Monday, October 29, 2012

Torta di Mele (Apple Cake) and A Family Farm in Tuscany (and giveaway!)

It's officially fall, and apples abound. Why don't you pull up a chair and join me with a cup of coffee or tea - or cider, perhaps? - and a slice of this authentic Italian torta di mele (apple cake), made gluten-free just for you (and me)?

We'll sink into contentment as we peruse the pages of an incredible, unique book. A cookbook that doesn't just give you recipes and a little story here and there but actually transports you to another place and another time at Fattoria Poggio Alloro - a family farm in Tuscany - season by season, month by month.

Sarah Fioroni, the chef, cooking instructor and sommelier who brings us this feast of a book for the eyes, mouth and mind, won't disappoint you with this treasure she shares. Stay tuned to the end of this post to find out how you can win a copy of "A Family Farm in Tuscany: Recipes and Stories from Fattoria Poggio Alloro"

Sarah Fioroni. Photo by Dario Fusar of Organic Gardening
I was delighted when my good friend and college roommate, Ginny from Cooking with Chopin, Living with Elmo, asked me if I'd like to participate in this world blogging book tour of "A Family Farm in Tuscany." Ginny's lovely and talented mother, Kathy Shearer of Shearer Publishing, is the publisher of this cookbook.

I knew it would be interesting from what Ginny had told me, but I must tell you I was honestly blown away by this book. I love cookbooks and own a great deal of them, but until now I haven't owned one quite like this. Not only are the pages filled with photos of the countryside ...

Photo by Oriano Stefan
... farm ...
Photo by Oriano Stefan
... restaurant, buildings, city ...

Photo by Oriano Stefan

... animals, food ...

Photo by Emiko Davies
... and more, but Sarah manages to bring the reader into her world. She fills the pages with her family's story beginning as sharecroppers on the farm to purchasing the farm and making it their life - an organic, self-sustaining farm, business, retreat and home. She shares a rich culture, history of the area and gives us a generous glimpse into life on the farm and in the restaurant every month of the year while at the same time sharing recipes she and her family prepare that month.

Sarah's father, Amico Fioroni. Photo by Maggie Shearer Smith
It's the ultimate cook-by-the-season book, using local foods. In fact, the main ingredients are nearly all produced on the farm - down to the honey and saffron. They even make their own pasta, olive oil and wine available for purchase.

Photo by Oriano Stefan
Speaking of honey, Sarah tells us a story of a children's class coming for a tour of the farm and a persistent little girl's questions about the bees. I'd love to type it all out here and let you enjoy the laugh I got, too (it reminds me of my own girls' questions), but as this post is already becoming quite long I'll have to let you enjoy the laugh with your own copy. (If you don't win it below, you can purchase it here.)

I'm not the only one in the family enjoying this book. My husband's great-grandparents came to the U.S. from Italy, so he has had several moments of relaxing through the pages with great interest himself. I've walked into the room on several occasions to find one or both of my daughters flipping through it, as well.

It's so much more than a cookbook. It's a journal. A memoir. Travel guide. Picture book. It's a lesson in history and culture of an area many of us dream of visiting one day.

And can we just talk about the food in this book for a minute? The. Food. *sigh*

Much of it is naturally gluten-free (hello, fennel salad ... be still, my heart!) but when it isn't as in this cake, or the pasta dishes, you can just switch out the flours or the type of pasta. This recipe is purely Sarah's with the exception of the gluten-free substitutes of flours and ground chia seed, which are entirely mine.

Torta di Mele (Apple Cake)
(Printable Recipe)

Makes one 8-inch cake, about 8 servings

3 eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
30 grams almond flour*
30 grams millet flour*
60 grams brown rice flour*
60 grams tapioca starch/flour*
1 1/4 teaspoons ground chia seed*
1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons (40 ml) butter, melted
2 teaspoons (10 g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) vanilla
3 medium apples, about 1 3/4 pounds (800 g), peeled, cored, and cut into wedges 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick
Powdered sugar as garnish
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
(*Sarah's original non-GF recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups or 180 g unbleached all-purpose flour rather than these flours and ground chia seed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Butter and flour an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan, tapping the pan to remove excess flour; set aside. (Caneel's note: My springform pan is larger than this, so I used a regular 8-inch round and generously buttered it and lined the bottom with parchment paper.)

Combine the eggs and sugar in bowl of electric mixer. (Caneel's note: I used paddle attachment.) Beat at medium-high speed for 5 minutes, or until pale lemon in color and thickened. Gradually add the flour, milk, and butter, stopping to scrape down the sides of bowl after each addition. Beat at low speed until each ingredient is blended, then increase speed to medium high and beat for 3 minutes. Add the baking powder and vanilla and beat an additional 2 minutes to blend well.

Turn batter out into the prepared pan. Arrange the apple slices vertically, with the core side down, in concentric circles in the batter, beginning with the outside edge of the pan and continuing to the center. The arrangement of the apples should resemble a rose in full bloom. (Caneel's note: I'm sure I didn't do this decoration justice, at all, in my blundering attempts of this.)

Bake in preheated oven for about 50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean and apples are lightly browned.

Remove from oven and cool for 10- minutes. Remove the sides of the springfom pan. To serve, cut the warm cake into slices, then scatter powdered sugar over each serving. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to each serving, if desired.

(Caneel's note: This cake is amazing. My entire family loved it, and we thought it was equally good warm and cooled off.)

If you can't wait until you get the book to find out more about Fattoria Poggio Alloro, you can visit their website here. I also understand the farm will also have their pastas, wine and olive oil available for purchase in the United States through this website, which will be live later this week. If you want to follow more of Sarah, you can see her book tour schedule and ask her questions on her Facebook page here.

