Sample Recipe from The Italian Baker, Revised: Torta di Pere Pear Tart
Makes one 8 1/2-inch tart; 8 servings
1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons (5.3 oz / 150 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature (cold if using a food processor)
3/4 cup (5.3 oz / 150 g) sugar
3 large egg yolks
About 1 1/2 cups minus one tablespoon (7 oz / 200 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3.5 oz / 100 g) fine yellow cornmeal, preferably organic
1 teaspoon (0.2 oz / 5 g) salt
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Sift the flour, cornmeal, and salt over the mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Knead lightly on a floured surface until the dough is no longer sticky.
Cream the butter and sugar with the paddle until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Sift in the flour, cornmeal, and salt, and mix at low speed; continue mixing until the dough comes together. Knead lightly on a floured surface until the dough is no longer sticky.
Place the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and scatter over the flour. Process with three or four pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Beat the egg yolks lightly. With the machine running, pour the egg yolks in a steady stream through the feed tube and process just until the dough comes together. You may need to add a little ice-cold water. Stop the machine as soon as the dough masses on top of the blade. Overprocessing will make a tough dough.
Chilling. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
2 cups (1 lb / 450 g) full-bodied red wine; a Barolo or cabernet sauvignon would be perfect
1/4 cup (1.8 oz / 50 g) sugar
3 whole cloves
3 thin strips lemon zest
3/4 to 1 teaspoon (0.06 to 0.1 oz / 2 to 2.5 g) ground cinnamon
Cornmeal or finely ground cookie or cake crumbs, for sprinkling (optional)
3 large peeled cooking pears (2 lb / 900 g, weighed after peeling), cut into fat slices and then cut crosswise in half
1 large egg, beaten, for the egg wash
Heat the wine, sugar, cloves, lemon zest, and cinnamon to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Gently boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Stir in the pears and cook over medium heat until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the pears; discard the cloves, lemon peel, and cooking liquid. Cool to room temperature.
Shaping. Cut the dough in half and return half to the refrigerator. This is a very delicate dough. Lightly sprinkle flour on your work surface and then lay one or two pieces of plastic wrap on it. Put the dough on the plastic wrap and cover it with a second layer of plastic wrap. This protects the dough as you roll it with your rolling pin into a circle 1/4 inch thick. Butter ?an 8 1/2-inch tart pan very thoroughly. Remove the top layer of plastic, gently lift the dough up by the bottom piece of plastic wrap, and then carefully invert it into the prepared pan before removing the remaining plastic wrap. Trim the edge. Build up the edge of the bottom pastry with the trimmings rolled into one or two coils and flattened onto the edge, so that the edge is substantial enough for the top pastry to be attached.
Filling and Top Crust. I sometimes sprinkle a very little cornmeal or cookie or cake crumbs on the bottom of the tart shell to soak up the juices from the pears. Spoon the drained pears into the tart shell. Again using plastic wrap, roll out the remaining dough into a 1/4-inch-thick circle and place over the pan. Trim the overhanging dough, press the two edges together, and crimp decoratively. Lightly brush the pastry with the beaten egg.
Baking. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake until golden, 40 minutes. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
“A solid collection of traditional Italian baked goods…an authentic and trusted title.”
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—Publishers Weekly, 8/15/11
“Carol Field's The Italian Baker is the one bread book I see in nearly everyone's collection, whether an experienced or amateur baker. It not only is full of timeless, classic recipes, but also takes you deep into the mind and heart of the Italian spirit.”
—Peter Reinhart, author of The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day
“The Italian Baker was incredibly influential in its first iteration and this revised version is even better. Carol has taken the volume to another level in both deliciousness and simple techniques. It is truly the definitive work on Italian bread baking and pastry for our time.”
—Mario Batali, author and restaurateur
“A classic, beautifully researched and considered book that keeps Italy’s traditions of bread-making alive. I love how it is peppered with astute observations and stories of Carol Field’s experiences in Italy, inspiring skilled bakers and novice enthusiasts alike.”
—Alice Waters, chef, author, and proprietor of Chez Panisse
“The Italian Baker has always been one of my all-time favorite baking books, and no one is happier than I am to see this brand-new edition, introducing Carol Field's classic collection of rustic breads, desserts, and biscotti to a whole new generation of cooks. If you're looking to capture the authentic flavors of Italian baking in your own kitchen, there's absolutely no better guidebook than The Italian Baker.”
—David Lebovitz, author of Ready for Dessert and The Great Book of Chocolate
“Bread bakers rejoice! There’s nothing like chewy, flavorful home-baked bread and thanks to Carol Field’s inspiring recipes in this updated edition of her top-selling classic, the timeless art of bread baking will become more popular than ever.”
—Flo Braker, author of The Simple Art of Perfect Baking and Baking for All Occasions
“Anyone who has bitten into a ciabatta or an airy, full-of-flavor loaf with a bit of tang and a wonderfully dark crust, or mixed bread dough going by the wetter-the-better rule, has Carol Field to thank. She not only introduced the miraculous variety of Italian breads to Americans, but she also changed the way we think of bread--and the way we make it. No one who loves bread can be without this book.The Italian Baker shows that classics stay classics for a reason.”
—Corby Kummer, senior editor at the Atlantic Monthly and author of The Pleasures of Slow Food
“The original edition of The Italian Baker has been one of my culinary bibles ever since it was published in 1985. It is now splattered with stains and floury to the touch. Pasta Maddalena I noted was “perfect,” while the Torta Primavera, “excellent,” and so on. The crusty, chewy Pugliese bread, wickedly rich savory croissant dough, the delicate spongy little panini dolce have become constant staples in my kitchen. So celebrate with Carol Field the 'second coming' of this great book.”
—Diana Kennedy, author of The Essential Cuisines of Mexico
“Bravo to Ten Speed and Carol Field for updating and reissuing this absolute treasure of Italian baking. The fact that these recipes so thoroughly cover so many baked regional specialties, such as bread, cookies, tarts and torts, savory dishes, pizza, and foccacia makes it a must-own volume for any serious home cook and baker.”
—Joe Ortiz, author of The Village Baker and coauthor of The Village Baker's Wife
“The Italian Baker opened my eyes to an exciting new world of baking. It, along with Carol’s early advice and encouragement, became the inspiration for adding hearth baked breads to our line-up at the original Grand Central Bakery in Seattle.The Italian Baker was a trove of information then and remains so today. This new edition, updated, reformatted, and full of delicious color photography, has me inspired all over again!”
—Gwen Bassetti, founder of The Grand Central Baking Company
“I’m thrilled to have this handsome new, updated edition, with wonderfully informative photos that show not just what the breads look like but also what goes into the process of creating them. The Italian Baker is a treasure--not just for chefs but for anyone fascinated by the baker’s art, for anyone beguiled by Italian food, for anyone who simply loves to cook good honest food.”
—Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of The New Mediterranean Cookbook
“Evviva! The Italian Baker lives again! For 25 years Carol Field's classic has been my inseparable and invaluable guide to the world of Italian breads and pastries, furnishing the best introduction to baking in general of any book I know. Younger generations will now be able to find the same comfort and counsel, thanks to this splendid new edition.”
—Mary Taylor Simeti, author of Pomp and Sustenance
“That an English-language book on something as essential as Italian bread could become the standard text in Italy, as the previous version did, says almost all you need to know -- except that this revised edition is even better. Anyone who really, truly cares about Italy must read The Italian Baker.”
—Fred Plotkin, author of Italy for the Gourmet Traveler