Sunday, July 18, 2010

PINZA-Venetian Cornmeal Cake ( FIGS AND GRAPPA)

I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

Fig sign is a gesture made with the hand and fingers curled and the thumb thrust between the middle and index fingers, or, rarely, the middle and ring fingers, forming the fist so that the thumb partly pokes out. In some areas of the world, the gesture is considered a good luck charm; in others (including France, Greece, and Turkey among others) it is considered an obscene gesture. The precise origin of the gesture is unknown, but many historians speculate that it refers to female genitalia. In ancient Greece, this gesture was a fertility and good luck charm designed to ward off evil. This usage has survived in Portugal and Brazil, where carved images of hands in this gesture are used in good luck talismans.

Fig Names: Fig (English), Higo (Spanish), Figue (French), Feige (German), Fico (Italian).

I decided to post this recipe because I found it so unusual. I have not seen anything like it on other blogs. I am trying to be original ( however, my own cravings do get in the way..but I am trying to stay away from posting ..wish me luck   : / ) This recipe contains no eggs or dairy so all you veggies may find it safe. It has a very hearty and moist texture of a fruitcake... but not as sticky. The flavors blend nicely and the fig is what I love most. The tradition is to serve it @ the Epiphany . I would say this is a winter cake, vs a light summer one. Traditional Italian dessert..lots of fruit, simple, and not overly sweet and loaded with butter ( Hello France? <3) )  I also added some info one figs and Grappa for your learning pleasure :) .

 Pinza-Venetian Cornmeal Cake ( I halved this recipe)


1/2 cup raisins
2 tablespoons grappa or 1/2 cup warm water
2 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
2 cups cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
5 cups water
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup diced candied lemon or orange peel ( I had some made)
1 yellow Delicious apple, peeled and diced
1 Bartlett pear, peeled and diced
9 or 10 dried whole Calamyrna or Calabrian figs, stemmed and chopped ***( I had to Greek figs)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Butter the baking pan and dust it with flour, shaking out the excess, or line the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, allowing the foil to come up the sides of the pan. Butter and dust the foil with flour. Set it aside.

Pour the water or grappa over the raisins in a small bowl and let them soak for 15 minutes. 

I paid $40.00 for a bottle and  do not think it added much to the cake. However, I will use it in other recipes..your choice.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder in a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan. Slowly stir in the water. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat for 15 minutes. The mixture will be very thick. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and butter, making sure that the butter melts completely.

Strain the raisins, discarding the water, and stir them into the batter. If using the grappa, add it with the raisins. Stir in the lemon or orange peel, apple, pear, figs, and walnuts.

Pour the batter into the pan, smoothing out the top.

Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours,  ( mine baked for @ 30 minutes on convection) or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be golden brown. Cool the cake completely. If using the foil-lined method, simply lift the foil with the cake out of the pan and, when cool, remove the foil. This will allow for neatly cut slices with no waste at the edges.

To serve, cut into squares.

Tip: For parties, chill the baked cake, then use small cookie cutters to cut out decorative shapes.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.


Brown Turkey Figs

Brown Turkey figs have brownish-dark purple skin, a milder flavor than other figs, and are noticeably less sweet than the similar-looking Black Mission figs. Brown Turkey figs work well in salads or in desserts where a sweetener will be used.

Kadota Figs

Photo © Molly Watson
Kadota figs have light green skin and are less sweet than other figs.

• Adriatic: light green or yellowish-green in color with pale pink or dark red flesh. Not as sweet as other varieties. Noted for its pronounced flavor, especially when dried, and also eaten fresh.

• Calimyrna (Smyrna grown in California): large, green skin with white flesh. Less moist and not as sweet as the Mission. Most popular in its dried form. Having thick skin, they are usually peeled when eaten fresh. 

• Celeste: small to medium, violet skin with extremely sweet, juicy white pulp. Good fresh or dried. A favorite for container gardening.

• Mission: purplish-black in color with red flesh, full-flavored, moist and chewy texture. Best for eating fresh, but also good dried. They are named for the California Franciscan missions where they have been cultivated since 1770. 

Calabris Figs

The World’s Best Figs....

Dried White Figs from Cilento by Santomiele

Antonio Longo is an ambitious young man with a mission. His grandfather bought six hectares of farm land in Ogliastro, Cilento, near the archeologically rich area of Paestum , south of the Amalfi Coast. His grandfather died in the 1970's and after 20 years of neglect, Longo took over the farm in the 1990's. His mission, to restore production of the rare and delicious "Dottato Bianco" -- White Dottato -- fig, a prized Cilento variety.

His figs are unique "FICO DOTTATO BIANCO DEL CILENTO" and Gustiamo has secured them for you. Antonio sun-dries the figs on the roof of his house on large flat baskets.

These figs have a dense white pulp that is extra sweet and more tender and fine seeded than the coarse Turkish, Greek or Calabrian figs one usually finds in the market. Stuffed with almonds, soaked in rum and fig mollasses with citrus peel and raisins, they are gift wrapped in fig leaves. The packaging is artistic, the scent and flavor of the figs irrestistible. This is a delicacy you won't want to miss.


Grappa: Italy's Elixir

Grappa is a uniquely Italian drink. Traditionally, made from pomace, the discarded grape seeds, stalks, and stems that are a by-product of the winemaking process, Grappa has been around since the Middle Ages. For generations, Italians have sipped this "firewater" after meals and even added a little to their morning espresso, to "correct" it. Once considered an acquired taste, popular only in Italy, Grappa, today, is making itself known around the world. Distilleries from Australia to Oregon, as well as Italy, are trying their hand at making Grappa, with surprisingly good results.

Buon Appetito!!


  1. Great post Hun, I'm loving the unusual recipe x

  2. Thanks how to be perfect! I actually think i have heard of your Bakery?.. I would love to have my own bakery! Your cupcakes are very sweet :) and I love cupcakes!

  3. I want to go to your bakery! Especially with treats like that!

  4. This is indeed very original. I have never heard of it before the sign nor the recipe

  5. Smart post and so good blog
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