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Italian Buckwheat Torta

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A unique Alpine recipe from those mountains where Italians speak German. For hardcore buckwheat lovers only!

Italy stretches over 2000 kilometers, from the heel of the Italian boot where you can almost see the Tunisian coasts, to the confines of Austria, where Italians speak German. What goes on in their kitchens is a world apart. We all are familiar with pasta and pizza and risotto and sometimes even polenta. But the specialties of Trentino Alto Adige, Italy's northernmost province, shares more with its Tyrolian cousins than with the rest of Italy. Until 1919 this province belonged to Austria Hungary and it is still called Südtyrol.

Trentino Alto Adige is a land of mountain farmers who edge a living on a hard soil. People from the Italian plains saw their life change with the arrival of corn, which they named granoturco the 'Turkish grain' but corn does not grow up there on the Alps. When buckwheat arrived, the Italians called grano saraceno, the Saracens' grain, and it changed the lives of people in the Alps like it changed those of Russians or the Brittons. Nowhere in Europe have I seen such profligate use of buckwheat in all areas of cooking than in Trentino Alto Adige. Man, there is nothing they won't do with buckwheat flour. From a grayish polenta you could choke a whale with, the fearsome polenta nera that nearly cost me my life when I tried to swallow it, to delicious buckwheat pasta, fried raviolis and many sweets. Today I will show you a simple and much loved buckwheat torta.

Torta al grano saraceno
Italian buckwheat cake
200 grams / 7 oz buckwheat flour
6 eggs
250 grams / 0.5lb sugar
250 grams / 0.5lb almond powder
250 grams / 0.5lb butter
Vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla pod grated, or a bag vanilla sugar
500 grams / 1 lb blueberry jam
Confectioner's sugar to sprinkle over the cake
Salt

The cake is built on the usual holy trinity of butter, flour, sugar and powdered almonds in equal quantities. Start by working the butter into a cream with a paddle, then combine the sugars until you have a smooth mixture.

6 eggs, no more, no less. This is a rich cake fit for a buckwheat farmer's high tea.

Separate the yolks from the egg whites and add the yolks to the mix.

Whisk them in.

Let her majesty the buckwheat flour, star of the day, join the show.

Then our supporting actor, the almond powder.

Mix everything...

...until you have a smooth cake batter/dough.

You will have to deserve those calories. Beat the egg whites stiff...

... then fold them in delicately.

Grease the circular cake pan with a piece of butter. I know a pastry chef who puts the cake pan in the frige after that, then, when the butter has set, he greases it a second time, and finally sprinkles flour on top to ensure a smoothless unmolding.

Fill your pan with the dough, trying not to make a mess around the edges. Smooth the surface and remove any bits on the sides - these would burn.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 180°C/350°F. Unmold with care and leave it to cool for a couple minutes.

With a long serrated blade, love and care, delicately slice through the cake like I do on the picture so as to obtain two discs of equal thickness.

Split the cake in two.

Time for the blueberry jam. I got this one from a mama from my local farmers' market, a very fine product really. If you can't find any decent jam, you might substitute with a different black fruit jam. By decent I mean a jam not having half of it made from pumpkin flesh.

Spread the jam on the bottom half...

... until you run out of jam or of surface, whichever comes first!

Cover with the top half. Try not to make a mess, you don't want jam splurting across the kitchen as you press on the top.

Now we'll decorate the cake with some very fine confectioner's sugar and a fancy device designed to create sweet snow on cakes.

Proceed to cover the entire surface.

There we are - time for the reward. Use a serrated blade and sharp movements to cut the cake without making the top half slide on its bed of jam.

Remove with caution.

Enjoy this filling but very authentic and characterful cake!

This recipe comes from:
Osteria Nerina
Via De Gasperi, 31
38010 Malgolo di Romeno (Trento)
Phone +39 0 463 - 510111
Some recipes include cocoa or hazelnut powder and grate apples.


Thanks to Mascha for her proofreading!

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33 Comments

This looks wonderful - like a meal all by itself! I also love the history lesson you include it makes eating food more special when you know the story behind the recipe and the people who created it.  Thanks!
  • #2
  • Comment by Xavier
Are you a Cucina di Stagione reader ? This torta was in the last edition. I did cook one last week-end.

Xavier, hardcore buckwheat lover.
  • #3
  • Comment by Jen
If you cannot find anyone to help you eat all your delicious treats, please send me the leftovers. :)
I'm thinking I might have celiac after doing an elimination diet, and buckwheat is allowed. But I didn't know that when I went to the health food store, so I didn't get any. But I've used all the pancake mix making muffins, and my first attempt at mixing my own flour failed, so I'll be making the trek to the health food place again, and will grab some buckwheat while I'm there.

I recently read that buckwheat is good green fertilizer, so I'm planning on planting some this fall. I might even get to harvest some, if we don't freeze during winter. But even if I don't get a crop out of it, I'll be enjoying the buckwheat posts here.
  • #5
  • Comment by layni
You make it all look so easy! The ingredients--particularly the almonds & jam-- make my mouth water! Can't wait to try!
Love & gratitude from LA!
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Dawn, thanks for visiting and I'm glad you enjoyed the cultural background of this unusual recipe!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
Xavier, I don't know this magazine, actually I made and shot this recipe last year and had forgotten to publish it! The recipe comes from a couple of my Italian 'slow food' cookbooks.
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
Jen, the leftovers didn't last many days! Watch out for a coming recipe of Swiss cookies with white pepper, it ought to suit you!
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
Shreela, good luck if you harvest your own buckwheat, I'm told it's not a hugely demanding plant, it ought to be good fun!
  • #10
  • Answered by fx
Layni, it's a really easy recipe, nothing fancy, just mix, bake, slice and fill. I hope you get to try this!
  • #11
  • Comment by Jason
Looks really good. I will make this as soon as it cools down where I live. As always Thank you FX!
  • #12
  • Comment by Karine
Bonjour Francois!

