good things come in threes or three's a charm
Marta of An Italian in the US brought me from Italy three of the ingredients for pastiera: a can of grano cotto (cooked wheat), some candied citron, and a vial of orange blossom water. I used half of each ingredient to make each pastiera, so after number two I had to be creative. To begin with, I found and purchased some candied orange peel. Then, I made my grano cotto.
I found that our local grocery store carries soft, hard white, and hard red wheat berries. I bought some soft wheat (portrayed on the left). I then followed the instructions on this site to prepare it: I soaked half a cup of soft wheat for three days, changing the water in the morning and in the evening. Then, I cooked it in 1.5 cups water for 90 minutes. After draining the excess water, the grano cotto can be used or stored for a few days. I used it right away.
My grano cotto had more texture than the canned one and contributed that texture to the final product. I followed the same recipe as the one described for the first pastiera, but I added a bit less sugar: 1 tablespoon less to the pasta frolla and 2 tablespoons less to the filling. Instead of fior d'arancio (orange blossom), I used half a vial of millefiori (literally, thousand flowers), another flavoring for pastiera that Marta had brought me from Italy. The three changes in the ingredients made for a final product that was different from the first one, but equally (may I say enthusiastically?) appreciated.
It amazes me that only a short while ago, I was intimidated by this dessert and now I feel like I can make it ad infinitum. For this transformation I will be forever thankful to Marta. There is no Italian saying non c'è tre senza quattro (good things come in fours, or four's a charm), but it ended up being like that for me: after the success of pastiera number three, I made a fourth specimen, using another batch of my home-made grano cotto, candied orange peel again, and the remaining millefiori. At this point, to get to number five I need to find more flavoring. Non temete (fear not), I will figure something out.
Special announcement: this week, I have the honor of hosting Weekend Herb Blogging, the famous blog event created in October 2005 by blogger extraordinaire Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Needless to say, I am looking forward to receiving submissions. Note that new rules for the event will be introduced starting July 20, so I recommend you read Kalyn's announcement here.