I’m getting a lot of traffic for these eggs I made a couple of years ago, and for any of you new to this website, I figured I’d post the links to those original posts, just in case you’d like to give them a whirl…
I know, Easter was last month. Move on, Jayne, move on.
Okay, I will, but first I need to post this. It ties up the loose end of this brief post.
I'd offered to bring something to brunch at my cousin's house on Easter, and I was asked to make a rice pie or a cheesecake.
I love cheesecake, but I've never actually made a rice pie before, so that's what I went with. Back when I was a teenager and used to work at an Italian/Seafood restaurant, I remember the time around Easter as being filled with gorgeous egg breads - those braided breads with colored eggs woven into the strands of dough - and the Easter pies. That's when I first tasted them. I think there may have been two kinds - one with rice and one just ricotta. I could be wrong - it was a long time ago and I wasn't as aware of food details as I am now. I do remember, however, that they tasted fabulous.
And I wanted to capture some of that for Easter.
I looked through my Italian cookbooks and found several recipes for Easter pie, or rice pie...and the one I chose was actually not for a rice pie at all - it was a Neopolitan Easter Pie, from Carlo Middione's The Food of Southern Italy. And it makes sense that a Southern Italian recipe wouldn't have rice - rice was a bigger staple of the Italian diet in the north. So what was used instead? Wheat. Whole wheat berries. Soaked for days. Yes, days.
Well, in my last-minute way, I didn't have a whole lot of days to soak anything. Fortunately for me, Chef Middione offered a substitute - barley. Shorter soaking time, shorter cooking time. Perfect. And I had barley, too.
But there was something else to consider, too.
My cousin's wife (would that make her my cousin-in-law?) went gluten-free a while ago, and barley contains gluten. Rice doesn't. So I could sub in rice for the wheat/barley in the recipe, right?
Except that I really, really wanted to stay true to the recipe, or as close as possible without soaking wheat berries for days and days. So I figured I'd make half rice and half with barley. Simple enough, isn't it? Unless you're me, and then you don't just cut the recipe in half - no - you DOUBLE it. So instead of making four 8" tarts, you're making 8 of them. Don't look for logic there - it packed up and left long ago.
So here we go - I'm going to post the recipe for the crust first, and then my two variations for the filling.
Now's your chance to get a snack. There's a lot to cover.
All set? Okay.
First, the pastry dough. "Pasta Frolla" or Tender Pastry. The recipe in the book is for two 9-inch tarts. Since I was making 8, I quadrupled the recipe. Yikes. But I'll just post the original recipe here.
The funny thing about this pastry recipe (to me) is that the butter is at room temperature when you add it to the flour/salt/sugar mixture. I read it twice, just to be sure. But yes - room temperature butter. AND, you don't chill it before rolling it out. I know! I kept looking back at the book. Are you SURE? And the book never wavered.
Here are the ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sweet (unsalted) butter at room temperature
Optional: rind of 1 lemon
4-5 tablespoons ice water (or use wine or whiskey, but be sure it is cold.
And now, here are the directions, straight from the book:
"If you are using a marble slab to make the dough by hand, place the flour, sugar, salt and lemon rind if desired) in a mound. Then use your fingers in a circular motion to create a "well" in the mound of flour. Break the butter into little pieces about the size of grapes and throw them into the well. Then pull some of the flour onto the butter and combine them. Do this very quickly and do not overmix. Add the water and very quickly mix the dough to that it just holds together. This should take about 1 minute. (You can do all of this in an electric mixer using the paddle or flat beater attachment. I find that a food processor makes the dough too wet, and I don't like the results. Use one if you wish and if you know what you are doing.) When the dough just holds together and is not crumbly, wrap it in plastic or foil and let it rest out of the refrigerator, but in a cool place, for about half an hour.