Aujourd’hui je m’attaque à ton gâteau et je me demandais si tu avais déjà essayé de le faire avec de la confiture de bleuet? Dans ta liste d'ingrédients, tu as écris "blueberry jam" mais dans la desription avec photo, tu écris blackberry jam ou myrtille. Qu'est-ce que tu préfères utiliser?

Merci et bonne journée...
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
Jason, thanks for the visit and start stockpiling buckwheat and jam for the winter!
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
Karine, vas-y avec la confiture de bleuet, c'est parfait pour cette tourte, la recette utilise des myrtilles mais toute confiture de fruit noir est utilisable sans autre. Merci pour ta visite et bonne chance avec la tourte au sarrasin!
  • #15
  • Comment by Leon
In the final picture, the centre of the cake looks a little uncooked, but thats fine, I actually prefer to have a little of my cake uncooked.
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
Leon, you have good eyes, indeed the very center of the torta was slighty wet. You can test for this with a needle or sharp knife. If it comes out clean, nothing inside is wet.
  • #17
  • Comment by nameJulia A. Mc Cusker
Can hardly wait to use this receipe.  Besides pancakes I didn't know what else to use it for.  I purchased self-rising buckwheat.  Is this interchangeable?

Julia
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Julia, you can definitely use self-rising buckwheat flour for this recipe. There are hundreds of buckwheat recipes, check my site for more by clicking on the Buckwheat keyword on top of the recipe.
  • #19
  • Comment by Gene
Enjoy your site very much and follow your culinary adventures often.
Gene, New Jersey, USA
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
Gene, thanks for visiting and hold tight for more recipes from Italian Tyrol.
  • #21
  • Comment by Richard Bijster
Here's the recipe I've been using for several years for this cake.  Slight variation ingredients wise, but it's a firm favourite of mine.  Mine does seem to be slightly darker than yours and does rise more once baked.

1 heaping cup (6oz/175g) whole almonds, blanched or natural
1 1/2 cups (200g) buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon (or two medium)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup (6oz/175g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (300g) sugar, divided
3/4 cup (180ml) milk
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.
Grease a 9-inch/23cm spring form pan and set aside. In a food processor or clean coffee grinder, grind the almonds as finely as possible with 1/4 cup (50g) of the sugar. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest and baking powder.
In another bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup (200g) of the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the dry mixture alternately with the milk until everything is well combined.
In a clean mixing bowl and using spotlessly clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup (50g) sugar until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Stir one-quarter of the whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the greased pan, smoothing the top.
Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, covering the top loosely with foil if it begins to darken too much. Cool the cake for ten minutes on a rack, then carefully remote the outer ring and cool completely. Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 3-4 days. Dust with a little powdered sugar before serving, if you like.
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
Richard, thanks for sharing your recipe of buckwheat torta, I tried one in Campo Tures and it was quite similar, but every tyrolian mama and her sister have a different recipe. Thanks for yours, it looks tried and tested, must be very tasty!
  • #23
  • Comment by norie
Buckwheat cake, this is the kind of cake was looking for. Cheers for that!
  • FX's answer→ Thanks Norie, hope you will try to bake one!

  • #25
  • Comment by Keiko s
please, how much baking powder and salt you are putting?
  • FX's answer→ Keiko, use a pinch of both!

  • #27
  • Comment by Alex
Hi Francois!

I made the Buckwheat Torta tonight, and it turned out to be divinely delicious! Funny, my torta looks exactly like yours on the pictures! Thank you for the great recipe. I'd love some more recipes from northern Italy, especially pastry.
  • FX's answer→ Glad it worked for you Alex!

  • #29
  • Comment by Alex
Whenever I bake something new, I always like to set aside several pieces (preferably under lock and key) to see what they taste like several days later. I got to tell you, it's even better now that the dough has had more time to absorb the jam. By the way, I didn't use any baking powder here - if you fold in the egg whites carefully enough, it's enough to give your torta a good leavening.
  • FX's answer→ Alex, indeed this is a torta that can last a man through the whole week. Quite a strong buckwheat character, isn't it?

  • #31
  • Comment by Rick Strong
Thank you so much for this recipe! I first had this cake from a bakery in Bologna and when we returned home (NYC) I had to figure out what it was and how to make it. It was an instant hit with the family and with any guests lucky enough to come by when I bake :-) Your recipe is denser (and quite a bit tastier!) than the bakery version and stays fresh quite a long time - theirs had more air in it. Are there perhaps more commercial versions that e.g. mix white flour with the buckwheat, and/or use more rising agents? (not that I am interested in doing this...)

BTW, thanks for your entire website! It is completely fascinating to me as a dedicated amateur cook; I will never be a pro (in real life I'm a musician and software developer) but I constantly study to add to my repertoire and I'm happy to cook for family and friends.
  • #32
  • Comment by Hayley-jay
Hi, thank you so much, I have made this recipe and it worked beautifully, delicious with homemade quince jam, plus I made the recipe Richard suggested also delicious and a firm favorite now!  Hayley
  • FX's answer→ Hayleys indeed this torta has a somewhat addictive taste and I really love the idea of using quince jam (my favorite!).




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