20 Feb 2014

I have a good excuse for this long silence… and a couple of good recipes for my readers.

Sweet beginnings

My blog has been neglected for quite some time, but I have a good excuse, I believe! O January 14, we welcomed our daughter Emily Rose into our lives and a few days later, into our home.


She arrived 3 weeks before my actual due date, and looked really tiny compared to Liam as a newborn. She has been the easiest baby up to now: sleeping, waking up to eat and going back to sleep on her own without needing to be rocked to sleep or anything.


Even so, it has been a remarkable change for our family, because Liam is still very young (26 months) and fully experiencing his terrible twos mood swings.


This has basically meant very little time for blogging. But, since Liam deserves to get just as much time, love and attention as before, I have found the time for some baking! He likes waking up to the smell of a freshly baked cake in the morning, and breakfast is one of those great family moments you hardly get when the day has really started.

So I have been baking pies and cakes. I have been baking the cakes that reminded me of my own childhood breakfasts: crostate alla marmellata di frutta and something I hadn’t had in 30 years, torta di riso or rice cake. I had the unstoppable urge to bake one after browsing Giulia’s amazing blog Juls’ Kitchen and reading about her torta di riso. On more than one occasion, I have told her that when I read her stories, it feels like a déjà-vu, with slight variations. I guess we are simply on two slightly different areas of the same Sienese culinary world, but she cooks better than me, she writes better than me and (wow) she most certainly takes better photos than I do! So if you didn’t already know her blog, check it out right away. It doesn’t get more authentically Tuscan than this. And she has a book out too, so next time you are looking for a present with a real Tuscan flavour, well, that is definitely it.

I have been posting photos on my Facebook profile and many friends have asked for the recipes, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to start blogging again.

Both crostata and torta di riso rely on the same type of pastry: pasta frolla, which is very similar to shortbread.

This is my recipe.

Pasta Frolla

Ingredients for a 24cm (9,5-10 in) pie:

  • 320 gr flour
  • 240 gr butter
  • 80 gr icing sugar
  • powdered vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks

Mix butter and flour quickly with the tips of your fingers, until you end up with a sort of coarse-grained flour. Add the icing sugar and the vanilla extract. Add the three egg yolks and knead the dough until smooth.  Place in the fridge for 15 to 30 minute so that it can reach a consistency suitable for rolling.

Butter and cover in flour a baking tin (or you can use baking paper). Roll the dough, but leave aside some to make “stripes” for the top of the crostata. I use baking paper to roll my dough, and then I place it on the tin upside down, and remove the paper gently. This makes placing the dough in the tin easier and reduces the risk of tearing it.


Ingredients for the crostata

  • jam/chocolate/cream

If you are baking a crostata, after placing the dough in the tin, spread jam (or chocolate or cream or lemon curd as in the crostata in the photos) evenly on top of it. Use the dough you set aside to make the stripes which give crostata its typical “checkered” look.


Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 40 minutes. I recommend covering the pie with aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes and bake it uncovered for the remaining 20, so that the jam does not dry up too much.

Ingredients for torta di riso

  • 800 mls milk
  • lemon zest
  • 200 gr rice
  • sugar
  • 1 tsp of liqueur
  • raisins or chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • icing sugar

Place the milk and the lemon zest in a pot and when it starts to boil add the rice and cook until the rice is slightly overcooked and there is no more milk left. Add 2 tbsp of sugar and let the mix cool down. When the rice has cooled down, add a teaspoon of liqueur (I usually use cointreau, amaretto or brandy, but you can use anything you like) and two more tbsp of sugar or more, to your liking. Add raisins or chocolate chips. Separate the egg yolks from the whites and add the yolks to the mix. Whip up the whites and add stirring gently with a spatula or wooden spoon. Pour the mix on the dough in the tin and spread evenly. Fold the extra dough on top of the filling.


Bake at 170-180°C (340-350°F) for 40 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and sprinkle icing sugar on it. Let it cool down before serving it.

If you want to learn the basics of the Tuscan cuisine, we are happy to help our guests at Casina di Rosa or Behind the Tower arrange for a cooking lesson.


  1. Helen and Brian Barrett

    Congratulations and welcome to Emily. We had a new granddaughter, Emilia, born on January 15th and, at just over 5lbs, she, too, was tiny. How lovely for you to now have a boy and a girl. We still talk with fondness of our wonderful stay at Casina de Rosa. Best wishes, Helen

    • Thank you very much!!!

  2. I just found your blog today and love it! I’m presently finishing up the second in a series of novels which take place in Tuscany. I invite you to take a look at my website at

    I’m a bit late but congratulations on your two beautiful children.

    I’d love to meet you the next time we’re privileged to be in Tuscany, one of my favorite places on earth!

    Leah (pen name is Sophia Bar-Lev)

    • Hi Sophia, thank you for your message! Lovely books! I would love to read them! Hugs!

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