roll out the dough with a heavy rolling pin, but do not put too much pressure on it. It will be quite fragile. Lightly dust with flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the marble or to the rolling pin. If the dough breaks, do not be concerned because it is easily repaired. Simply push it together again, or break a piece off the edge and use it like you would moeling clay to repair any tears or breaks. Gently but firmly, grasp the top edge of the dough and lay it over the rolling pin. Then roll the dough and the pin toward you and keep rolling the dough onto the pin. Put the dough into a tart pan. Lay the loose end of the dough on the edge of the pan and then unroll the dough slowly and gently, in the reverse direction and let the dough fall into the pan. Adjust it after it is in the pan, if necessary. If the dough breaks while you are putting it in the pan or even afterward, simply repair it as described earlier. Prick the dough, at random, all over the bottom with an eating fork. Cool the dough in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
When you are ready to bake the crust, put wax paper or lightweight foil on top of the dough. Fill the tart with dry beans or rice as a weight to keep the dough from ballooning while baking. Medium-sized gravel also would be good to use. It never breaks or becomes rancid because you can soak it in detergent occasionally, rinse it well, and reuse it indefinitely. Gravel is cheap and readily available at pet or hardware stores."
Got all that memorized? Good. Here are the photos and my own commentary....
OH! And keep in mind as you look through these - I had quadrupled the recipe. Because I am crazy.
Okay, here are the ingredients (except the salt, which I forgot to include in the photo, but not in the actual making of the dough. The butter is ROOM TEMPERATURE, which was so odd to me. But anyway.
Here's all the dry ingredients, whisked together. Oh, and I opted to use a bowl instead of the countertop (I don't have a marble slab) because it's easier to clean up after.
Here are my little grape-sized blobs of butter that I "threw" into the flour.
I combined them with a pastry cutter, rather than my fingers. Just because.
And here is the mixture, partly done with the adding of the water. You can see it's starting to hold together in places...I mixed the water in with a fork, by the way.
Aha - this is what we're after. It holds together, but it's still ragged and crumbly. Perfect. I divided the whole mess into two balls and put them in ziploc bags.
And then I put the bags in "a cool place" per the directions in the book. Not in the fridge, as I usually would.
I figured the music room was a pretty cool place. Heh heh.
After the half hour or so was up, I divided each ball of dough into four pieces. Then I gently rolled each piece out into a rough circle about 1/8 of an inch thick and pressed each one into an 8" tart pan. Well, they weren't exactly tart pans, but they were 8".
Actually, 7 were in the disposable pie pans. I did make one in a tart shell. For the pictures.
And then they all went into the fridge while I made the filling.
Here are 6 of 'em. The other two were on a lower shelf.
Okay? Now it's onto the filling.
And here's where it might get more confusing, so bear with me.
The recipe for Pasteria Napolitana, or Neopolitan Easter Pie, includes soaking soft spring whole wheat berries for at least 3 days before you even combine anything with anything else. Yikes! I didn't have 3 days to soak wheat berries...I didn't even have wheat berries to soak! Fortunately the recipe says you can substitute barley. Phew! I have plenty of that.
But, like I think I said at the beginning, I also wanted to make this with rice. And that's why I doubled the recipe (instead of being smart and making one recipe half barley/half rice) - so I could make two versions.
I stayed as true to the original recipe as I could, but happily skipped over the whole soaking of wheat berries part.
Here, to start with, are the original ingredients as listed in the book, for ONE batch (4 tarts), with my notes in parentheses and in italics.:
1 1/4 cups soft spring whole wheat berries, or use barley, (or use Arborio rice)
1 teaspoon lard (I used unsalted butter)
2 1/4 cups milk, or q.b. (q. b. stands for quanto basta which means "enough" or "the amount that is needed.")
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
12 oz Ricotta
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon orange flower water
1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped (I didn't use this - I used some chopped up dried fruit - apricots and peaches, I believe. I thought about using dried ginger, but left that out this time.)
5 large egg yolks
2 recipes Tender Pastry
3 large egg whites
2 additional large eggs for brushing dough (I didn't double this part)
Granulated sugar for sprinkling, q.b.
Rinse the barley well, until the water that runs through it comes out clear.
Then cook according to the package directions. Don't overcook.
Arborio Rice Version:
Cook according to package directions for stovetop cooking. (You're not making risotto.)
Okay then. The rest of the recipe is the same for either version. Some of the pictures that follow may be of the rice version, some may be of the barley version - I'm just using whichever pictures look better for a given step. And rather than keep typing "barley/rice" or something like that, I'm just going to say use rice because it's a whole two letters shorter and I'll finish typing this post SO much quicker that way.
