When travelling across northern Italy, one of the things you might not want to miss is the “torta di pane”, a delicious Italian cake made with stale bread and raisins.
The bread cake recipe dates back to the past, after wars or difficult periods, as people didn’t have enough money to buy flour or backing soda but didn’t want to renounce to something sweet in bitter times. Especially the farmers had the available ingredients, such as eggs, flour and bread, which was a good that couldn’t be wasted. In addition to that, the first recipes didn’t contain sugar since it was very expensive and not easily accessible. To sweeten bread cake Italians used fresh fruits like apples and pears or dried fruits like walnuts, pine nuts and raisins that were easy to find and provided enough energy to face daily work. The “torta di pane” also didn’t need to be backed at high temperatures and could adapt to the old wood-burning ovens. Therefore, poor people developed an easy way to bake something sweet and delicious without spending the money they saved to buy expensive baking ingredients. Ancient stories tell that mountain people prepared this cake once the pasturing season ended around September, as they descended to their valleys, carrying all food rests they didn’t eat during the summer. It was the cake of the poor, but rich in taste and hearty.
The recipe varies from region to region and is handed down from mother to daughter through generations. Here you find my family recipe.
- Stale bread (3 or 4 pieces) cut into little pieces
- Milk (right quantity)
- 2 eggs
- 2-3 tablespoons of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of raisins
- Walnuts and almonds
In a bowl, moist bread with milk, paying attention to pour milk gradually for the bread must be neither too wet nor too dry. Once you’ve reached a good consistence, mix the eggs with sugar and 2/3 of raisins and walnut. If you like, you can also add pine kernels, hazelnuts and vanilla, cinnamon or lemon peel, everything you can find in your kitchen is allowed. Place the dough in a baking form, spread the resting raisins and nuts on the top of it. Bake in preheated oven until the top gets brown, about 1.5 h. It keeps in the refrigerator up to three days.
A slice of this cake with a cup of brown coffee is a good way to start your day or to spend a rainy day at home, eating it together with a cup of warm tea. Enjoy every mouthful and sip, feel the moment and take some time to look back at the past and at the simple way of life our grandparents used to have.