Be sure to stop by Ginny's blog here to see what other bloggers all over the world have to say about "A Family Farm in Tuscany," and what recipe they chose to prepare from the book.

***Now for instructions on how you can win this amazing cookbook:

This giveaway is for one copy of  "A Family Farm in Tuscany: Recipes and Stories from Fattoria Poggio Alloro" and the entry period begins today, October 29, 2012 and will end on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) CST. The winner will be picked through the Random Sequence Generator on


You are eligible for up to seven entries in this giveaway. To enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite food season (only one comment per person will be counted this way, and this counts as one entry).

Additional entries may be earned by leaving a comment EACH TIME you do one of the following (you get an entry for each one only if you leave a comment for each):

2. "Like" Mama Me Gluten Free on Facebook (if you already "like" the blog on Facebook, that also counts as an entry) and leave a comment here telling me you've done this.

3. Follow @MamaMeGF on Twitter (if you already follow, that counts as an entry), then leave a comment here telling me you've done this.

4. Share this giveaway on Facebook with a link to this post, and leave a comment here telling me you've done this.

5. Share this giveaway on Twitter: "I want to win A Family Farm in Tuscany @MamaMeGF! " and then leave a comment here telling me you've done this.

6. Subscribe to Mama Me Gluten Free RSS feed, then leave a comment here telling me you've done this. (If you already subscribe, then that counts too - just leave a comment letting me know!)

7. "Like" Sarah's page on Facebook and then leave a comment here telling me you've done this. 

You must leave a comment on this post for each of things if you want an entry for each one. Only one comment per item per person will be counted. In other words, if you comment more than one time saying you "like" Mama Me on facebook, only one of those comments will be counted, etc. On the other hand, if you only leave one comment saying you did all of these things, you will only get one entry rather than seven.
********Be sure to leave a contact email if you are posting anonymously or don't have a way to contact you listed in your profile!

Good luck! 

*In the interest of full disclosure, Shearer Publishing provided a copy of this book for my review. I was not compensated in any other way, and the opinions of this book and recipe are entirely my own. In addition, the book for the giveaway is provided by Shearer Publishing.


  1. Summer is my favorite food season with its farmer's market abundance. My husband's granparents all came from Italy, and it would be so much fun to cook through the seasons from this book.

  2. Oh, Caneel!!! This post is just lovely. I am thrilled you (and your family) so thoroughly enjoyed the book (and the cake!).

  3. Fun that we both picked the apple cake. I thought it might be popular since it's perfect for the season. Love how you loaded your cake with apples. So pretty. I should have added more apples as well.

  4. Caneel - thank you so very much for your wonderful post. Sarah is so excited about this tour, as am I. I love how you make this cake gluten free.

    1. Kathy, thank you so much for including me in this adventure! :) I look forward to meeting Sarah one day!

  5. Your apple cake is so pretty with the fan of apples all around the top! It looks just lovely. I was tempted as well by the apple cake but it apparently will be a popular one in the blog tour so I'm glad I went with a pasta dish! Although I know I will have to make it anyway-I just love all the recipes! I'm amazed by how such simple recipes can be so good. I loved your review and write-up, very thorough and enjoyable to read.

  6. I do love the fruits & vegetables of summer, but fall is becoming a close second!! What a beautiful cookbook!

  7. Summer is my favorite season because I can get "real" tomatoes. Farmers markets are loaded with them here in Southern California through October. I love eating them just like you'd eat an apple. Or with mozzarella and pesto or with...well, you name it. But fresh from the plant in my backyard is the very best.

  8. oh no all the food is in my belly

  9. That apple cake called out to me too! Yours looks lovely the way your fanned out the apple slices. Your own husband's family story would be something to uncover...perhaps you could compile an Italian immigrant story for your own children to read. My family came from France through Nova Scotia and then down into deep So. Louisiana. I would love to know more details. Probably would explain my obstinate nature!

    1. That is a great idea - and small world - some of my family also came from France and settled in deep So. Louisiana. I think you may be on to something with us collecting this information! :)

  10. Thank you Caneel for your wonderful post!The option with gluteen free flour is great.Thank you for make this recipe even more special.

    1. You're welcome - and thank YOU for giving us such a gift in this book! :)

  11. What a wonderful review! And so cute that you and Ginny were college roommates :-) Your cake looks wonderful, what a great choice (love that Barbara picked it too - must be good!). Take me out of the running for the cookbook as I already own a copy (although it'd make a great gift...!).

  12. Caneel - Your Apple Cake is incredibly beautiful! And I loved your conversion to gluten-free. It is definitely on my must-make list! Is the blend of flours you used your standard mix? BTW, I liked your giveaway write-up so much that I used yours as an inspiration for mine. Hope you don't mind!;-)

    1. Thank you, Jane! And I don't mind at all. :) I haven't really come up with a standard mix. I use various flours based their taste, texture, fiber etc. and what I'm going to need them for.

  13. Fall is my favorite season, but for food, summer is pretty great, especially with all of the farmer's markets.

  14. This is so lovely. I made one of the pastas for my post but I also tried this apple cake. It's fantastic. Love the pics! Yours turned out incredible. No need to enter me since I'm part of the tour. Just wanted to pop in to say hello.

  15. Neat! Enter me for the cookbook! Guess what? I did the cake walk Friday and I picked your cookies! They were great! Such a treat! Thank you!

  16. I liked mama me gluten free on facebook

  17. I am getting the email updates now! I won't miss a thing now!



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