History and food evolve hand in hand. The first cake ever made must have been bread enriched with eggs, milk or butter and some form of sugar, most likely honey. Party lovers Romans used birthday cakes as early as the Ist century BC. In the VIII century, Arabs introduce sugar to Europe. In the XI century, crusaders trade sugar and spices. In the mid XVI century, Caterina de’ Medici exports Florentine elegance to Paris. This includes using forks and the separation of savory and sweet dishes during a meal. The concept of dessert is born.
Only a little earlier, in 1490, 16 years old Isabella d’Este marries Francesco Gonzaga Marquis of Mantova. Their court, frequented by Raffaello, Andrea Mantegna, painter Tiziano and even Leonardo da Vinci will become one of the most important cultural centres of Italian Renaissance. The spectacular celebrations involve also the creation of a cake made in the shape of a bouquet of roses to signify the kindness and beauty of the bride.
How cool is that? You are a princess (or similar) you get someone inventing a cake for you. This version of the 500-years-old recipe is from Corinna, one of the group of my cool innkeepers friends, who owns a beautiful agriturismo and olive oil farm near Assisi. The torta is basically a light brioche rolled into small lemon-butter pinwheels. Once it is on the table it’s hardly possible to stop eating it. Try!
- 1 egg
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 gr. (1 teaspoon) active dry yeast
- 400 g (3 cups) gr all-purpose flour
- zest of 1 organic lemon, grated
- 100 g / 3.5 oz butter, softened at room temperature.
- 100 g / 3.5 oz sugar
Sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Let it stand a few minutes, or until the yeast is creamy. Stir until the yeast dissolves. In a food processor, combine flour, egg and sugar. Mix briefly. Add the yeast and milk mixture and mix at maximum speed until a soft dough forms. Alternatively mix ingredients by hand in a large bowl, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Transfer in an oiled bowl, cover and keep in a warm area of the kitchen until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Prepare the filling by mixing the softened butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Don’t melt the butter!
Transfer the dough onto a worktop, knead briefly to knock out the air and roll into a 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick square. Using a flexible spatula, spread the lemony butter over the dough reserving 1 tablespoon of it for later. Cut square into strips which should be approximately 10 cm. (4 inches) wide. Starting at the long side of each strip, roll the dough into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut the dough crosswise with a thin sharp knife into equal slices, each about 3 cm (1 inch) wide.
Line a 26 cm ( 10-inch) round baking dish with parchment paper. Arrange rolls on the baking dish, cut side up. Brush with the reserved lemon-butter. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap, then with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180° C (375°F). Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 45 minutes. Serve at room temperature. Serves 8.
This recipe has been submitted to YeastSpotting