A few weeks ago I discovered a cookbook author named Mary Ann Esposito. With 7 cookbooks, 20 years of writing about Italy and 14 seasons hosting a TV show called Ciao Italia, you’d think I would have heard of her, but her books are new to me and I am now happily looking forward to collecting them all. To start, I bought Ciao Italia in Tuscany: Traditional Recipes from One of Italy’s Most Famous Regions. It is the source of this recipe known as Torta di Mele or Tuscan Apple Cake.
Ciao Italia in Tuscany
Ciao Italia in Tuscany is an excellent cookbook and perfect for people who’ve never been to Tuscany or are dying to go back. For the book, Mary Ann spends several days visiting restaurants, farms and wineries and cooking with her hosts. The focus of each Tuscan kitchen adventure is “cucina povera” or simple, seasonal dishes popular in the area. Recipes include classics such as Chicken Under Bricks, Potatoes with Olive Oil and Rosemary, Tuscan Beef Stew, various breads and pizzas, and pesto, plus interesting pasta specialty dishes that aren’t so well known in the USA. I think Torta di Mele might be classified as one of them, and since it falls in the dessert category I decided to make it for Cookie Madness.
Torta di Mele
Torta di Mele is interesting because it’s a cake, but it’s also similar to an apple pie. You get the texture of apples suspended in a smooth, tangy, cake. The appearance is somewhat similar to that of a bread pudding, but the texture is firmer and not really at all like bread. I wish I could explain it better, but I’m a little sleepy as I type this and wanted to get the recipe up so you could make it asap. Or save it for a cool Autumn day when you have nothing around the house but apples and a few kitchen staples.
Mary Ann’s recipe is based on one from a famous Tuscan chef. I changed it a little bit by using less vanilla (she uses a full tablespoon) and adding a bit of cinnamon. In addition to that change I skipped brushing the top with jelly, but added a dollop of whipped cream! I think I’ll take that over jelly, anyway.
Torta di Mele
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoons grated lemon zest
¾ cup unbleached flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
4 large apples (I used Delicious and Granny Smith)
2 tablespoons warm apple jelly or jam (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 inch square metal pan with foil and butter and flour the foil or spray it with baking spray.
Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and sour cream. Stir in the lemon zest.
Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together into another bowl or onto a piece of foil. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Stir the sliced apples in last.
Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven. If using jelly, brush it over top. Let the cake cool to warm (I let it cool to room temperature) and remove the cake from the pan by lifting the foil. Peel away the foil and transfer to a nice plate. To serve, cut cake in squares. I served it room temperature, but it would be great warm or possibly slightly chilled.
I have seen many episodes of Ciao Italia and actually caught her on a different show last night on a local channel. She was cooking with Rocco DiSpirito with an audience. I normally like what she makes, although there’s something about her that can be annoying sometimes, can’t put my finger on it.
I don’t eat sour cream. Do you think plain Greek yogurt would work as a substitute?
Ciao Italia hasn’t been shown in KC for almost 20 yrs. but I still remember the beautiful painted tiles on her backsplash. I’ll try this recipe soon!
Mary Ann Esposito can cook circles around Giada. I’ve been watching Ciao Italia for years and she’s the real thing. I am fortunate that I get Mary Ann’s show followed by Lidia Bastianich. One hour of Italian food heaven!
And Kim – I recently remodeled my kitchen and chose Silestone countertops. Love them.
This apple torte is just screaming for some vanilla sauce. I’ll try this dessert very soon.
I think i might do this and put caramel dip on top! 🙂
Betty @ scrambled hen fruit
I’m all about apples right now…I still have about a bushel waiting for me to dive into them. This is a perfect candidate! Looks so good!
i have no idea who she is either, but i am def making this! i have about 4 apples at home that i need to do something with (read non healthy).
oh yes i know of her. don’t have any of her books. but remember watching some of her shows that were back to back on pbs during a snow storm. i love how fast she was in talking italian with the natives and how fast she was in putting things together for a dish.
Why, it’s just about a complete meal… eggs for protein, apples for fruit, sour cream for dairy (ha, ha!). I think I could justify eating this for breakfast! It looks delicious… Hey, are those your new counter tops in your new kitchen underneath the unbaked cake and cookbook? Beautiful!
Glad to hear some of you have heard of here and watch her show. I don’t watch a lot of TV during the day time, but I might see if I can find it on PBS and tape it for late-evening TV watching sessions.
Also, I discovered today that this is really good cold.
With a boatload of apples coming my way, I am definitely going to make this!
I love apple desserts. This is so light and simple. Looks delicious.
I remember that show, but I’m bad with names, so I wouldn’t have associated the name with the show. The cake looks great. Glad it turned out well for you. Bring on the apple desserts!
Wonderful that you discovered Mary Ann! I’ve watched her show for years … you should try to view some … you would love how she “operates” in the kitchen and her teaching style, I think. Perfect cake for the first day of Autumn.
I have her first book from her show and it is wonderful. LOVE her recipes. The cake looks delicious Anna and is perfect for right now with all the apples around here!
Wow, haven’t thought of her in a long time. I used to love her show on PBS. She has some great recipes.
I love how the cake is so studded with apples. I’ll have to try this.
I have been all about the apple desserts lately and this looks perfect!
Hi Anna, this looks homey and delicious! I’d love this warm with vanilla ice cream. yum!