Well, that title IS misleading in its conciseness. It should read “apple, pumpkin, amaretti, chocolate, figs and sultana cake with brandy and rum” – no less!. This opulent pudding is one of the most delicious and the most unusual dishes I have tasted in a long time. It comes from Piemonte (again!, as you might have gathered I am having fun “exploring” this region) and it defies description: it is part cake part set mousse part fudgy brownie. It is slowly dried out in the oven, rather than conventionally baked and it keeps for days, getting in fact better – its taste deepens and develops, the boozy kick subsides and the chocolatey-fruity notes come to the fore. This is a splendid, festive pudding which I urge you to try.
Torta di mele e zucca monferrina
12 to 16 portions
(marginally adapted from “La cucina del Piemonte collinare e vignaiolo”, by Giovanni Goria)
An oven tray 35 cm x 25 cm x 4 cm, buttered and lined with parchment paper
1 kg peeled pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed small (net weight)
4 not too big brambly apples and 4 Braeburn apples, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 orange
200 g crushed dry amaretti biscuits (crash them by hand, do not pulverize them in a food processor)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
200 g bitter chocolate, finely chopped (I used 100 g/70% cocoa content and 100g /90% cocoa content – I tried this cake few times and I had the best result using this combination)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
240 g sugar
pinch of salt
12 dried figs, chopped up
a big handful of sultanas
60 ml brandy
60 ml rum
Heat up the oven to 200 C.Toss the apples with the cinnamon and the vanilla, place them in large heavy pan and cook them, covered, for about 30 minutes or until fully tender. Stir them to mashed them up.
Coat the pumpkin cubes with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon sugar , place them on a tray, lined with buttered tin-foil. Roast until lightly caramelized and fully tender, approximately 45 minutes., turning them a couple of times. Mash them up with a fork.
Bring the oven down to 150 C.
Mix the apples and the pumpkin. Add the orange zest, the crushed amaretti, the chocolate, the cocoa powder, the liqueurs, the sultanas, the figs and the eggs
Mix well and pour into the baking tray. Bake the cake for at least 3 hours and then check every 30 minutes: it must feel rather firm to the touch, notably drier and it will have slightly shrunk from the sides of the tin. Do not expect this cake to become fully dry: think fudgy brownie. In my oven this took 4 hours but I could have left it even longer. Remove it from the oven, place it on cooling rack.
This dessert can be eaten warm (on the day it is made) or at room temperature, the following days.
I also made this cake using half quantities. I baked it in a buttered and lined 24 cm x 24 cm dish. It took over two hours at 150 C.
On the apples: the author just says “8 apples”. I found that using different varieties gave the best results. If you only have very large apples, reduce their quantity. I favor sharp apples, but it is up to you
Use your judgment when it comes to bake the cake: the author says that it must “dry ” (rather than “bake”) and that the oven must be “bassissimo, appena acceso”, very low, barely on. The cake will firm up as ti cool down.
This dessert is hard to sabotage, a little less/more pumpkin/apple/chocolate/alchol ecc will not alter its deliciousness