Combine rice with butter (or lard), milk and sugar in a pot
and simmer until the mixture starts to thicken and the rice absorbs most of the milk.
Set the mixture aside to cool. As it cools, it will thicken a bit more and the grains of rice should look moist and plump. The rice will continue to absorb liquid as it cools. It shouldn't be hot or warm for the next step.
** If you want to speed up the cooling process, put the rice mixture in a bowl and set that into a larger bowl half-filled with ice water. Stir the rice mixture often until it is cooled.
In a large bowl, combine the Ricotta with the lemon zest, orange flower water (or Fiori di Sicilia if you have that), vanilla, candied orange peel (or dried fruit - whatever you're using), and egg yolks.
Add the cooked and cooled rice, and mix everything well. Set it aside for later use.
If you haven't already done so, roll out your dough and line your tart pans.
Combine all the trimmed pieces of dough and roll these out into a rectangle about 1/8 of an inch thick. With a crimp cutter if you have one, (or a pizza wheel if you don't), cut the strips of dough about 3/8 inch wide and about 1/8 inch longer at each end than the diameter of the tart shells. These will be the lattice work on the tarts when they are finished.
I didn't have enough dough for lattice work on each tart. I think it's because the sides of the foil pans were higher than a standard tart pan AND because my one real tart pan was 9 inches instead of 8. But that's okay. But that was just me.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and move the rack to the middle of the oven. (Or, if you're a crazy person like I am, set two racks so they split the oven into thirds.) Beat the egg whites until they are fairly stiff.
Put 1/4 of the egg whites into the Ricotta and rice mixture to soften it,
then fold in the rest of the beaten egg whites.
Fill the tarts with the mixture, dividing it equally among the shells.
"Make a lattice design on top of the pastiere with the strips of dough.
(As you can see, I didn't have enough dough to make a really nice lattice. But you get the idea.)
With the point of a small knife, push the end of the dough strip against the dough that lines the tart pan and the filling itself. This will hold the lattice in place and make the pastiere neat. Beat the 2 additional eggs, and brush the tops of the pastiere with the wash. Sprinkle on some granulated sugar, and bake the pastiere for 45 minutes, or until the crust is just golden.
(Obviously a crazy person lives here...)
The pastiere are best when cooled and barely warm. They are very good cold, too. The pastiere will keep, covered in plastic wrap, for 3 days in the refrigerator."
I know my write-up of this pie was kind of scattered - if you have questions, please ask and I'll clarify whatever garbled mess I've made.
I noticed that the finished rice pie is much prettier - the barley pie looked kind of oatmealish in color - because of the bran on the barley. But flavor-wise, both were very good. I also thought the flavor actually improved after a day or two.
I didn't do a lot of them this time. I have to confess - I'm getting a little eggedout.
I wanted to try out all sorts of other egg-coloring methods...but I ended up just doing a few. But they were cool and fun and I'll definitely try out more of these next year. But not now.
But enough of that - here's what I DID do. It's kind of an amalgamation of various methods I've seen on the web lately.
I'd read somewhere that soaking the eggs in the same water as your simmering black beans would leave the eggs with a purplish color, so that was the first order of business - to get some beans a-soaking and to hard boil some eggs.
Then I went outside to gather some little leaves. It's still fairly cold outside, especially at night, and there aren't a ton of cute little leaves to pick. I plucked some sage and some strawberry leaves and decided that was enough.
And I also peeled some skins off some onions.
And then I put two of the hard boiled eggs in with the boiling beans...
Then I took some turmeric and saffron from the spice cabinet and put them in a little bowl.
I poured a bit of very hot water over the turmeric and saffron so the turmeric would dissolve and the saffron would release some color.
Next, I got a pair of stockings. Black ones, to lend a bit of drama. (Drama? It's egg-coloring.)
And then I started setting up these final 3 eggs.
First, I pressed my little strawberry leaves on one of them...
The leaves were soaking in water, which helped them stick to the eggs.
Next I placed that egg on a square of stocking...
And carefully wrapped the stocking around the egg and secured it with a rubber band.
That one went into a coffee mug along with the turmeric-saffron water.
