Strawberry pie prepared for a dessert revel Jan 30th 2003

Transcription of original recipe
Per fare torta di cerase, visciole, & marasche fresche.  Cap CXVIII, Libro Quinto, f. 365.
Bartolomeo Scappi, Opera dell’arte del cucinare.  Presentazione di Giancarlo Roversi.  Arnaldo Forni Editore. Testi Antichi di Gastronomia, ristampa 1981.
Le cerase Romanesche sono assai migliori dell’altre, e alla fine d’Aprile cominciano a essere buone, e le visciole a mezzo Maggio, & di Giugno le marasche.  Pertanto piglinsi l’une, & l’altre, che non sieno troppo mature, & faccisino stufare con butiro fresco, & stufate che saranno passisino per il setaccio, giungendo con esse ricotta fresca, & cascio grasso, & un poco di cascio duro, & mostaccioli Napoletani fatti in polvere, giungendoli, pepe, cannella, & ova sbattute, & la quantità delle cose sarà secondo il giuditio, & essa compositione facciasene torta con is sfoglio sotto, & sopra, & facciasi cuocere al forno, o sotto il testo, facendoli la sua crostata di zuccaro, & acqua rosa, & servasi calda.  In questo modo si puo fare delle fravle, lequali cominciano da Maggio, e durano per tutto Giugno, ma in Roma cominciano d’Aprile.

Translation of original recipe
To make a pie of cherries (red?), wild cherry, & sour cherries.  Chapter 118, 5th book, folio 365, Scappi.
Cherries from Rome are better than the others, and at the end of April begin to be good, and wild cherries in mid May, and in June the sour cherries.  In fact take one or the other, those that are not too ripe, and let them stew with fresh butter.  Stew them enough that they will go through the sieve.  Add with this fresh ricotta and fat cheese and a little hard cheese and Naples mostaccioli made into a powder.  Add pepper, cinnamon and beaten eggs and the amount of these shall be up to your judgement.  And of this mixture make the pie with a sheet below and above.  Cook it in the oven or underneath the “testo”, making its icing with sugar and rosewater and serve hot.  In this way one can cook strawberries, which start in May and are in season for all of June, but in Rome they start in April.

1) Mostaccioli napoletani – are a style of biscotti.  Scappi, gives a recipe (6th book, folio 420 capCXLII) for Mostaccioli milanese.  Which contains 15 eggs, two and a half pounds of sugar, half an ounce of raw aniseed and a grain of fine musk with two and a half pounds of flour.  These are beaten together until light and baked in a tart plan, then cut and dried in the oven.  The role of these biscuits in this recipe is to provide a little of a binding agent (the flour) and the sweetening.  In the absence of biscotti you may be able to substitute breadcrumbs and sugar.  While I had none of this style of biscotti available I did have another variety that utilized 15 eggs, with 2 lbs of flour and 2.5 lbs of sugar and ¾ of aniseed.  These will be a little sweeter than the mostaccioli but very close to the intended ingredient.  See for a redacted recipe for these.
2) Pastry – in this recipe we are not given any ingredients for the crust.  However, recipe 112 (see below) for a melon pie gives both a recipe for pastry and some idea about the proportion of cheese to fruit pulp.
3) Testo – this was a unique piece of iron or copper that allowed pies and pastries to be baked in the fire, the tart pan would sit on a trivet which would have coals placed underneath.  There would be a cover over the pan (the testo or head) which would have coals placed on it.  Simulating an oven in the absence of one.  You can do this in camp using a dutch oven, the same theory is used.
4) Weights and Measures: Libra translates to a pound, but was a variable measure depending upon the location.  It corresponds to about 348 g or 12 modern ounces.  The “oncia”, ounce was 1/12 of a “libra” and corresponds to 29 g or about 1 modern ounce.
5) Cheeses – The ricotta called for in the recipe is easily procured, being available at nearly every grocery store in America.  Wood cuts from Italy show the making of ricotta in a large vat over heat.  However, the stuff in the grocery store is mass produced.  To try and keep as close as possible to the original I used whole milk ricotta.  The fat cheese causes more problems, in other recipes this cheese is indicated as a very soft cheese, probably closer to cheese curds than something that can be purchased readily outside of Wisconsin.  Therefore I chose to substitute cream cheese as a soft and high fat cheese that can be obtained readily.  The hard cheese is easier, Italy has two famous hard cheeses Parmigiano and Grano Padano, as Parmigiano is the cheese mentioned in the melon pie recipe I used it.  This means real imported Parmigiano not the plastic American version parmesan.  The strawberry pie calls for a “little hard cheese”, therefore less was added than is called for in the melon pie recipe.
6) Sugar – the melon pie calls for the addition of sugar, the cherry/strawberry pie does not.  The decision whether or not to add sugar to the filling was made when the filling was tasted.  Given that I used out of season California strawberries the need to add sugar was inevitable.  In period I would have had beautifully ripe small strawberries picked that morning.  Alas it is January I will repeat this in June when the local strawberries are in full flush, taste like strawberries should and are sweet.
7) Pie shell – after the tart pan was lined the inside of the pie shell was washed with a little beaten egg white and dusted with sugar.  This technique was taken from another recipe in Scappi (Cap LXIII, Libro 5, pp 354) for tarts of cherries, strawberries, grapes or unripe (agresto/verjuice) grapes.  The recipe calls for you to “bagnisi di chiaro d’ovo battuto, & subito si spolverizzi di zuccaro.  Questo si fa perche il sugo non penetri la pasta, & lascisi stare un poco.”  Bathe it with the beaten clear of an egg and immediately powder with sugar.  This one does so that the juice will not penetrate the pastry, and let it rest a little.
8) Spices – I have a set of scales, unfortunately they are inaccurate for weights less than 1 oz.  According to the melon pie recipe I should have used half an ounce of cinnamon and one quarter ounce of pepper.  I made the decision to use a teaspoon to measure.  I started with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (commercially acquired so it is obviously cassia) and half a teaspoon of black pepper.  I tasted the mixture and decided that the pepper was sufficient yet not overwhelming, while additional cinnamon could be added.

