This is one of the most unusual cakes I have ever come across and is really more of a rough biscuit than a cake. Nonetheless, it hits my love affair with Italian cakes (torta) and desserts head-on. The crunchy texture is utterly moreish. By crunchy I mean the crunchiest baked treat you could ever encounter. Traditionally it is served in rough chunks or broken-off shards and is best enjoyed with a glass of grappa.
Emma Freddi, at one of her delightful home-cooking classes, taught me how to make this dessert. I fell in love with it instantly. Her passion for Italian cooking and her use of proper ingredients is utterly inspiring. I could just hang out with her and talk about food and drink wine for hours.
If you prefer a slightly less sweet dessert with lots of crunchy texture, this is the perfect option for you. It will round off a delicious meal without being overwhelming. I didn’t capture it that well in the one and only pic I have of it from my book, but it really is one of my favourite baked things.
I thought this would be a good thing to make as we hit winter with a fierce force here in Cape Town today.
Recipe – Makes 1 large tray From my cookbook ‘Sweet’ – published by Penguin Random House
sbrisolona ( Italian torta)
- 200 g whole-skinned almonds
- 250 g cake flour
- 150 g polenta
- 200 g granulated white sugar
- 200 g butter room temperature
- 15 ml vanilla extract
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 free-range egg yolks
- icing sugar for dusting
- Set the oven to 150 °C and line a baking tray with the almonds. Place them in the oven to toast lightly while it is preheating, about 15 minutes. Once they are just starting to turn brown, remove them. Process the almonds in a food processor, but not too finely.
- Combine the almonds, cake flour, polenta, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Add the butter, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and egg yolks and mix quickly, preferably using your fingers, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Line a large baking tray with baking paper and loosely spread the crumbs evenly over the top ensuring that you don’t compact them or press them down. Bake (still at 150 °C) for 30 minutes until lightly golden. Remove and leave to cool completely.
- Break into shards, then serve piled up on a plate and dusted with icing sugar.
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