Sunday, August 22, 2010
I know that everyone else’s copies of Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking and More Classic Italian Cooking are as worn out as mine is. My two volume paperback edition is stained, tattered and torn. I used it almost every day when I first moved to Florence in 1988, and still continue to use that, as well as the updated edition I keep in Todi. But like me, most people tend to rave on and on about the Bolognese or the Lasagna or the Drunken Pork Roast...or really, any of the many other heavy, northern Italian dishes she made so easy to recreate in homes everywhere.
My friend Rebecca, loves her copy too, and uses it in the summers when she takes time off her busy new york lawyer life to cook in her house in Todi. So it’s really nice to see that after all these years both of our daughters are turning to our cookbooks. The other night we went to dinner at Edward and Rebecca’s house, and Charlotte, (Edward and Rebecca’s daughter) made a gorgeous light and fluffy Almond Cake, straight from Marcella. It’s not the sort of dessert you’d expect a 12 year old to decide to make: delicate, sophisticated and perfect with a big whollop of freshly whipped cream.
But she discovered something that both Rebecca and I figured out a long time ago: Marcella is a great source for very easy, rustic cakes with few ingredients that are perfect after a heavy Italian meal. While Marcella's main dishes tend towards the heavy, her desserts are surprisingly light. Both Rebecca and I make Farmhouse Pear Cake all the time, but neither of us had tried our hand at the Almond Cake.
Yesterday was our last day of the season in Todi, and like every other year Domenico realizes, at the very last minute, that we have a tree full of almonds to deal with - with barely any time to do so. So he quickly picked a basket and Sophie decided to recreate Charlotte’s dessert. While the dessert is fairly easy, Sophie had to first crack open enough nuts to make two cakes (she wanted to make one for my friend Jane in Rome, who loves our almonds). After slamming the hammer on her thumb only once, she managed to make two gorgeous and delicious cakes. I’m sure the process is even easier if you just head to Trader Joe’s and pick up a bag of almonds.
Torta di Mandorla
(from Marcella Hazan: More Classic Italian Cooking)
6 to 8 servings
10 oz of un-peeled almonds (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
Peel of one lemon
6 Tablespoons flour
An 8 or 9 inch spring form pan
butter for greasing
Preheat oven to 350 f. (185 c.)
Grind almonds very fine, but not to paste, using food processor
Add the sugar to almonds, mixing well.
Beat egg whites with salt till they form stiff peaks.
Add sugar almond mixture and grated lemon peel to egg whites, a little at a time, mixing gently so as not to deflate whites.
Add flour, a bit at a time, gently.
Thickly grease pan and line bottom with paper.
Marcella says to bake for one hour, but Sophie's cake was done in about 40 minutes. So keep checking until toothpick comes out clean.
Serve with whipped cream, as well as berries if you like.