Cooking show contestant, Pia Gava, takes us on an Italian journey through her new cookbook titled Pia’s Table. Since returning from her recent travels, booked through Vita Italian Tours/Pronto Travel, Pia found herself inspired by ingredients, destinations and people, with the help of Gianni from Pronto Travel.
What Pia said about her recent travels?
We didn’t dare rewrite Pia’s experience on her privately arranged holiday to Italy, as her story is full of excitement, happiness and inspiration, her love of food radiates. So, these are the words by Pia:
It’s always exciting planning for a trip! I love choosing places to visit, searching hotels, deciding if tours are suitable for you or just roaming around cities you’ve admired for your own personal adventure. I’m so glad that I was able to meet Gianni and his family from Pronto Travel/Vita Italian Tours, although we only meet just before my trip…it felt like I had known them all my life while we chatted about my travel plans whilst sipping coffee!
The travel experience and passion Gianni and his family can definitely be noticed. After every visit or phone chat I had with Gianni I was always uplifted and excited even more to start our travels. Gianni had helped plan our journey so perfectly that I can honestly say our trip was stress free. He had suggested specific places to visit, booked us into hotels that absolutely match our style and even when collating our travel documents Gianni added restaurant/cafes recommendations for every city and town we were visiting.
My Italy trip was to be our own personal food tour with my family. It was the start of research for my next cookbook. My first book ‘Pia’s Table’ was like an old-style, family recipe journal. I’m now aiming for my next book to be broader and so I ate, took food photos and wrote notes throughout our travels.
Pia’s food highlights
Whilst on our Italian food tour I had also taken note of many delicious places we had enjoyed and dishes I had to re-create when I arrived home. Although cicchetti, pasta and gnocchi are my favourites to devour (and still love them!) I had adored the desserts or the ‘little something’ we enjoyed with our morning coffees at a bar or really any time like cannoli, pannacotta or freshly baked crostata. My favourite was the chocolate Torta Tenerina I had seen in Modena. I had to make sure I baked this deliciousness when I arrived back home and yes, I did!
A must-try Italian classic originally from Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna region, Italy. This cake has a gorgeous crisp, macaron-style outer layer. The centre is a luscious, dense but incredibly moist chocolate cake. It’s normal for this heavenly cake to collapse slightly when it cools, you can then notice the delicate cracked crust. If I didn’t see this same cracked, chocolate crust in the windows of cafes or pasticceria (pastry shops) in Italy I would have thought my cake failed! This can be baked as a flourless version with a little almond meal or if preferred using a touch of flour combined with almond meal. The hardest part is waiting for the cake to cool down… so cruel for anyone. I must admit I never really wait!!
What goes into Torta Tenerina?
• 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
• 120g unsalted butter, roughly chopped
• 150g brown sugar
• 3 eggs, separated
• 35g plain flour
• 25g almond meal
• 25ml milk, room temp or just heated slightly
• pinch of salt
- Preheat oven at 170°C. Prepare a springform, removable base cake tin (approx. 22cm): grease with olive oil and line base with baking paper.
Note: The cake is very delicate and preparing your cake tin is very important. It will be easier to remove the cake gently and reduce the risk of splitting in half. The cake texture is soft even when cooled and very important not to turn the cake upside down to remove from tin.
- Place chocolate and butter in a double-boiler and heat until fully melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In two mixing bowls separate the eggs. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks using half the sugar until creamy and a light airy texture. Then add the melted chocolate mixture and lightly whisk to combine and texture is smooth.
- Add the flour, almond meal and then add milk a little at a time. Whisk at low speed until fully combined.
- In the separate bowl with egg whites, add the remaining sugar and pinch of salt. Whisk until firm peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold through the chocolate mixture.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared cake tin. Using an angled cake spatula flatten the top to ensure it is smooth and even.
- Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 25 min. Using a cake tester check your cake, its still fine if the centre is still slightly moist. The edges of the cake will need to be a drier texture and not moist. If required, bake further 3-5 min with a watchful eye! The top layer will have formed a crust and may have already formed fine cracks, this is fine and normal appearance for this cake.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool 10 min. Then very gently release the springform tin and allow to cool on a cake rack completely. Enjoy!
After our trip and arrival back home, I visited Gianni and his family at their office to recount our trip and share travel/food stories. It was like a family and friends get together and yes again coffee was shared!
I’m already thinking about my next trip and have peace of mind of who will assist me with my travel plans again.
We, at Vita Italian Tours/Pronto Travels, love hearing from our clients once they return from their travels. We feel honoured that our recommendations and suggestions were taken on board and Pia returned inspired and full of excitement about all things Italian, especially food.
You can purchase a signed copy of Pia’s new cookbook, ‘Pia’s Table’, in the Vita Italian Tours/Pronto Travel office in Melbourne located at 1/25 Little Oxford Street Collingwood, VIC 3066. Call us to reserve your copy today +61 3 9080 3440, we can ship anywhere in Australia.