torta di mele: apple cake recipe
I remember a school trip around the Peak District in Derbyshire when I was about eight or nine. On the itinerary was a last stop for “high tea”. I had no idea what this entailed and to be honest still don’t quite know the difference between high and afternoon tea. Despite having spent quite some time in Italy where of course coffee is the drink of choice the idea of tea and cake on a sunny afternoon is an English tradition I still hanker after.
Now dont get me wrong, I am sure there are some delicious Le Marche cakes out there but the ones I have tried are a tad dry for my taste so we have had to adapt and this apple cake recipe from Maryberry, it uses the traditional italian ingredients for the “pasty” mix but the addition of apple adds moisture and creates a cake that is perfect for afternoon tea, or breakfast, or after dinner or…
- 225g self-raising flour
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- 225g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp almond extract
- 150g butter, melted
- 250g cooking apples, peeled and cored
- 25g flaked almonds
- Beat the the the flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, almond extract and melted butter together for a minute or so. spread half the mix on the bottom of a cake tin - 20cm spring sided best - lined with buttered grease-proof paper. layout the cut apples and cover with the rest of the mix and sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. cook for about an hour and a half.
Torta al Limone
Torta al Limone: As the temperatures begin to rise in Le Marche the potted lemon trees can be put outside. Down at the coast lemon trees grow quite happily in the ground but as we are in the hills we need to protect them from frost. Funny thing is…my lemons are not lemons as an Italian gardener friend told me – they are cedri! They are grown principally for their thick and aromatic zests and are used to make candied lemon peel. This then explains why when I have asked for lemons from a market stall I’ve been asked ‘do you want them for zesting or for juice?’ What I know as an ordinary lemon is only used for juice and I must admit the zest of my cedri is beautifully strong in flavour and they don’t give much juice.
I have italianised an old recipe for Torta al Limone cheesecake by using ricotta rather than double cream and I find it much lighter. Here I’ve used a plain biscuit base but you can use crushed amaretto biscotti instead.
This desert would be ideal after an Easter feast and may well make an appearance at the end of our Easter meal this weekend.
- 250 g biscuits (digestives or Italian biscotti di amaretti
- 100g butter
- 500g ricotta ( include some mascapone if you want a creamier texture)
- 170ml cream/or full fat milk
- 200g sugar
- zest and juice of 2 large lemons ( or zest of cedri and juice from normal lemons)
- 3 eggs
- Crush the biscuits in a large bowl with the end of a rolling pin
- Melt the butter and mix in the crushed biscuits
- Press the mixture into a cake tin, and let it firm up in the fridge
- Beat the ricotta (or ricotta/mascapone mixture) with the sugar
- Then beat in the eggs. I use a hand held electric mixer.
- Add the cream/milk, lots of lemon or cedri zest and the lemon juice.
- I often check the taste at this point to make sure its nice and lemony! can always add more zest and juice.
- Pour carefully onto the biscuit base and bake in a low oven (150degrees centigrade) for an hour, until the centre is firmish.
- Switch off the oven and leave in for 15 minutes.
- Then allow to cool.
- You can top the finished cheesecake with fresh fruit. Strawberries are coming into season here in le Marche or blueberries or fruits of the forest.
In poor Italian households this cake is one of the oldest of all, traditionally children would take a hot slice wrapped in paper to nibble on the way to school. Chestnuts are plentiful in Italy and so the flour is cheap, or free if you collect dry and grind the chestnuts yourself. Chestnut flour is a useful alternative to wheat flour as it is gluten free and therefore suitable for celiacs. This recipe has no added sugar and so is also very healthy.
Unlike a traditional fruitcake the fruit and nuts are added to the top of the cake rather than mixed with the dough, which is simply chestnut flour and water.
Being quite heavy and dry to modern tastes I have modified the recipe and instead of water I use milk. I also add 100g of sugar, an egg, a couple of tbs of sunflower oil and half the fruit to the batter mix. This helps it rise and give the base a bit more taste and I am afraid I do prefer the sweetness a little sugar adds!
450g chestnut flour
cold water to mix
1 tbs caraway seeds
3 tbs chopped pinenuts (or almonds)
pinch of salt
Soak the sultanas in cold water 15 minutes, drain and dry on kitchen roll. Sieve together chestnut flour and salt, stir in enough cold water to make a stiffish batter, slightly stiffer than a pancake batter.
Oil a shallow cake tin (I use a skillet – frying pan with a metal handle) and pour in the batter, smooth with the back of a spoon and scatter with caraway seeds, remaining sultanas and almonds
Bake in reasonably hot oven around 190c, for 20 minutes or until surface is crispy. serve straight from the oven or cold with a glass of dry white wine suitably chilled.