Melanie Johnson delights us with this zesty Florentine take on apple tart - torta della nonna, as they call it.

Italian apple tart – ingredients

Serves 8

For the pastry

  • 250g 00 flour
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • Half a teaspoon vanilla-bean paste

For the filling

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 litre whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 75g plain flour
  • Half a teaspoon vanilla-bean paste
  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 75g toasted pine nuts
  • Icing sugar to finish

Method

For the pastry, pulse together the flours, sugar, butter, lemon zest and salt in a food processor until they resemble pale breadcrumbs. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse again until the dough comes together. Work it gently in your hands to incorporate any dry flakes (I added a few drops of iced water).

Split the dough in two – one piece should be half the size of the other – and shape into discs, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour.

To prepare the filling, cut the zest from the lemon in large chunks and add to a saucepan with the milk. Bring to a near boil – the shivery stage – then cool for five minutes, to infuse. Remove the lemon zest.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, flour and vanilla into a thick paste. Pour in a little of the hot milk and whisk until fully incorporated. Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking continuously. Return the milk mixture to a clean saucepan and bring slowly to a boil, again whisking continuously.

Once it reaches a boil and thickens, cook for a further couple of minutes, carefully stirring the bottom so it doesn’t burn. It should be thick and creamy. Pour into a clean bowl and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.

Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them browning.Choose a tart tin – either an 11in fluted tin for a shallow tart or a 9in tin fora deep-filled one (as I used).

Roll the larger piece of pastry out to the thickness of a £1 coin between sheets of baking parchment. Line the tin, carefully pushing the pastry into the corners. Arrange the apple slices evenly over the base and then pour in the lemon custard, using a rubber spatula to spread it evenly.

Roll the smaller piece of dough between baking parchment so that it’s thinner than the base. Leaving the top layer of baking parchment on to help, place the pastry lid on the custard. Remove the parchment and neatly press the pastry lid to the edges of the tart. Brush the top with beaten egg and bake for about 45–50 minutes or until golden on top.

Cool the tart to room temperature, transfer to a serving plate and refrigerate until fully chilled. Scatter with toasted pine nuts, dust with icing sugar, cut into neat slices and serve. Apple sorbet (see recipe, left) would be a perfect accompaniment.


Recipe: the perfect pizza

Nothing like that which arrives on a moped, Country Life delivers the best recipe for the perfect pizza