Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stresa Travel Recipes: Torta di Pane

For my first recipe post I thought I'd share one of Luca's favourite cakes, torta di pane (bread cake). In these times of crisis and "make do and mend" it is a great way to use up stale bread and bits and bobs you've got sitting around in your food cupboard. It is a dense, quite heavy cake.

Below is a recipe that was given to me by my friend Cristina, and is in itself a combination of two recipes, further tweaked by me! Feel free to make substitutions - instead of walnuts you could try sultanas, cherries or other dried fruit. I think you could probably substitute the amaretti biscuits for another type of macaroon - although the almond flavour of amaretti does enhance the cake.

"Secrets of Cooking" Local Cook Book
I don't think this kind of cake has its origins in Piemonte but I did find a very similar recipe to mine in a cookbook of local recipes I picked up at the Fabbrica di Carta book fair a couple of years ago.

250g stale bread (I use rye bread)
250ml / 1 cup milk
2 medium eggs
80g / 3/8 cup caster (superfine/baker's) sugar
6 teaspoons cocoa powder (I use unsweetened)
50g / 1/4 cup butter, melted
100g amaretti biscuits
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Few drops vanilla essence
40g / 1/4 cup walnut halves

Where I can I've tried to find equivalent measurements in US cups.

First of all heat your oven to 180°C / 350°F and line your baking tin with baking paper. My tin to yield 12 pieces is 20x15cm oblong tin.

Break the stale bread into small cubes and place in a large bowl. Pour over the milk. The bread will not be swimming in milk - quite the contrary. But it will begin to soak in.

Soaking the bread, Crushing the walnuts and amaretti, Whizzing up the bread

In the meantime you can get your other ingredients ready. Melt the butter and set aside. Whizz the walnuts and amaretti in a food processor until they are like course breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Put the milk-soaked bread in the food processor and whizz until well broken down and you have a moist breadcrumb mix. You will find it easier to add the bread to the food processor a bit at a time.

Add all the other ingredients to the food processor and mix until well combined. The mixture will be fairly dense.

Combining all the ingredients, Ready for the oven, Baked and cooling

Put the mix into your prepared tin, level out with a spatula and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and cut into 12 squares. If you can't wait for it to cool, Luca advises you try it when it's still warm!

The finished product!
Let me know if you have a go at the recipe and how any substitutions go!

Sarah, Viaggi Tomassucci

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