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A Rustic Almond Torte - Torta Rustica di Mandorle

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A Rustic Almond Torte, or Torta Rustica di Mandorle: Almonds appear more often than any other flavoring agent in the dessert recipes of old Italian cookbooks, and they play a huge roll in this tart, which one might also call an almond crostata (more about crostate). The recipe is from Versilia, on the Tuscan coast.

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes


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Begin by making the pasta frolla: put 2 1/2 cups (300 g) of flour on your work surface, and add to them one egg and a yolk, lightly beaten, 3/4 cup unsalted butter that you've squeezed between your fingers until it has become quite soft, 3/4 cup sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, a pinch of baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Combine the ingredients quickly but thoroughly, using a pastry cutter or two knives so as to avoid warming it with your hands, and form the resulting dough into a ball; should the ingredients refuse to form a dough you can add one or at the most 2 tablespoons of milk. In any case, chill the dough for at least an hour.

While it's chilling, blanch (if need be) 12 ounces (300 g) of almonds, then toast them lightly in the oven and chop them finely. Add to them 1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, the juice of a lemon, and a shot of anisette. Combine well. Finally, beat 3 egg white until they form very stiff peaks, and fold them into the almonds, being careful not to let them collapse.

Roll the dough out and use it to line a 10-inch pan. Fill the pan with the almond mixture, then reroll the leftover dough out and cut it into strips using a serrated pastry wheel, and lay the strips over the almond filling in a diamond pattern, pressing the strips firmly against the rim so they adhere.

Bake the tart in a preheated 360 F (180 C) oven for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is light golden and the filling has set. Do not let it overbrown. When it is done remove it from the oven, let it cool, and dust it with confectioner's sugar.

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