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.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pecan Tollhouse Tarts

What say you ... do you choose to make your tarts with a shortbread-type crust or a pie-type crust? Me? I like both.

Even though it's more traditional to make a shortbread crust for many tarts, I went the pie-type crust route for these tarts for the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally. I just really wasn't ever completely satisfied with my incredibly crumbly (but still tasty) pie crust made for the green tomato pie in the pie crust challenge.

I think I may have a winner in this crust. It holds together nicely with a nice amount of crumb. Not too crumbly and even slightly flaky. Great texture and taste. I think I might use this one for the pie baking when the holidays come up. (Is that really beginning in the next month???)

Many thanks to Charissa of Zest Bakery for challenging us to do tarts this month for the rally. Be sure to stop by Charissa's lovely blog and check out her amazing cheddar apple tart. Hello, Fall and hello, yum! I'll be sure to be trying that one (with Colby Jack since I'm allergic to the cheddar I do so adore). When you're there, don't forget to stop by and see the other incredible tart recipes the rally participants have baked up for you this month.

Logo designed by Anile Prakash

If you aren't already familiar with the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally where a group of us experiment with ratios that give us independence in the kitchen, you can check out my rally page here, where I have links to all the rally posts.

I've been wanting to make a Tollhouse pie since we went gluten free four years ago but haven't done it yet. Just as I love chocolate chip cookies, I love Tollhouse pies - it's like eating a gooey mess of warm chocolate chip cookie dough! Making a smaller version into these "tarts" was the perfect excuse to give that pie I'd been missing a try. For the filling, I mostly used a copy I found in my mother's cookbook years ago, but made it a little different by adding some vanilla and switching the walnuts out for pecans.

Because I used a pie-type crust, I used Ruhlman's ratio for pie crust which is 3 parts flour: 2 parts fat: 1 part liquid. I've had success in the past with gluten-free pie crusts using cream cheese, so I used some cream cheese as part of the fat in this recipe. The flour blend I use in this recipe gives a sweeter, nutty taste to the crust that goes well with the chocolate. I used a stand mixer for the crust, but feel free to use a food processor or pastry cutter.

(Printable Recipe)
Projected prep time: 10 minutes for crust; 10 minutes for filling; 40-45 minutes for baking
Note: This crust makes enough for one 9-inch pie/tart or 10 tarts in a muffin tin. If you use the entire filling proportions, you'll have some left over that you can make a shallow crustless pie/tart in.

2 ounces butter
2 ounces cream cheese
3 ounces (85 grams) oat flour
1 ounce (28 grams) sweet rice flour
1 ounce (28 grams) millet flour
1 ounce (28 grams) tapioca starch
(Edit to add 2 tsp. ground chia seed if you have it - just adds a little more stick together in there!)
1 ounce (1/8 cup) cold water
2 pinches kosher salt

2 eggs
3/4 ounce (20 grams or 1/8 cup) potato starch
1/2 ounce (15 grams or 1/8 cup) sorghum flour
1 ounce (28 grams or 1/4 cup) millet flour
3 1/2 ounces (99 grams or 1/2 cup) organic pure cane sugar
3 3/4 ounces (106 grams or 1/2 cup) pure dark brown cane sugar, firmly packed
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (1 cup - 2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

For crust:
Blend butter and cream cheese together into flour and salt using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or use a food processor or a pastry cutter by hand) until crumbly, then add the water, continuing to mix just until it begins to come together, then form the dough into a ball.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

When ready to use, form into 10 balls about 1.5 inches in diameter and press into muffin tins. Set aside.

For filling:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Melt butter and set aside to cool.

In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until foamy.

Add flour, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and beat well until blended.

Blend in butter.

Add pecans, then stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into crust-lined tins (see note above - if you have extra filling left you can make a crustless shallow pie).

Bake until set, about 40-45 minutes.

Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or ice cream for a real treat, but they taste great cold, as well. Refrigerate leftover tarts.


Be sure to visit Charissa's tart recipe and check out the other rally participants this month, as well!


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