October 20, 2008
torta di mele
It's so nice to make something from things that are just lying around. Literally, to walk out in the yard and pick some apples and voilà! A beautiful cake. There's nothing new about it. It's just that I've never lived in a place where the trees were big and old and sometimes fruit-producing. These days, however, most people are too busy to make use of the trees that line our neighborhood streets. Like the walnut trees right now dropping their big, green orbs with nuts inside all over the alleys and yards of East Nashville.
Or the apple trees -- some of them just now overflowing with little juicy, red apples --the perfect kind for a cake. My neighbor's neighbor has a tree that hangs into her yard and no one ever picks them. The landlord said she could help herself. We were standing in her backyard this weekend and noticed how full that tree was and how great the apples looked, so we grabbed a bushel and ladder and started picking. Next thing I knew, I had a Torta di mele, or apple cake, ready for an afternoon snack.
While in Italy in September I had the best apple cake I've ever eaten. In fact, the cooking class made it for me for my birthday! They even baked it in the wood-fired oven. Maybe that's why it tasted so good. All I remember is this powdered-sugar- dusted, moist, sweet cake that went so well with vanilla ice cream.
Maybe that's what mine needed. That - or mascarpone cream sauce. Because it was a little dry and crumbly, though I think that's how it's supposed to be. Italians don't make a lot of rich, gooey desserts. But they make these kinds of tea or coffee cakes, a breakfast cake, which is why it was perfect for an impromptu birthday cake.
I'd give you the recipe for the Italian one, but it's in Italian and I have not yet translated the measurments. They are very similar though. And the shape can be round or square, or even a loaf. What matters is that your apples are tasty and tart.
Torta di mele (from La Dolce Vita by Michele Scicolone)
1 1/3 c AP flour
1 t baking powder
6 T unsalted butter
3/4 c sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c milk
about 1 1/2 cups of apples (4 small or 2 large) cored, peeled and sliced into 1/2 in chunks (leave a few out for decorating the top of the cake)
1/4 c pine nuts (optional)
Combine flour and b.p. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir in dries in three parts, alternating with the milk. Stir in apples. Spoon into prepared pan and level the top. Make a design with apple slices on top, sprinkle with pine nuts if desired, and bake in 375 degree oven for 30-35 min.