Sunday, April 8, 2007

Italian Easter Pie

According to the King Arthur Flour's website, this savory pie is traditionally made on Good Friday and eaten on the day before Easter, celebrating the end of Lent. But it's a great recipe to make throughout the year as well. The double-crusted pie/pizza is filled with a salad-like mixture of ham, hard-boiled eggs, eggs, ricotta, and parmesan. The crust dough has a nice sweetness that complements the stuffing. It is brushed with an egg/sugar wash that lends an additional touch of sweetness that is nice with the saltiness of the ham. I love it!

A different version of this pie, Italian Easter Meat Pie, doesn't use hard-boiled eggs and the meat, prosciutto, ham, pepperoni, and salami, is left in cubes instead being chopped finely in the food processor. This richer recipe uses more ricotta, parmesan, and mozzerella, resembling a stuffed shell filling. Sounds good! I'll try it in calzone-form!

These pies are great to have around for overnight guests or as an addition to a brunch. The recipe makes 2 large pies so it feeds a lot. Leftovers are great cold, at room temperature, or, as my husband prefers, heated. I like grabbing a slice to-go for weekday morning breakfasts. This is a favorite recipe! Continue for recipe.

Italian Easter Pie

**I usually make my pies free-form, but you can also bake in a deep-dish pie plate. This dough would be nice to use for calzones too. Total prep/baking time for these pies is about 3 hours--a little longer if you make them in a pie plate. I like kneading this dough by-hand as opposed to the mixer.

**It's really important to use nice ham for this recipe, as it is the major ingredient in the filling. I like brown-sugar ham--of course, it's sweet--but any good quality ham is fine. Another note, don't add more ricotta than is called for. It makes the filling too watery.

5 cups Mellow Pastry Blend OR 4 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver (optional, but very helpful)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water

1 dozen large eggs
1 pound good-quality, tasty ham
about 6 ounces ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
salt, pepper, and chopped fresh parsley, to taste

1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons sugar

Dough: Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients--by hand, in a mixer, or in a bread machine--till you’ve made a soft, smooth dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for 1 to 2 hours, till it’s doubled in bulk.

Filling: Hard-boil and then peel 6 of the eggs. Finely chop and combine the boiled eggs and ham; a food processor works well here. The ham and eggs should be very finely chopped, though you don’t want them turned to mush.

Combine the ham and boiled eggs with the raw eggs, ricotta, and Parmesan. Add as much parsley as you want, and season to taste with salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

Assembly and Baking: Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll two of the dough pieces into rounds about 13 inches in diameter, and place them on lightly greased 12-inch pizza pans, cookie sheets, or into two 9-inch pie plates (for a thicker pie). Spread the filling evenly onto the two bottom crusts, covering the crusts to within an inch of their edges. Roll out the other two pieces of dough, and place them atop the filled crusts, gently stretching them, if necessary, till the filling is completely covered. Seal the crust edges together firmly.

Using a sharp knife or pair of scissors, cut a 1-inch hole in the very center of the top crust. Make the topping by whisking together the egg yolk and sugar till the sugar has dissolved. Paint each crust with some of the topping, using a pastry brush or your fingers to spread it around as evenly as possible. Allow the pies to rest while you preheat your oven to 350°F, about 15 minutes. Bake the pies for about 25 minutes (55 to 60 minutes, for a 9-inch deep-dish pie), until they’re a deep, golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and place them on a rack. Allow the pies to cool, and serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers. Yield: Two 12-inch-or-so pies.

Nutrition per serving (1/8th of a pie, 143g): 280 cal, 10g fat, 15g protein, 32g total carbohydrate, 5g sugar, 0g dietary fiber, 190mg cholesterol, 710mg sodium.

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