Per fare torta di mellone
Piglisi il mellone netto della scorza, & seme, & piu presto mal mature, che maturo, & taglisi in bocconcini, & faccisi soffriggere pian piano con butiro, mescolandolo con la cocchiara di coninuo, cavisi, & lascisi raffreddare, & passisi per il foratoro, & per ogni due libre di mellone soffritto giunganseli sei oncie di cascio Parmigiano, sei oncie di ricotta fresca, overo provatura pen pista, due oncie di cascio grasso, due oncie di mostaccioli Napoletani muschiati fatti in povere, un oncia di cannella, mezz’oncia di pepe, oncie sei di zuccareo, dieci rossi d’ova feschi, overo sei col chiaro, & habbisi la tortiera onto di butiro con un sfoglio di pasta alquanto grossetto fatto di fior di farina, acqua rosa, rossi d’ova, butiro, & sale, & il tortiglione sfogliato incirca, & pongasi dentro la compositione, & con un’altro sfoglio fatto a gelosia, cuoprasi, & facciasi cuocera al forno o sotto il testo con butiro liquefatto sopra, & come è cotta, servasi calda a beneplacito.  In questo modo si puo fare del persico, & albiccocole, & prugne mal mature.

To make a melon pie
Take the melon washed of its peel and seeds, and more favorable if it is not ripe than ripe, and cut in bite size pieces, and make it fry very slowly with butter, mixing constantly with the spoon, empty it out and let it cool.  Pass it through a strainer and for each two pounds of fried melon add six ounces of Parmegiano cheese, six ounces of fresh ricotta, or provatura (mozarella) well mashed to a paste, two ounces of fat cheese, two ounces of Naples biscuits made into a powder, one ounce of cinnamon, half an ounce of pepper, six ounces of sugar, ten egg yolks or six whole eggs.  Have a tart pan greased with butter and lined with a sheet of pasta that is thick enough made with flour, rosewater, sugar and butter and salt.  And the tart should be lined with a sheet of pasta around (up the edge?), and put inside the mixture, and with another sheet made delicately cover it, and let it cook in the oven or under a “testo” with melted butter on it.  And when it is cooked serve it hot at your pleasure (enough to please).  In this way one can make peaches, apricots and plums that are not ripe.

Redacted Recipe
I used a variation on a modern short crust pastry recipe, dropping the proportion of butter to compensate for the extra added in greasing the pan and brushing over the top.
10 oz all purpose flour
4 oz cold butter
1 oz sugar
rosewater to bind (chilled)
Cut or rub the butter into the flour, stir in the sugar, add enough rosewater to just bind the pastry together (about 5 or 6 tablespooons).  Chill in the fridge for while you prepare the filling.

1 lb strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
2 oz sweet cream unsalted butter
Cook the strawberries in a covered pot with the butter until soft.  Produce a paste of these strawberries by passing through a fine sieve (removes seeds and is my preferred method) or in a food processor.  One pound of strawberries yielded 12.5 oz (one Italian Libra) of mush.  Allow this puree to cool before proceeding with the remainder of the recipe.
In a blender or food processor combine:
2 oz of biscotti ground to a fine powder,   3 oz full fat ricotta
2 oz cream cheese 1.5 oz Parmegiano cheese grated finely
3 oz sugar 5 egg yolks
1.5 tsp cinnamon 0.5 tsp ground black pepper, scant pinch salt.
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
Split the dough into two portions one comprising 3/5 ths of the dough the other 2/5 ths.  Roll out the larger portion to a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Roll out the second portion to a slightly smaller circle at least 8 inches.  Take an eight inch pie pan and grease the inside liberally with butter.  Line the pie pan with the rolled out circle of dough.  Being careful not to tear the pastry.  Brush the inside of the pastry case with egg white and dust with sugar.  Leave at one side for five minutes.  Pour the filling into the pastry case.  Wet the edge of the pastry with a little water and cover with the second sheet of pastry.  Seal the edges together with your fingers, trim excess pastry from the pie pan.  Flute or decorate the edges as desired, make a small hole in the top to allow steam to escape.  Brush the top with melted butter.  Place in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven, spritz with rose water and sprinkle with sugar to ice.  Return to the oven for a further 5 to 10 minutes.  Serve warm.  Serves about 10 people.

1) The filling was described by one person as having the texture of a pumpkin pie, but the taste of a strawberry one.  Everyone enjoyed it.
2) The top pastry crust was a little disappointing.  The sides of the crust came apart at the edges and the middle of the crust sank onto the filling.  This meant that the middle of the crust on top did not cook well.  Next time I would advise making sure that the edges are well sealed and not giving it a venting hole.  That way the steam from the filling will puff up the top crust and therefore ensure that it crisps up.  An alternative is to cook it like a pumpkin pie without a top crust.
3) All in all a success and one I am looking forward to making again when real strawberries are in season.

Enjoy.  Copyright Helewyse de Birkestad January 29, 2003.
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