If you are a regular visitor you will know that recently my family hosted a lovely student from Italy. 
Hosting a student from Mantova brought with it great, unexpected advantages – the exchanging of recipes!  Within a short period of time we had realised that both her mum and I love to cook, bake and try new things. So, soon arrived an email containing some of her mum’s favourite recipes including the famous Torta Mantovana – Sbrisolona.
What fun we had preparing the Sbrisolona together, hoping we got it right. After popping it into the oven to cook, we enjoyed learning the Italian card game of Briscola. As the Sbrisolona baked our house was filled with its delicious buttery scent.
Sbrisolona is a traditional crumbly cake actually more like a huge shortbread but the tastiest shortbread you’ll probably ever try. Filled with the crunch and flavour of almonds and the texture of the cornmeal this sbrisolona is also flavoured with a hint of aniseed essence. I’m sure almond essence or grated lemon rind could be substituted but I love the slight zing the aniseed gives. The flavour will be more prominent the next day. What I love about the tradition of eating the sbrisolona is that it is never cut but simply placed in the middle of the table – broken by hand and shared.
It was a wonderful night filled with baking, laughter and sharing.
So, here I give you the recipe I was lucky to received.
 Make it with love and share it with those you love.
Torta Sbrisolona
600g plain flour
100g cornmeal ( polenta)
350g sugar
300g butter, room temperature
50g canola oil
150g almonds, plus more for decorating
1 packet of Italian baking powder or 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon aniseed essence
This makes lots of sbrisolona. I halved the recipe and used two 20cm spring form pans well greased.
Process the almond in the food processor roughly. Do not allow almond to grind finely – uneven pieces are fine.
Mix  all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Rub the butter through with fingertips until all the butter is distributed and the mixture is crumbly.
Pour into prepared pans and press down a little but not too much it is meant to be rough and crumbly not pressed flat. It should be no more than 15mm thick.
Scatter extra almonds over.
Bake at 160C for 45 minutes

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