Turta de Lac – Torta di Pane – Torta del Paese
Sacrilege! A French recipe on this exclusively Italian site. Mon Dieu! I have not lost my marbles, notwithstanding the appearance, this is an authentic and antique Italian recipe. My early years in Italy were spent in a small town in Brianza, about 15 km. Northeast of Milan. These were the days of 5:45 AM bus rides to the outskirts of Milan to catch the Metro and walking the last 3 km home from the closest bus stop at 9:00 pm because the bus stopped service before I finished work.
The little town, built around a medieval castle, counted about 3,000 people. The closest town was Bellusco, much larger in size, about 6,000 people. To be exact, the town has 6,070 individuals, 3,113 women and 2,957 men. Bellusco origins date back well into the Roman Empire but is officially recognized in the writings of the Bishop of Bergamo in 898. In this area the local dialect is Brianzolo a more provincial version of Milanese. There are still numerous individuals who do not speak Italian, I know several. Brianzolo, as Milanese, has significant French influences. In fact on my trips to provincial France I do not attempt French instead I speak Brianzolo and we get along just fine.
In the six years spent in this area, Ferragosto initiated my favorite time of year. The temperatures dropped quickly and the traditional winter dishes of Polenta, Casoeula, Salamelle, and Brasato. The second Sunday of September, Bellusco celebrates its patron saint, Santa Giustina. They even have a palio but this is not the reason I looked forward to the Festa del Paese.
I love chocolate, real chocolate, not milk chocolate or white chocolate but dark 65% and above Cocoa Butter chocolate. I even like the 100% chocolate that others have referred to as asphalt. Once a year, for the celebration of the patron saint, the Turta de Lac or Torta del Paese appears. When I first tried this torta I was hooked. It is marvelous, a chocolate cream pie, a chocolate mousse, brownies and dark fudge all rolled into one cake.
Turta de Lac is antique. The recipe passed down through the generations never written from mother to daughter. Preparation was not by quantity, instead by the feel. Since the Turta de Lac is prepared only once a year, the stale bread was accumulated in the dispenser until the time of preparation. The stale bread, traditionally the Michetta, is placed in the family milk pale. Milk is added and the mixture sits over night. In the morning cookies (Biscotti) and Amaretti are crumbled and added until the mixture is dark brown. Then the special family ingredients are added and the Turta de Lac is carried to local bakery to be cooked. The number of Turta de Lac prepared by each family could feed a battalion of hungry soldiers. The Turta de Lac will remain fresh for several days and tradition requires that each family share its production with the extended family and friends.
The recipe here is one I acquired from a seventy year young, matriarch. She considers it the only right one but others will have their own recipe with small variations. These are family recipes and may be hundreds of years old, passed down from matriarch to daughter. No matter the recipe used, they are all marvelous. Should you see the Turta de Lac on the dessert table during this period, try it!
Ingredients for a 9 inch spring-form pan:
4 stale Michette or Rosette (these are buns)
70 gr. Bakers Cocoa Powder
100 gr. Raisins
125 gr. Amaretti Biscotti (you can find these at Whole Foods or gourmet food shops)
50 gr. of Pinoli
750 ml milk (about 3 cups)
The night before, place the stale bread in large bowl. Add the milk, cover and let stand overnight.
Dissolve the Cocoa Powder in a bit of milk. Add the Cocoa Powder to the Bread/Milk mixture. With a large spoon beat the bread/milk mixture until smooth. Crumble the Amaretti and add to the milk. Stir in the Pinoli and Raisins.
Butter the bottom and sides of the pan. Place parchment paper or wax paper in the bottom of the pan.
Pour into the spring-form pan, cover with plastic wrap and rest for a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the plastic covering the spring-form pan and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest for 30 minutes. Slide a knife around the sides and remove the sides of the pan.
Cover and refrigerate when the Turta de Lac is at room temperature.
Cakes Available online
Tags: Gourmet Foods Italian Desserts Lombardia Cakes Italian Recipes Food and Wine Travel Italy