Chocolate cake, no people, and incredible tourist spots
The recipe I’m about to unveil is called Torta Caprese. I had the luck to be able to go to Puglia a few weeks ago, thanks to my parents-in-law, who gave my husband a fantastic birthday present of looking after the kids while he went to Puglia, in the heel of Italy, for a few days. I was willing to sacrifice myself to the cause so that he wouldn’t be lonely, so I went too. 🙂 As per usual when we go to Italy, we stayed in an agriturismo. This one was near a small town called Maglie. The town was very well-placed to go and visit all the wonders of Puglia. Now, if you’ve never been there, imagine this: limpid sea with schools of fish flashing around in it, incredible architecture that’s a mixture of North African, Italian and Turkish, seriously good food, and in April: NO PEOPLE! In fact, there were so few people on the coast, that it was hard to find anything open in some of the smaller towns.
A recipe straight from the “horse’s mouth”
The agriturismo we stayed in is called Casina Montana. It’s set in a quiet rural setting and run by a lovely couple called Lina and Leo, who make astounding breakfasts (My biggest advice to you: Don’t miss the breakfasts!!!). They kindly gave me this recipe for Torta Caprese, which is a typical chocolate cake made in Southern Italy. The cake has a fantastic brownie-like consistency, the only downside of it being that it’s very difficult to stop at eating only one slice of it! I wanted to show you this particular recipe because it has a special ingredient in it that is used (and drunk!) extensively in Southern Italy.
The secret ingredient in torta caprese
The secret ingredient is a liquor called Strega, which translates as “Witch” in English. I don’t know if it’s because you turn into a (w)itch if you drink too much of it, or that it is considered to have magical properties. When we got home, my mother-in-law kindly tracked down a bottle of it for me (as, thanks to the low-cost airline we were traveling on, we couldn’t bring back more than a thimble-size bag without paying an exorbitant amount of cash). We were all surprised to discover that it’s a beautiful yellow colour. That’s thanks to the saffron that’s added to it.
I cracked open the bottle of a taste (out of professional curiosity of course) as soon as it was put into my hands. Hmmmmm….it tastes like sweet, herbal medicine to me. I will probably be boiled alive for saying that as this drink seems to have many addicts who say they put it on and in everything from cakes to ice-cream. I duely put it in the torta caprese, and in fact, it did taste pretty good like that!
I know that Strega will probably be near impossible to find where you live, so I suggest you use a liquor such as cognac to make this chocolate cake. Be very gentle when trying to take it out of the cake-tin as it breaks VERY easily (I can tell you this from first-hand experience!!
By Lisa Watson
Torta Caprese ( Chocolate Brownie Cake)
- 115 g Ground almonds 3/4 cup
- 100 g Dark chocolate 3.5oz
- 35 g Unsweetened cocoa powder 1/3 cup
- 175 g White sugar 3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp
- 180 g Butter 3/4 cup
- 3 Eggs
- 150 ml Strega (or other liquor) 3/4 cup
- Grease a 25cm cake tin (preferably with detachable sides) and line it with baking paper. Heat the oven to 160°C.
- Melt the chocolate and butter gently in the microwave, or on the stove-top.
- In a standing-mixer, or with an eggbeater, beat the eggs and sugar until they become thick and creamy.
- Add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and stir.
- Gently mix in the almond meal and cocoa.
- Finally add the “Strega”, or liquor of your choice and mix in.
- Pour into the cake tin and bake for 30 -35 minutes.
- Wait until the cake has cooled completely before you VERY CAREFULLY take it out of the cake-tin.