The poorest people in Venice known as the Nicolotti devised this recipe with left over milk and bread. Last week I made one with citron – known as cedro in Italy and this week I used up a candied peach in place of the citron. To source and buy these ingredients in Australia you have to go to specialist shops whereas the citron would not be considered exotic in Italy and more widely available. The term Cucina Povera is a term in Italian to describe food made by the poor with simple ingredients and this fits the description perfectly.
The recipe I am giving you is quite faithful to the original that I suspect came from a Carol Field book on Italian cuisine but I cannot be sure as it is in my Tasmanian house library. I have a copy I typed on an old fashioned typewriter, in the days before I had a computer so that proves how long I have had this in my repertoire. Now here is the latest news on this old recipe. I made an adjustment that would make most mamas and nonnas cry. I substituted the eggs for a natural egg replacer. No Egg is my answer for still being able to eat tasty food for an experimental three months of action to reduce my cholesterol. It is gluten free and according to the packet, ideal for vegans but I am just interested in testing how many times I can use it as a substitute without changing the flavour and texture or compromising the integrity of both. I have also used Logicol Light, a replacement for the butter and I know an aberration for lovers of authentic Italian food. As someone who hates margarine or any whipped butter substitutes it is quite a sacrifice for me but I don’t wish to take any cholesterol reducing tablets so this is all part of the experiment.
If you want to use the ‘egg replacer’, you just convert a teaspoon of the mix to 2 tablespoons of water. When you mix it with a whisk or fork it begins to look like lightly whipped egg white. NB If you use quality firm organic bread you will not need to squeeze the milk soaked bread.
Of course the light airy bread or even day old baguettes will break up and you will need to squeeze excess milk out. I used half of a sourdough and half from a hearty fig and pistachio bread made with Spelt flour. Spelt has more protein than wheat flour and is a nuttier and sweeter in flavour. Make no mistake about this here recycled bread dish, it is not a soggy bread and butter pudding, it cuts like a moist cake. I dust the top with icing sugar and serve in squares.
A print friendly recipe can be downloaded here: Torta Nicolotta
Torta Nicolotta – my version of the original Bread Pudding from Venice
Makes 8-10 servings
350 – 400g stale bread or raisin bread, crusts remove
4 ½ cups milk
5 tbspns unsalted butter
¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 ¼ cups (175g) raisins
2 tbspns rum
5 eggs, beaten
Grated zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup chopped candied citron (optional but adds an Italian authentic touch)
¼ tspn ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Unsalted butter and fine breadcrumbs to line baking dish
Cut bread into rough cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Heat the milk, butter and sugar in saucepan to a low boil and pour over the breadcrumbs. Let stand 2 hours.
Place the raisins and rum in a small bowl; add warm water to cover. Let stand at least 15 minutes to plump the raisins. Drain and pat dry.
Squeeze the bread dry and break it up with your hands to a soft crumbly mass. Stir into the bread the raisins, eggs, lemon zest and citron. Add cinnamon and vanilla and stir thoroughly.
Butter fully base and sides of a 2 litre shallow baking dish and lightly coat with fine breadcrumbs. Pour the bread mixture into the dish.
Heat the oven to 275 F or 18O c and bake until the top is golden. Test with a skewer after 45 minutes. If it comes out clean set aside to cool down. Dust with icing sugar when ready to serve.
Buon appetito Roz