Sometimes a treasured recipe can take on an entirely new dimension by changing one ingredient. I’ve been making Marcella Hazan’s Farm Wive’s Fresh Pear Tart for about 30 years now. I’ve already written about it here, and admitted that I rarely make it with the pears it calls for. I usually stick to apples, but have even substituted bananas when that was all I had around.
The thing is, with this cake, I almost never plan on making it. It’s not like I head out to the store to buy the ingredients. This is the dessert I make when I am desperate, and need a last minute something. The ingredients are almost always in my pantry: flour, eggs, sugar and a little bit of milk. Fruit? I can always manage something. I’ve even made it with quinces I’ve canned myself.
Last week though, I made this recipe from a different starting point. In other words, I had a lot of fruit and didn’t quite know what to do with it.
I mean, really, what would you do with a half kilo of red currants?
I ended up the proud (but slightly confused) owner of this huge amount of red currants when I met Salvatore at an organic berry farm last week. Located between Todi and Foligno, this amazing place is run by two women and has acres and acres of plump, ripe berries. After driving around confusedly for about 30 minutes (Salvatore is great at many things, but giving directions is not one of them) I came away with a half kilo of blackberries (which barely made it home, since we were munching on them in the car) and the biggest amount of jewel like, perfect currants I had ever owned.
They sat in the refrigerator for a full day before I had the bright idea of putting them in Marcella’s cake. Mostly I had the idea because a) I had all the other ingredients in the house and b) I had no other ideas.
I decided to throw in some plums from our own tree as well, just because.
The cake was a huge success. Completely different than the usual apple filled cake I’d made in the past. I loved the astringent tartness of the currants, and isn’t the color fabulous? I’m thinking raspberries would be beyond delicious. Good thing I now know my way to the berry farm.
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 cup sugar
- pinch salt
- 1.5 cups flour
- ½ kilo / 1 pound red currants, picked from their stems
- ½ kilo / 1 pound purple plums, cut into slices
- a 9 inch round cake pan
- Butter for greasing the pan and dotting the cake
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 375F/180C
- Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Add sugar, pinch of salt and beat. Add flour, mixing it well.
- Peel, pit and thinly slice the plums. Take the currants off the stems.
- Add the fruit to batter, mixing gently but well.
- Smear a pan with butter then sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, shaking and them pouring out excess.
- Put batter into pan, leveling it off with the back of a spoon. Dot with bits of butter, pushing them into the batter with your finger. About 3 Tablespoons total.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.
If you happen to be in the area, here is the information for the berry farm:
Localita Colato, 119 – Fraz. Viepri (Massa Martana – PG)