Spring has burst through here - in colors and warmth! The leaves are no longer shyly peeking out but bursting through with full vigor and a spirit to make a statement. And, then the flowers, gently lifting their faces and emboldening in vibrance and aroma. Running past a wall of violets in full bloom and inhaling deeply their fragrance gives me momentum and deeper spring to my step. I want to go out; I want to commune with nature; I want to find excuses to stay in the positivity of this season.
Perhaps, that is why, I have had an easier time with my goals of healthy living - to exercise most days and eat well. Eating al fresco means taking in this flourishing beauty of the surroundings and I feel more satiated with less. My senses feel assaulted in the most pleasurable way. Even the same things seem different and in the light of hope and happiness.
On Sundays, I plan a longer run that takes me a little out of the city center of Reggio Emilia, where I live. But, even that little step is enough to put me in to the mode of countryside and the expanses that it comes with. I feel more alive; I feel richer; I feel stronger. I feel more receptive and feel I want to give more... to myself, to others, to those whom I can touch. Last Sunday, I put on my podcast, went for a run, saw the beauty around me and came back determined to be strong, to be happy, to always strive and look for the positive (for myself) and focus on it.
These days I want to be out. Sitting in a cafe, sipping on a macchiato and biting into one of my favorite regional savory pastries - Erbazzone. And, watching the world pass by while I listen to something interesting. Although it seems with Spring, more native English speakers have suddenly come out of the woodwork in this little town! Everywhere I go, I am assaulted (really!!!), with a language that I can fully understand, distracting me and ruining my perfect Italian experience of being cocooned in blissful ignorance. LOL . So headphones it is! If I have to understand what I hear, it may as well be something I want to hear....!
Yesterday, I was suddenly come upon an urge to bake. Perhaps, something within me wanted bursting out too. We don't have an oven in the apartment. So, I had to use the program kitchen for it. While working with the team on a project, I was whisking, sifting and baking; I like to think it gave me inspiration as the study is about eating and food choices.
Since I am on the elimination diet, I cannot eat wheat and I do not have the access (and budget) for the other gluten free flours i typically use, like almond and oats. What I did have is a whole grain flour of farro, on of my favorite Italian grains. It is not spelt. And, it is so nutty and flavorful and makes the most divine farroto! Anyway, I had never baked with farro and so, it was fun experiment.
I made a simple cake with farro, dates and nutmeg and topped with some seeds. It was delicious. I have included some notes from my experience with the recipe. I love the flavor of this cake, not too sweet and full of depth from the farro. It also feels easier on you than a cake, which parallels with dessert; so you can eat it for breakfast or afternoon tea.
Torta di Farro
Farro is a denser, nuttier and low gluten flour. So it does not have the same rise as regular white flour. It also does not have the same sponginess as white wheat would or even almond or oat. So, I would recommend baking this as a thin 'torte' than a taller cake. Another thing about the flour is that it is dense and dry; even if you add more liquid to the batter, it will bake tighter. So, it is best eaten fresh and warm. I also recommend using a honey or walnut syrup to soak into it, especially if you are serving/eating it the next day.
If you are new to baking, I would recommend using mainstream flours before using farro. Baking with alternate flours does require some prior skill in baking because the flours are not always consistent. So, for a good result, you may have to adapt the recipe to get good results.
1-1/2 cups farina di farro (farro flour)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4-1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
2 T water/milk
pinches of nutmeg and ginger powder
seeds or nuts to sprinkle
In a bowl sift together the farro and spices.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the olive oil and create a smooth emulsion. Keep whisking to create some rise, not double the volume but a lightness in the liquid.
Add the dry mix in three parts and fold into the liquid. Add the water/milk in the end to loosen the batter. If it looks too thick, drizzle in more milk/water until it reaches a slightly thinner cake batter consistency.
Pour batter into an oiled 10 inch cake pan. Bake at 350 F(180C) for 20 minutes until crisp on the edges and springy in the center. It will be a hard spring, not a soft spring.
Remove from pan, cool just a bit and slice while still warm. Serve with syrup or cream.