Friends are the family you have the privilege of choosing and how blessed we have been. La Famiglia V has been in our lives for nearly 20 years and a celebration was in order; the return from a distinguished internship in Tel Aviv, acceptance to a prestigious university, and a new found path to restoring health – it doesn’t get better than that. Avid Italophiles, La Famiglia V have a deep understanding and appreciation of the flavors of Italy. The challenge – to develop a cake that successfully featured special ingredients and remained dairy free to accommodate the dietary needs of the youngest V.
Imagine the iconic flavors of Sicily coming together in one incredible dessert. It’s not coincidental that foods of the same land or terroir, complement each other magnificently. Pistachios, Blood Oranges, Marsala, almond milk and a fruity olive oil – what could be more Sicilian? Ingredients that I have used over and over again have yet to disappoint me in either a savory or sweet dish.
I had just gleaned the last of my blood oranges and they were just right for what I had in mind. Preparing a simple syrup to moisten the cake while lightly candying thinly sliced blood oranges would enhance the flavor while helping to keep the crumb moist. A garnish of Croccante del Pistacchio would be gilding the lily but why not, we were celebrating.
Torta al Pistacchio proudly stands on it’s own, without the candied Blood Orange slices or pistachio brittle. The simple version of Torta al Pistacchio makes a delightful breakfast along with a steaming cup of cappuccino or a comforting late afternoon meranda (snack). Give Torta al Pistacchio in all it’s glory a try the next time you are fortunate enough to celebrate with those you hold dear.
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- 1½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup flowery honey
- 2 cups fresh water
- ½ plump vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 4 thinly sliced small Blood Oranges or 2 medium sized Navel Oranges thinly sliced and halved
- 2 Tbs. sweet Marsala
- *1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 Tbs. of light tasting vegetable oil
- 1¼ cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- ¾ cup of fruity extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup of sweet Marsala
- ½ cup almond milk
- 2¼ cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup of shelled, skinned and lightly toasted pistachios
- 1 Tbs. baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- Seeds of ½ of a plump vanilla bean
- Grated peel of 1 large navel orange
- 1 recipe for Croccante del Pistacchio
- Combine the 1½ cup of sugar, honey, water and split vanilla bean in a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the orange slices and Marsala, simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the rind of the orange slices are tender. Remove the orange slices and lay them on a plate to cool. Reduce the syrup by ⅓ of it's volume, strain and cool. The oranges and syrup may be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated. * If you are not using the orange slices, reduce the water in the syrup recipe by ½ cup and substitute it with the ½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice. Add the Marsala once the syrup comes to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes, reduce by ⅓, strain and reserve.
- Oil a 10" springform pan with the vegetable oil and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
- Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean and the grated orange peel into the extra virgin olive oil. Combine the almond milk and Marsala.
- Place the pistachios into the work bowl of a food processor along with ¼ cup of the 2¼ cups of the flour. Process until the pistachios are finely ground and incorporated with the all purpose flour. The ground pistachio will not be as fine as the flour. Whisk together the pistachio flour, remaining flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.
- Put the extra virgin olive oil infused with the vanilla beans & orange peel into the work bowl of a standing mixer with the granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beat on medium for an additional minute. Add the eggs one at a time beating on medium for one minute each; scraping down the work bowl before adding each egg.
- Add the dry ingredients in three portions, alternating with the wet ingredients in two portions - beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. When adding dry ingredients to a cake batter, use a spatula to give a good stir to combine before turning on the mixer. Scrape down the work bowl after each addition and mix only until just combined - do not over mix.
- Turn the batter into the prepared pan, smooth out the top with the back of a spoon or offset spatula and place into the oven. After 30 minutes, open the oven and adjust the pan to insure even baking. Bake an additional 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Place the cake on a wire rack to rest.
- Using ½ cup of the syrup, brush the top and edges of the hot cake until you have used all of it. The cake should have come away from the sides of the pan making it easy to brush the edges.
- Cool completely before removing the sides of the spring-form pan. Have a cake plate ready, and using a spatula, transfer the cake. Remove the parchment from the bottom of the cake during this process.
- The cake is wonderful as it is but can be garnished with a few pistachios and perhaps some foliage. For a more festive look, top the cake with the candied orange slices and scatter broken pieces of the croccante around the base. Individual servings should include some of the croccante and a few spoonfuls of the orange-vanilla syrup.