Pasta Flora is one of those desserts we had seen a hundred times at festivals and various church bake sales, but never really understood how it was a Greek food. We thought it was just a large pie or tart that made its way into the culture, but was not typically ethnic. Surprisingly, it is a Greek food!
Pasta Flora (Πάστα Φλόρα) is a shortcrust tart that can be filled with any jam flavour, but is typically apricot. It is similar to a Linzer Torte (Austria), and can be made large or small, and will delight anyone with a sweet tooth. The beauty of this recipe is that it is appropriate for the season of Lent, and can be used throughout the year with ingredients that are typical in a household. The lattice work on top will make it a little fancy, and only you will know how easy this actually was to make. This treat can be served with coffee, breakfast, snack, or any time of day. If you have leftover dough, you can make shortbread cookies from the dough, without the jam. This is a typical treat in the Greek bakeries, and we are delighted to share with you our version.
For this recipe, you will need the following:
1/2 c oil
6 T orange juice
1 tsp brandy or cognac
1/2 jar jam (about 8 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla powder (optional)
1 tsp orange zest
1 1/4 cup flour (maybe a little more as needed)
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking powder
slivered almonds, (optional) as needed
First, get the flavours all mixed together by combining the jam or jelly with the brandy. Mix so the jam is thinned and has a hint of flavour. Allow this to sit off to the side while making the dough.
A note: We believe that you could omit the brandy and use just straight jam, or use a little lemon juice or orange juice in the jam to thin it a bit so it is spread-able.
Start by combining the dry ingredients -- the flour, vanilla powder (if using), baking powder, and salt. Combine well so you cannot differentiate between one and the other.
In a separate bowl, mix the orange juice, sugar, orange zest, and the oil. Mix well so it is well combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the liquid juice/sugar combination. Add a bit at a time so you have no lumps and you do not over mix the dough. Get all the ingredients mixed together to form a wet, but pliable dough. You may be surprised at how oily the dough feels, but that is typical and acceptable. If the dough does not stay together, add a little more flour. The dough should feel like a very soft cookie dough. Be careful to not add too much extra flour, though, because that could ruin the final product and make it too dry.
Cut away one third of the dough, and set that aside. This will become the lattice on top of the pasta flora. Then, take the 2/3 amount that you have and press it into a tart pan. You may be able to roll it with a rolling pin, but it is just as easy to use your hands, give this dough a press, and it will form against the sides of your pan. You also get that homemade look since it will not be smooth. Some say that the "bumpy" texture of hand-pressed dough holds the jam better than if the dough had been rolled out with a rolling pin. Fill the cracks and crevices all around the tart pan and make sure the dough is pressed along the sides, too.
Now that the shell is in place, fill the shell with the jam/brandy mixture. Spread it evenly around the tart pan. This way, you assure a little jam with every bite. If you have chosen to use slivered almonds, you can sprinkle them on top of the jam at this point, before laying the lattice work on top. Otherwise, wait and sprinkle them on top of the lattice.
The one third of the dough that we had set aside, we are going to break apart into walnut sized pieces. You should have about 8 or 10 pieces. Each one of these is going to be rolled into a long "snake" or "log" or "rope". Roll each piece so the log is the length of the tart pan. The log is to be laid across the top of the tart, and some of them will be smaller, since they are on the end. So, one by one, starting in the centre, lay the long rope across the top of the tart. Next, lay ropes across the top of the jam, about one inch apart, and continue to do that until you have striped the top of the tart pan.
Now, lay the remaining snake rolls across the first ones, so the pattern becomes a criss-cross or a lattice. Press the ends of each snake/log against the sides of the tart pan to seal the edges of the Pasta Flora. The nice thing about this is that if the snakes are not long enough to reach both sides of the pan, that is okay -- they do not have to be perfect because once they bake, the logs will look nicer than they did when they were uncooked.
Bake this at 375° F (about 190° C) for approximately 35 minutes. You will know it is done by the lovely golden colour that the top will have, and the jam filling will look firm and solid. Allow this to cool before serving. It will be well worth the wait!
We knew that this was a very traditional treat for many parts of Greece. We are happy to learn that several of the people we shared this with have had others and preferred our recipe over others. It is not too sweet. We are not certain, but it could also be the flavour of jam used. We used a no-sugar added Mixed Berry flavour jam by the Canadian company E.D. Smith. It spread beautifully in the tart, has a nice flavour, and became this lovely dark, rich colour which really stood out against the light golden dough. We are going to make this again with the traditional apricot jam, and maybe a third time with a strawberry or raspberry filling, as per the request of Husband's Mother. We like Pasta Flora and are thrilled to know that others like it, too!
|By the way, here is our Theia's lovely Pasta Flora which she had made for our cousin's Agiasmo (Home/Business blessing - please see this entry by clicking here). As you can see in the photo above, it was made with a different filling; hers is also Lenten (vegan, in fact) and, if we may add, totally delicious!|
By St. Kosmas Aitolos, The Life of St. Kosmas Aitolos Together with an English Translation of His Teaching and Letters, Translated by Nomikos Michael Vaporis