Next up, some onion skin.
Onion skin is nice to work with because it's curved and wraps easily around the egg.
And I think onion skin is pretty.
Anyway, onion skin and stocking - check.
This one went into a mug with plain hot water.
And finally, sage leaves AND onion skin. I know - WOAH, there, Jayne! Get off that crazy train!
I wrapped the stocking around that one and put it in another mug with just hot water - oh, and the remaining sage leaves.
So here they are - three blue mugs with my little egg experiments.
Meanwhile, the two other eggs continued to cook with the beans. When I finally removed the eggs, here's what they looked like. They've still got black been gunk on them.
I think they're kind of...well...pretty damn ugly. But they still need a rinse.
This morning I unwrapped the eggs in the mugs. Here we go...
First up, plain onion skin.
And then the strawberry leaves in the turmeric/saffron blend...
Hm...well, it's incredibly subdued, I guess.
Last, the sage and onion skin.
Now that one's kind of cool.
Okay, so here we are, the final four (I tossed one of the black bean eggs - it had cracked, and you know what? Over-cooked, hard-boiled, black-bean-water-soaked eggs smell kind of horrible.
As you can see, I rinsed off the black bean egg - it's a quiet, purpley-gray color. I like them. I wish the turmeric/saffron egg had more color, but maybe I needed more spice in the water, or maybe I needed to let it soak longer. I'll give it another try next year - or maybe this summer, to use for deviled eggs.
Anyway, that's it for the eggs for me this year. It's been fun!
I'm delighted to see that - for the most part - people have gotten just as much of a kick out of these eggs as my kids and I and the rest of my family have!
And since I can't, at the moment, get enough of them, I'll spend the rest of this post subjecting you (if you stick around) to more pictures.
I made a batch with my kids (as you probably figured out from the small hand in the picture above), and they had a great time cracking all the eggs and later peeling them to reveal the crackley colors.
One of the fun things is that the color on the outside of the egg isn't always the color you're going to see under the shell.
I admit I've become a bit obsessed.
I spent a good chunk of Friday just taking pictures of eggs.
They just lend themselves to all sorts of fun picture ideas...
After all that (and of course, there were a lot more pictures that didn't make the cut), the eggs were rather the worse for wear. I tossed them the next morning.
And made a newer, smaller batch so I could test another way of coloring them.
This time around I hard boiled them as usual, cracked the shells as usual, BUT instead of putting the cracked eggs in mugs or bowls of hot colored water, I just dissolved the gel colors in cold water, put the eggs in the mugs of colored water, and put everything in the fridge.
They stayed there overnight,
and the next morning,
when I peeled them,
they were just as nice as the other batches I'd made.
And even better, they were totally safe to eat.
I sliced each egg in half and popped the yolks into a bowl. I placed the whites (or reds or greens, etc) cut side down on a piece of paper towel to dry off a bit while I mixed mayo, mustard, salt, and pepper with the yolks. Then I filled a piping bag with the yolk mixture and piped it back into the whites.
Ta-da! Totally wild deviled eggs! Next time around I'll cook a few extra eggs or use a couple less whites so there's a greater proportion of yolk mixture to white, and the filling will mound up more and look more inviting. To me, anyway. And maybe top them with some chopped chives for a bit more color and texture. Or not. There seems to be plenty of color!
I wouldn't go hiding these around the house for your kids to find on Easter morning.
They're probably better suited to just eating, or perhaps making a batch of really wild deviled eggs - something I'm thinking of doing with the next batch.
I've been thinking about making these for a while.
I'd seen recipes in a couple of my Asian cookbooks for Chinese Tea Eggs, a typical street snack found in parts of China. Basically what you do is hardboil your eggs normally, and then, when they've cooled enough to handle, roll the eggs around on a hard surface to crack them. You don't want to crack them too hard - you still want the shell to stay on the egg. But you want to develop a nice overall cracked look.
Then, for the tea eggs, you'd make a pot of good, strong, dark tea and either simmer (recipes vary) the eggs for a while in the tea or just plunge them into the hot tea and leave them there for several hours.
To make mine, I hardboiled them, cooled them a bit, and rolled them around on a paper towel to crack them. Some came out better than others.
