So just like that we are down to four weeks and counting before leaving for Italy. I am still pinching myself trying to believe that we are are going. Gerrit and I have been saving up money like crazy to try and make a trip happen, and I’m still in awe that we are going to be able to make it Italy. And no matter how many maps I look at and how many times I take a tour of Rome via Google street view, I cannot believe that in a month we are going to be there.
Naturally I have been trying to soak in all things Italian. I’ve been recording cooking shows having to do with Italian food and travel shows in Italian places. We rented Samantha Brown’s Passport to Europe so that we could watch her tour Rome and Florence (why don’t her shows come on Travel Channel anymore? They were some of my favorites…). We have been sporadically learning a bit of Italian from this website (which I highly recommend–they go at a perfect pace and give you plenty of time to understand what they are saying).
We’ve been researching all of the places we want to go and decided what we don’t want to miss and what we want to skip. The thing about travelling is that it is different for everyone; everyone has a different part of culture or history that hits them in deeper ways, and for us we are less interested in lining up at art museums and much more interested in walking around the streets and eating food and trying to get the feel of how people live their everyday lives in places so famous.
And the food, oh we are so excited about the food. I’ve been trying to commit to memory the dishes I want to try, the dishes that I know I will most likely like. I’ve also been trying to commit to memory the dishes that I know I should avoid because…tomatoes! I’m considering adopting the story that I am slightly allergic to tomatoes while we are in Italy, because I most certainly do not want to offend Italians by my general dislike for them. But I don’t think I’ll have any problems because there are so many other pasta dishes the Italians are famous for…Carbonara in Rome! Pesto in Liguria! And of course I do not want to miss a Florentine steak.
When I made this cake for my family and explained that it was a cake traditionally made for Easter in Florence and that it was orange flavored, the exact same words came out of everyone’s mouths. “You like that?” in absolute disbelief. It’s hard to grow out of who you are known for being. But to answer their question, yes I do like it. In fact, even though there is no chocolate to be seen, it is perhaps one of my favorite cakes I’ve had in awhile. It is perfectly sweet without being overbearing; it is light and fluffy, with the refreshing infusion of orange. And the best thing of all is that it was absolutely the easiest cake I have ever made in my life. Almost easier than cakes that come out of boxes. There are no separate bowls or special mixing requires with certain ingredients added at certain times to make the texture perfect. You just dump everything in the bowl together, mix it up, and the texture comes out perfect (and quite spongecake-like) all on its own.
Schiaacciata Alla Fiorentina
from Extra Virgin
This is one of the simplest yet most delectable cakes I have ever made. All you need to know is this: it takes one bowl. The recipe calls for whole milk, but I just used the regular old milk we had in our fridge and it was perfect. Also, the original recipe said to preheat the oven to 360 degrees. I wondered if this was a typo and preheated my oven to 350 (I don’t think mine can be as exact as 360) and it worked perfectly. But if it doesn’t for you, try increasing the heat a bit. And one more thing–I believe the cake will taste just as good left in the pan and is will flipped upside down out of it.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
Wait Time: 30 minutes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 orange, zested and juiced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup warm whole milk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
Powdered sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter or grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, orange juice, eggs, milk, and vegetable oil. Beat using an electric mixer on medium-low speed for about 3-4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth (it will be pretty runny).
3. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of it comes out clean.
4. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife along the edges and flip the cake over gently out of the baking pan onto a platter or large board. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before slicing and serving.