I could live on apples and bread. If then it were torta di mele (apple cake), which is a glorified form of apples with bread, that would be even better.
To compete with a good British apple, crisp and not too sweet (and yet not too sour either), is hard. However, Italy too produces excellent apples, mainly from Trentino Alto Adige and from Emilia-Romagna, both in the north-east, and it is indeed from Emilia-Romagna (from the renaissance town of Ferrara) that this gorgeous cake emanates.Of all the apple cakes I have tried, this is one of the best: light but not insubstantial, and intensely appley. The recipe comes from what is regarded as one of the bibles on Italian regional cookery, Le ricette regionali italiane, by Anna Gosetti, first published in 1967, a labour of love that was four years in the making.
I suspect this cake is the grandmother of most contemporary Italian apple cakes and it exemplifies beautifully how the best Italian cooking works: few ingredients, almost no techniques and simplicity of approach.
Torta di mele Ferrarese – Ferrara apple cake
6 to 8 portions
26 cm cake tin, with removable base, buttered and lined with parchment
1 kg of apples, peeled and sliced
180 g 00 flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
130 g caster sugar
100 g milk
50 g butter
zest of half a lemon
1 tsp vanilla eXTRACT (my addition)
Whisk the eggs with sugar (minus 2 tablespoons), salt and vanilla until thick.
Add gradually and alternating the flour and the milk.
Add the lemon zest and mix well
Pour batter into cake tin. Arrange the apples on top, stacking them almost vertically (there is a lot of apples here, I know)
Cover the cake with flakes of butter and shower it with the remaining sugar
Bake at 170 C for 55 minutes.
Eat warm. It keeps well for a couple of days