Torta di Mele – Italian Apple Cake

While growing up in Italy, we would often drive by a plot of land about 20 minutes from our home. “We used to own this land, ” my mother would say, “and it had all kinds of trees: olive, chestnuts, apples, pears, plums, figs, so much fruit.” She would reminisce over this land and the bounty it provided, and the recipes and dishes that came from so much “free” produce. While owning land does offer a “free” bounty, it’s never without hard work. 

Over time, that land was sold and it was never family-owned during the time I lived there. Eventually, we did own another plot of land, but the trees there were mostly olive trees. I have such fond memories of going there and picking olives, by hand. We’d bring a picnic basket full of salumi and crusty bread, some vino for the adults, and after a morning picking olives, we’d break for lunch. My sister and I would often complain, whine and moan pretty much the entire day other than lunchtime! The things we take for granted when we don’t know any better! 

It’s uncertain if this recipe was born out of that original plot of land. My mom has been baking this apple cake “forever,” and it’s one of our family’s fall favorite. We sometimes substitute the apples for bosc pears, but since we went apple-picking yesterday, we stuck to the original version. It’s light, fragrant and the perfect match to a hot cup of coffee or tea. 

The apple pieces should be fairly small for even baking.
Incorporate apples by hand, not the mixer.
I had some lovely sugar crystals I brought back from Italy, but you can add regular sanding sugar or some cinnamon mixed with the sugar.
Delicious and quick! This makes a great hostess gift now that the holidays are coming up!

Ingredients
Non-stick Cooking Spray
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk (whole/2%/skim) 
citrus zest (from 1 lemon or 1 orange) 
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour – sifted  
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 apples of your choice (gala, granny smith, red delicious)

Optional – the below are optional toppings to the cake:
1 – 2 tablespoons sanding sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 1 – 2 tablespoons sanding sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch or 10-inch round pan by spraying it with nonstick cooking spray, or cover with a thin layer of butter and flour the pan. Set aside. 
2. With the mixer on low-medium, start by beating the softened butter together with the granulated sugar until the mixture is well mixed and incorporated.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, the milk and lemon or orange zest. Mix well after each addition.
4. With the mixer on low, add the sifted flour and baking powder. Also add the salt.
5. Peel the apples, cut them into very small cubes and add them to the mixture and incorporate them using a rubber spatula, not the mixer.
6. Arrange the cake batter in the prepared pan. Spreading evenly. Add the sugar crystals or some cinnamon sugar, if using. Bake in a preheated oven for 38 – 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry.
8. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before removing from the pan. (If you serve the cake warm or hot, it will appear undercooked, so best to cool completely before serving.) 

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What to Pack for Italy

Cosa Mettere in Valigia per l'Italia

Everyone is always asking me what they should pack for Italy,
so I’ve created a quick reference guide that you can use for your next trip.

Hint: You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do!

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