Saturday, September 30, 2006

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


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Blogger Alfonso Cevola said...

wasn't it Marie Antoinette who said "Let them eat cake"?
hmm IITI, maybe you really are a revolutionary!

9:30 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Does this mean I am part of the nobles who get whacked or part of the revolutionaries that do the whacking?

9:36 AM

Blogger John said...

I love cake :D chocolate cake specially ñ_ñ

9:51 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

Oh I just love real chocolate too DAVID!!! Yum - I got some of the best stuff in Switzerland. Easter is my favorite time of year in Europe because they have such great chocolate displays out... But christmas is the best time for chocolates to eat...

Hehe... So I guess we've learned one thing about each other, we both love DARK chocolate. I'm currently eating the 65% columbian Lindt package right now (well it's waiting to be tasted in bits).

10:11 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

John This is truly a unique experience in Chocolate, an antique recipe and Amaretto and chocolate is a great match.

Expat Chocolate, in all forms, as long as it is true chocolate. I have found that my best managers, over the years, have been true Chocolate lovers. So much so that when a new manager arrived and passed the test period we would have a chocolate initiation. D'Amori chocolate samplers from 65% to 100% and Johnny Walker Blue!

12:40 PM

Blogger AY said...

Marie-Antoinette never said that!!

The cake looks yummy, David! Dark chocolate is also really good for heart health.

7:45 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Aussie Well, I guess I can confirm that I have a healthy heart, at least from an emotional viewpoint ;)

7:19 AM

Blogger Alfonso Cevola said...

Ok, then, how about this?
"Let them drink Cakebread."
-Jack Cakebread

8:22 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...


We made the turta de lac yesterday with some variations for our American friends.

Before adding the milk to the bread, whip 1/2 stick butter with 1/4 sugar with 1/4 tsp vanilla.
Stir the butter-sugar-vanilla to the milk.

Then soak the bread overnight.

7:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Anyone have any RumCake recipies. I notice alot of different ones. I have a pretty good one on my blog page.

7:05 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Carlo & Lindsey Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I checked out your site but it is impossible that this recipe has anything to do with Italy. It uses packaged industrial pudding mixes that no self-respecting Italian would ever think of using. Pudding is very simple to make and is simply milk, eggs and flavor so when you pay $2 dollars for the box of instant pudding you are buying some cornstarch with a bit of vanilla.

I will be more than happy to look over your site and even reccomend it if you put anything real Italian on it.

5:24 AM


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