A bake and a review – Tuscan Rice Cake

Rice

If you want to eat well in Italy, get invited to eat in an Italian kitchen. Or if you don’t know any Italians, go to a small restaurant where you can see an old lady working in the kitchen. This is obviously just my opinion but I stand by it in case you want to discuss it. If I need advice when I’m food shopping, I always always ask an older lady, the older the better, because I know they know whatever it is I need to know and if they don’t, they somehow come up with a solution for me. So when I saw that my fellow Tuscan food blogger Giulia’s (Jul’s Kitchen) cookbook My Grandma’s Recipes finally was out, I was very happy and I just had to ask her if she would let me review a copy which she obviously did as I am writing this today. A cookbook with recipes from a Nonna (grandmother), what can be better? 

Tuscan Rice Cake

To be honest I got the book in July but I haven’t had the time to cook and blog about it until this week, on the other hand I have had a lot of time to look and read in it because I have kept it next to the sofa I consider mine (but no one else seem to understand that) and many evenings have been spent reading on it. Giulia is what  in Italian is called solare and in English sunny, radiant, she is a person who radiates positive energy and she is truly passionate about food and cooking, something that is clearly seen in her cookbook. There are recipes from her nonna Marcella (obviously a wonderful cook), from her family and then she also added her own interpretations and fusions from various corners of her world, all of them divided by seasons. And with every recipe (printed both in Italian and in English), she tells us a little story and I, who always loved that kind of cookbooks, have enjoyed each and everyone of them. But not only are the recipes and words her own, all the photos are her own as well so this is the work of a one talented woman. You can buy it here. (and no, she didn’t pay me to do this)

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I have chosen to do a Tuscan Rice cake for two reasons, the first is that I like them and the second is reason is that it brings back memories from when we first moved to Italy and lived in Florence. We stayed there for the first 9 months in the lovely quartiers of San Frediano where normal people are living despite it being very central indeed. On Sunday mornings when the whole place appeared to be completely abandoned, if you followed your nose and the scent trail of pastry making, you could buy the most wonderful budini di riso (rice pastries) in a place that was completely anonymous, no signs, no indications (except the scent trail) and only open on Sunday mornings. They were the famous ur-rice pastry, the ones that set the standard for me and the ones I been searching for since then. Now a rice cake is a bit different but despite this, Giulia’s rice cake is definitely a decisive step on the arduous road of mine towards that budino di riso of perfection.

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 TUSCAN RICE CAKE
from My Grandma’s Recipes by Giulia Scarpaleggia

300 g/10,6 oz rice (use soft sticky cooking rice to make puddings and desserts)
1 l/ 4,22 cups milk
1 tblsp liqueur (use the one you prefer)
peel of one lemon
2 eggs
6 tblsp sugar (ilva’s comment: if you like your cake sweet, use more)

shortcrust pastry:
300 g/ 10,6 oz plain flour
150 g/ 5,3 oz sugar
150 g /5,3 oz softened butter
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
grated peel of one orange
1 pinch salt

 First thing first, let’s make the shortcrust pastry. Put the flour on a working surface, make a well in the middle and add sugar, salt, baking powder, grated orange peel and softened butter, diced. Rub all the ingredients with your fingertips and make crumbles. You must be light and quick!
 Beat the egg in a bowl, then add it to the crumbles and keep rubbing the ingredients with your fingertips until you have a nice and smooth ball of dough. Wrap it in a plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
 While the shortcrust is resting in the refrigerator, pour milk milk in a large pot and bring to a simmer with a lemon peel. When it starts simmering, add rice and let it cook completely (it will depend on the kind of rice you chose: it must be thoroughly cooked, soft and sticky). Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Let it cool down completely.
 When the rice is cold, add 2 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of liqueur as well. Stir well with a wooden spoon until it is well blended. Whip egg whites and fold them gently into the rice mixture.
 Roll the pastry out and line a round baking tin (26-28 cm/ 10,2-11 in wide) with it: roll out the pastry to 5mm thickness and line bottom and sides of the mold, leaving some extra pastry on the sides. Pour in the rice mixture. Bake for about 40 minutes in a preheated oven (170°C)

 Let it cool down completely and dust it with icing sugar before serving.

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L