Then I brought some more water to a boil and salted it (to flavor the eggs a bit, just in case we eat them). While the water was heating up I set out several bowls for the various colors. I picked out seven colors (no particular reason for that number - I'll probably make more when it's closer to Easter) and parcelled out some gel food coloring into each bowl.
I used pink, yellow, copper, green, blue, teal, and purple.
When the water reached a boil and I'd added in some salt, I ladled water into each bowl and stirred the food coloring to dissolve it. Then I placed one or two cracked eggs in each bowl, making sure they were covered completely with the colored water.
** And here's where I give you a word or two of advice. First of all, have a towel under your bowls - if the egg displaces too much water, you'll have a mess, and food coloring CAN STAIN. Second, use bowls or other containers that are more vertical then horizontal in dimension. Actually coffee mugs worked really well for me - I ended up pouring colored water from my bowls into mugs - oh, the colorful mess I had! But the mugs worked great. I made sure to pick dark mugs so that if there was any staining catastrophe, no one but me would know.
I didn't take pictures of the eggs in their color baths - most were too dark.
I left them in there for...(had to do some thinking just then) about 7 hours. Yes. I typed it correctly and you read it correctly. 7 hours.
* Update * I was thinking that it wasn't a very food-safe thing to do - leaving the eggs out to soak in hot/warm water for 7 hours. In fact, it's not safe at all - it's a perfect environment for all sorts of bad little bugs to grow and thrive and contaminate everything. We didn't eat those left out eggs anyway - I just took pictures and eventually tossed them. Wasteful, right? So I made a batch and instead of soaking them in hot colored water, I used cold colored water and soaked the eggs in the fridge overnight. I'm happy to say it worked just as well AND you can eat the eggs!
Now, I don't know if it was necessary to leave them that long, but that's just the way it worked out, what with shuttling kids around and bringing Julia to gymnastics and making dinner and everything, it was nearly 7 pm when I finally got a chance to unveil my masterpieces.
I was kind of excited, to tell you the truth. And I was so excited that I didn't think to take a picture of the eggs BEFORE I peeled them, but ah well, that's why I don't write for Bon Appetit.
Here, however, is a lovely photo of the peeled shells:
Pretty darn festive themselves, aren't they?
And here are my eggy jewels:
Aren't they cool????? Well, some of them didn't come out so good, but the ones that did - I'm pretty happy with them.
As you can tell, it's hard to really see the detail on the yellow one. I might not do yellow again, although it's so bright and pretty that maybe I will. You just never know what I might do!
Anyway, the interesting thing (to me) is that some of them don't look like the colors I'd expected. The two green ones are fine. And that single teal egg is fine. The orangy one is copper, but oddly enough, when I look at it today, it's more pink. Or peach. And those two purple ones? Those were in the pink food coloring. They looked purple yesterday (in the above photo) and today they've calmed down a bit to a fuschia. The blue ones...they're fine. And that darker blue, right in front? That was supposed to be purple.
So either you can do a lot of scientific experimentation with amounts of food coloring and length of time spent soaking...or you can just wing it and let the eggs be like little colorful gifts as you peel them.
Both of my kids are dying to color eggs, especially Julia. She saw all the mugs and bowls of eggs in food coloring on the counter yesterday, and unfortunatly she was sent to bed early (long story) and didn't get to see the final products. I didn't show her this morning. I was a bit concerned that she'd cry or get upset about missing the fun of peeling.
So I think I will make more of these and let the kids pick the colors and roll the eggs around to crack them.
Alex WILL NOT eat eggs, but even he was impressed last night with how they looked.
And then perhaps I will make deviled eggs...or a really colorful egg salad...with the finished products.
OH! Almost forgot - yet another bit of advice - when you're cracking the shells, be gentle with them. If you whack them too hard on the counter or on your sibling's head (just preparing for everything here), you could also cause the white to split all the way to the yolk. Just like this blue one on the end here (left front):
It's not the most horrible thing in the world, but it does kind of ruin the aesthetic. And we don't want that, do we? At least not for the pictures.
Anyway, that's what I've been up to for fun. Hope you've been entertained!
(Oh, and if you haven't had enough of these eggs, go here.)