Italian Grain Pie
Makes 8 Servings
½ cup Wheat berries
5 Large eggs
½ cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1½ lbs Ricotta
1 Large egg white
1 tsp grated orange zest or orange flower water
1 cup Flour
¼ cup Sugar
½ tsp Baking powder
Pinch Finely ground sea salt
1/8 lb Unsalted European style butter, sliced into 1 Tbsp pieces
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Large egg
1 egg white
- Place the wheat berries in a bowl; add cold water to cover two inches above berries; soak overnight.
- Drain and rinse wheat berries. Place in saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat; turn heat to medium, cover, and cook until chewy-tender, about 1 hour, 10 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
- Prepare pie crust while wheat berries are cooking. Mix together dry ingredients. Place dry ingredients and butter in food processor. Pulse until mixture has a coarse texture.
- Add vanilla and whole egg; pulse until the dough comes off side of the bowl and forms a ball.
- Form two discs, one using 2/3 of the dough and the second 1/3 of the dough. Each should be about 3 inches in diameter. Cover in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
- Let dough soften for a few minutes before rolling out. Roll out both crusts between sheets or plastic or parchment into a circle a few inches larger than base of the pan. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Fit the thicker crust in bottom of 8” round or pie pan. Place in freezer while preparing top crust. Roll out second crust and cut into 6-8 strips for making lattice top. Refrigerate while making filling.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in ricotta cheese, blending thoroughly. Do not over mix.
- Add drained wheat berries and mix until incorporated. Pour into prepared pie crust. Use pastry strips to weave decorative lattice top. Brush top with egg white.
- Bake for 1 hour. If pie is not set, lower heat to 325°F degrees and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Pie will giggle slightly in the center, but outer edges of top should be set. The pie will continue to set as it cools.
- Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate overnight. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Note: The crust can be rather sticky, so make sure that it is well chilled before cutting the lattice. Do not hesitate to put it back in the refrigerator to make it easier to work with. The cake will keep, refrigerated, for up to a week.
This traditional Sicilian dessert, typically served around Easter time, is a recipe from one of my Mom’s friends, Nanette. Our inn guests often see this on the breakfast table in the Spring.