One of the hallmarks of Tuscan regional cooking is that a lot of it makes use of stale bread. I recently wrote an article about it outlining some of the traditional soups and salads from the region all with stale bread as their main ingredient. However, it’s not just savory dishes which use it. In many parts of Italy, not just Tuscany, stale bread is used to make cakes, such at the Venetian pinza. Like a lot of dishes which started out in poor kitchens, these bread cakes are now seen as part of the traditional cusine and something to be proud of.
This recipe is inspired by a version of pinza that my Venetian friend Claudio made the other day and so I’ve decided to give it his name. I also used chocolate powder which Claudio had given me from my favourite chocolate and coffee shop in Venice. I added several things that I happened to have lying around left over from other recipes which fits very much with the spirit of the original, and you could do the same. As long as you don’t vary the amount of bread, milk, eggs, and sugar, you can add what you like to the recipe.
You can use any mould you like for this but I used my kugelhopf mould I bought in France (a bit like a bundt). You’ll have to adjust the cooking time based on the mould: the flatter the mould the shorter the cooking time. In any case, check after about an hour but the cake will not be ready until a skewer comes out clean.
I made this for my guests on Pasquetta, as Easter Monday is known in Italy. But now that we’ve all got over our January diets and our Lenten fasts, it’s time to make cakes again regularly. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to use up any bread—or even chocolate—you have left over from the Easter weekend.
Pinza di Claudio
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 55 minutes
350g (12 ounces) stale bread
1l (4 cups) milk
90g (3 1/4 ounces) sugar
90g (3 1/4 ounces) chocolate powder
1 sachet vanilla sugar
100g (3 1/2 ounces) almonds
80g (3 ounces) pistachios
100g (3 1/2 ounces) sultanas
200g (7 ounces) white chocolate chips
- Heat the oven to 180°C (355°F).
- In a large mixing bowl, soak the bread in the milk until soft. Depending on the type of bread this can take from 10 minutes to 1 hour.
- Add the eggs and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. The add the sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla sugar and stir until completely dissolved. The mixture will now be a lovely chocolate colour.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
- Pour the mixture into a greased mould or cake tin.
- Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool before turning out of the mould and then sprinkle with icing sugar.