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Fig and Walnut Torte

Some of the best food in Florence can be had at some of the least assuming places. The tiny Al Tranvai in Piazza Tasso, with its handful of indoor tables and a few more outside along the square, is one such gem. Owner Nanda Calamandrei's welcome is so direct and unpretentious, and her cooking so delightfully honest, that locals and travelers alike find themselves returning to Tranvai over and over again. Nanda's fig and walnut torte is a joy in a city not generally famous for its desserts.

Serve with alkermes, a Florentine liqueur flavored with spices, or a sweet white dessert wine, such as vin santo.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried figs, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, plus 1/2 cup
      walnut halves
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 7 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

In a small bowl, combine the figs and chopped walnuts and stir to combine. Distribute the fig and walnut mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and creamy. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Sift the flour and baking powder into another bowl. Use a wooden spoon to incorporate the flour mixture gradually into the egg mixture, stirring to form a thick batter. Stir in the fennel seeds. Pour the batter over the fig and walnut mixture. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the torte comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and remove the sides of the pan. Let cool for 20 minutes. Garnish the top of the torte with the walnut halves, pushing them slightly into the torte so that they stand up on their sides. Let cool completely before serving. Makes one 9-inch torte.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Florence, by Lori de Mori (Oxmoor House, 2004).