I’ve been eating lots of great apples this fall, mostly thanks to my friend Ray, who brings them back from the farms he visits. Last week I saw some “local apples ” at the supermarket and bought a few, thinking I’d make Jewish apple bread some weeknight. Instead, the work week got the best of me and I found myself with an extra hour on a Sunday morning and a desire to try something new.
Enter Biba Caggiano, and her recipe for torta di mele e mandorle from Masuelli trattoria in Milano, where Signora Masuelli “prepares the daily menu according to what she finds in the market in the morning”. Lisetta prepared the cake according to what she found in her cupboard, which unfortunately included almond only in its ‘extract’ form. Drat. I did have the apples, though, and the Amaretti di Saronno – little round almond cookies – the recipe called for, as well as the basics (butter, flour, eggs). I could substitute the almonds with pine nuts, right? Frangelico and Amaretto are similar, no?
It worked. Don’t ask me how. I pretty much followed the proportions of the published recipe, but with different ingredients, leaving out the lemon zest and cold espresso. Here’s what I did, and how it turned out.
Torta di mele e pignoli
4 oz. toasted pine nuts
6 large apples, peeled and diced
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 pound of butter, at room temp, cut into pieces
4 large eggs
about 10 pairs Amaretti di Saronno cookies
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup almond flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup Frangelico (hazlenut liquor)
about 2 tablespoons of honey
Blend the butter, sugar and eggs in a food processor. Add the amaretti, flour and salt, and pulse until blended. Add the Frangelico and honey to finish the batter.
Add the pine nuts and the batter to the bowl of diced apples, and pour the mixture into two buttered 10-inch cake pans. Smooth out the top with a spatula and make sure everything settles into the pan.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the tops are brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
The cake is decidedly delicious, mostly apples, with just enough batter to bind them together. It remains a bit too dense and sweet for my tastes. Next time I’d cut down on the sugar and ask around for something to lighten up the batter. Other torta di mele recipes I saw used yeast … maybe I’ll try Marcella Hazan’s recipe next time around?