 5 mm thick sheet and line 16 muffin moulds. The fastest way to make it and have regular and nice pastry shells is to cut out some pastry discs with a glass as big as the bottom of the muffin mould and press them gently in. Then cut with a knife some pastry strips to line the sides of the muffin mould. Press the pastry lightly with your fingers to seal the bottom with the side stripes.
- Spoon the rice pudding into the pastry shells and bake for about 40 minutes(25 minutes will be enough in a fan oven) until the rice tartlets will be golden brown on the edges.
- Serve them warm or cold, with a dusting of icing sugar or some fresh fruit and yoghurt.
Behind the scenes