Torta sbrisolona—a petite, crumbly pastry from near Mantua, Italy, that’s fantastic with coffee—gets a yellow hue from cornmeal and plenty of good-quality butter. It can be made with any nut you have handy, including pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts, but this version adapted from Italian baker Luigi Biasetto (which we tasted by way of Gustiamo Italian specialty store), features hazelnuts from Piemonte, Italy, considered the finest in the world. Italian hazelnuts are often sold pre-blanched, but roasting regular hazelnuts in the method from Step 1 will help you easily rub away their skins. It is meant to be served rustically, broken into pieces with your hands and shared with a crowd.
What You Will Need
- 2 sticks plus 1 Tbsp. (8 ½ oz. or 240 g) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 cups (279 g) all-purpose flour or substitute 2 ¼ cups soft-wheat flour
- 3⁄4 cup plus 1 tsp. (152 g) light brown sugar
- 1⁄4 cup plus 1 ½ tsp. (51 g) medium-ground cornmeal
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. (5 g) vanilla powder
- 1 tsp. (5 g) baking powder
- 1⁄2 tsp. (2 g) sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 1⁄2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. (248 g) hazelnuts
- 1⁄2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. bittersweet chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips (75 g)
- Set a pan in the top-center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. If using hazelnuts with skins, add the nuts to a small baking sheet and bake until golden brown and the skins begin peeling away slightly and the nuts are lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wide bowl; let cool completely (leave the oven on). Once cooled, remove as much of the skins as possible by rubbing the nuts between your fingers. Discard the skins and coarsely chop the nuts.
- In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, cornmeal, vanilla powder, baking powder, and salt; pulse briefly to mix. Add the butter and process until it is completely incorporated and a crumbly dough forms (this takes a little patience; keep going until the mixture is chunky and buttery and sloshes around in the mixer audibly), about 90 seconds. Add half of the nuts and pulse briefly to incorporate (they should remain chunky).
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the chocolate chips; toss to incorporate.
- In three 6-inch springform pans, divide the mixture and press it into an even layer a little less than ½ inch thick. Divide the remaining hazelnuts among the tops of the dough, and press down firmly to adhere.
- Transfer the sbrisolona to a large baking sheet, leaving a little room in between the pans (work on 2 baking sheets if necessary). Bake until golden and relatively firm in the center, about 35 minutes.
- Remove and let cool completely in the pans. Then unmold and serve broken into pieces.