By Pascale Perez Rubin
ONE of my favourite times on a recent trip to the Italian Riviera
was our visit to Genoa.
Genoa is an ancient port city, home to a colourful outdoor food
market that is simply a paradise for foodies.
We spent hours wandering around, taking in the sounds, aromas,
vibrant colours and fascinating assortment of foods and products.
In the caruggi (narrow streets) of Genoa’s old town, we came across
many family-run restaurants that served Italian dishes of fish and
pasta, which were prepared with local produce.
We were served hot, crispy focaccia with a unique pesto spread
like nothing I’ve ever tasted.
In addition, we tasted bread that I’d never come across before:
farinata, which is made from chickpea flour.
At a small bakery, with gorgeous pastries and delicacies on view
behind the display window, I saw a cake that looked so similar to
something my mother used to bake for us on Rosh Hashana.
I went to investigate at close quarters. Yes — it had raisins
and other dried fruits inside just like I remembered from my childhood.
And it smelled similar, too. I remembered it being called Bolo,
but here it was referred to as Pandolce Genovese, and apparently,
it was a popular Christmas treat.
At that moment, I realised that a number of my favourite dishes
from my childhood were actually Italian.
During my stay in Italy, I continued to find more dishes that
I recognised from home, such as a lemon-almond tart, pizza with
sardines and black olives, and galleta, which are thin salty crackers
my mother used to serve for kiddush on Shabbat morning.
It was not easy, but I managed to convince a few bakers to give
me their secret recipes for these special dishes that demonstrate
the awesome connection Italy and Tunisia share.
MY mother’s version of this tart called for oil instead of butter,
probably so we could eat it after meat meals.
Add the egg whites to the bowl of an electric mixer and whip on
high speed. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla sugar while mixing
and mix until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the egg yolks. Mix
until colour is uniform. Gently fold in the lemon zest and gradually
fold in the flour, almond flour, butter or oil, and lemon juice.
Mix well. Pour batter into a pan that has been greased well. Sprinkle
with almond slivers and bake in an oven that has been preheated
to 180°C for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry. Remove
from the oven and let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
SOME sources say this sweet bread was first concocted during
a competition in which bakers had to come up with a new recipe for
a cake that would last for many days and so could be taken on long
Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with
a dough hook. Gradually add the sugar and the vanilla sugar. Mix
until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and mix on medium speed until
In a pot, heat the milk or other liquid with yellow food colouring
and citrus concentrate. The liquid should be warm — about 40°C.
If it’s too hot when you add it to the batter, the dough will come
out too soft. If the liquid is too cold, the batter will be too
Add the warmed liquid to the batter and mix. Keep mixing while
you add the flour, baking powder, coriander, fennel seeds, lemon
and orange zest. Mix for three minutes and then add the pine nuts,
raisins, and candied fruits. Mix for another two to three minutes
until smooth. Generously flour a work surface and then knead dough
Form a long roll and cut it into three equal sections. Roll each
section into round rolls. Alternatively, you could make one large
loaf. Make sure none of the raisins or fruit pieces is sticking
out of the dough too much, since they will burn.
Line a pan with baking paper and place the pandolce on the tray
with at least five centimetres between each one. Flatten them a
little with your hands and take a knife and make indentations on
top (triangle, X, lines, or a square).
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 200-210°C for 35-40
minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.
Let cool completely before serving. This cake is even tastier after
a day or two.
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