Tuscan cuisine is a celebration of peasant food and the “poor man’s ingredients” (aside from the beef steak, with a Chianina cut of beef as precious as gold). It’s become popular in this country, over time, as the appreciation for seasonal ingredients has grown hand in hand with their availability. Pappa al Pomodoro is an ode to stale bread, ripe tomatoes and good olive oil. All kinds of soups that are to be found in the Tuscan cookbook feature pulses, grains and whatever vegetables are in season. A Ribollita is made with humble vegetables and cannellini beans and delicious in its simplicity.
Tuscan desserts are also not very exciting, at least not in the creamy, rich, fussy way we think of desserts. My favourite are Schiacciata all’Uva (a sort of grapes flatbread) and biscotti (known as cantucci) which have gone to conquer the world – Tuscan cantucci are actually extremely plain, seasoned with just fennel seeds and almonds and made to be dipped in sweet wine.
There is another dessert, somewhat ubiquitous in Italy, called Torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s cake) that originated in Tuscany and quickly spread to the rest of the peninsula. An absolute crowd pleaser: two layers of pate sucree with a filling of pastry cream, dotted with pine nuts. And if you are a pie maker, it’s a great alternative to the usual pies in your repertory. The Neapolitan version of this dish is even better – no pine nuts but fresh Morello cherries folded into the pastry cream.
Pastry cream, cooked very thick and cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours. For pastry cream recipe, click here
Two 9″ disks of pate sucree, rolled to about 1/4″ of an inch For pate sucree recipe, click here
1/4 cup of pine nuts
1. Fit the first disk of pate sucree in a 9″ fluted pie plate.
2. Pour the cooled pastry cream inside. Cover with the second disk of pate sucree and crimp the edges, sealing them well.
3. Brush a little bit of milk or egg wash on the top of the tart and scatter the pine nuts to cover. If you are feeling creative, you can create pretty patterns.
4. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until the dough looks golden.
5. Let cool and dust with powder sugar before serving.