This cake reminds me of the mountain. I don’t know why but as a kid my parents always had some when we were up in the very rustic mountain hut in the middle of the Alps (a granite building from the 18th century at 1900 meters). For us, more or less it was the only time of the year where it was a tradition to have it. This typical recipe from my canton is the poor man’s recipe and it’s a way to recycle stale bread. I know it’s an easy recipe but I felt that with this cake, expectations were high. Over here, this is the kind of recipe where people always tend to answer something like this:
‘I only eat my grandma’s torta di pane.’
‘My aunt is the best at making the torta di pane.’
‘My Mum makes an amazing torta di pane.’
I really wanted to try so I sat down in front of four different versions of the cake. The first version is one I dearly kept aside until I actually tried this ‘torta’ the other day. This recipe comes from a family friend: Lori. Traditionally people use sultanas with candied fruits, instead in her version she uses dried apricots (which I prefer) and candied fruits. Then, I had a look at two book versions with totally different amounts of milk (one 0.5 l the other 1 l) and one added pine nuts while the other went for almonds. I think I wanted to get a bit more confused because I went for a last reference on the internet and found a last recipe which I actually really liked: http://pandipane.blogspot.ch/2013/10/la-torta-di-pane-della-mia-nonna.html (site in Italian language). My rules for the cake were that it should be moist and the taste of cocoa should be noticeable but not overwhelming and I loved the addition of apricots instead of sultanas. Once the cake was ready I got three people to taste it: my boyfriend and two other friends. The three liked it and the only comment I got was from by boyfriend who said it needed a bit more sugar… He’s got a pretty sweet tooth though. So if this is your case, you can go ahead and add a bit more sugar. The flavour of the ‘Torta di Pane’ reminds me my childhood and maybe this is also why I really enjoyed it. I hope you will like it too.
Torta di Pane – Bread Cake / Pudding from Ticino
For a 26-28 cm round cake mold
Prep time: 20 min (plus soaking time)
Cook time: about 1 hour
200 g stale bread
100 g amaretti
7 dl milk
1 vanilla pod
100 g dried apricots (the sour kind) – alternatively use sultanas and/or candied fruits
Zest of 1 small lemon
100 g pine nuts
6 tbsp cocoa
100 g sugar
50 g melted butter
A dash of grappa (optional)
Icing Sugar (optional)
In a bowl or container break the bread into small pieces and add the amaretti.
Put the milk in a pan. Incise the vanilla pod by its length, add to the milk and bring to a boil. Once ready pour over the stale bread and amaretti and leave to soak ideally over night but a few hours can do too. You can leave the vanilla pod in, just remember to remove it once the bread and biscuits have soaked.
Chop the dried apricots and place them in a cup. Add hot water and leave them to soak for a couple of hours.
Heat oven at 190°C.
Once the bread and amaretti have soaked, mash them with a fork until the mass looks like poultice. Drain the apricots and add them to the bread preparation along with the cocoa, the lemon zest, and ¾ of the pine nuts.
In a separate bowl mix well the eggs and the sugar and add the butter and eventually the grappa. Pour over the rest and mix the ingredients until the mass looks even; you can either use your hands or a spatula.
Grease the sides of a cake tin and dust with flour. Line the bottom of the cake tin with oven paper. Transfer the preparation to the cake tin and even out the surface. Add the remaining pine nuts and place in the oven for about 1 hour.
Once ready leave to cool before removing from mold. Eventually sprinkle surface with icing sugar.