Jun 25, 2010

Torta al Testo

If you're planning on visiting the Umbrian town of Perugia or its surroundings, this is a dish that I particularly recommend you try. 

Image © Zyance
Although torta usually means cake, this particular bread is more like a focaccia or a piadina: a simple water and flour dough, which rears a slightly leavened flatbread baked on the testo, which is a round slab of refractory stone, heated over burning coals. This is very much a bread staple belonging to local cucina casareccia, family-style cooking, so remember how this means different families have their own recipes with slightly different variations. Here’s one from downtown Perugia:


500 gr (1.1 lb) unbleached flour
1 glass of water
Salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1 leveled teaspoon baking soda (or brewers’ yeast)


After building your heaped mound of flour, pour all the ingredients in the crater, and knead while singing softly. Never mind the sticky, messy onset. Once formed, both you and the obtained ball of dough will need a quick rest under cool linen sheets for 15 minutes.

Flatten out the risen dough into 9-inch disks, about 1/4” thick, and lightly jab with the tines of a fork. 

The traditional recipe establishes cooking the torta on the heated namesake testo in the fireplace, but a fine nonstick pan or griddle will do, provided you flip the torta every so often. 

If you don’t own a wide enough pan, cook your torta in two or more batches. It mustn’t char, so remove it when just lightly browned and serve hot. 

My dear friend and gourmet consultant for Umbria, author and journalist Enrico Vaime states that "รจ la su morte"–in his own Perugia argot, meaning that torta al testo’s dignified death can only be achieved–by eating it right off the stone, cut into wedges while still hot, and stuffed with hand-carved slices of prosciutto. 

The heat of the torta warms the prosciutto's porky goodness whose fat, as a result, melts a bit and becomes translucent. The combination is delicious beyond words. Add a nice bottle of red Torgiano, and you’ll remain speechless.



I'll be attending a dear friend's wedding in Umbria this weekend, which means lots of torta al testo for lucky me!

9 comments:

  1. I don't know why I never ate this when I was in Umbria, but I first heard of it through Lidia Bastianich's TV show. It sounds perfect for a sandwich.

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  2. Sounds good...specially with the ham!

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  3. Mmmmm, I think I'd be speechless because my mouth would be stuffed full of this goodness and we know it's not polite to talk with your mouth full.

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  4. My type of recipe. Minimum ingredients and cooking time.
    I always thought you needed to have stove to get the smoky smell and taste. Now I will try it in my oven.

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  5. Those old tried and true! This is new to me, though. Do you wait for the dough to rise?

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  6. So how was your friend's wedding this weekend? Bacioni!

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  7. Just about everything you share with us here leaves me speechless... but maybe a glass of Torgiano will help bring my voice back ?

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  8. Thank you for stopping by!
    ~CCLinda, oh it's an absolute Umbria must!
    ~Saretta, I'm thinking lardo di colonnata too... yum
    ~Louciao, gruff...mmh...I knowvf... really dlishious.... nom nom nom...
    ~CChuck, a feast!
    ~Irina, let me know how it turns out!
    ~Rosaria, yes, about 15 minutes, not much.
    ~Alexia, it rocked! E was such a trooper, and so were yours. We left early the next day...
    ~Owen, shall I pour you a glass?

    Ciao

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