Torta sbrisolona, which literally means crumbly cake, is more like a big cookie. It is a speciality of the city of Mantua/Mantova from the Lombardy region of Italy. The cake is a very old and traditional one and popular during Christmas time. In the oldest recipe neither butter nor eggs were used because many people could not afford these rich ingredients. This cookie should not be cut, instead, set it on a platter and have everyone breaks off a piece a two.
The flavor reminds me a little of shortbread but it is more crisp and crumbly and the top is covered with crunchy streusel-like pieces. Some recipes use a combination of cornmeal and flour (I think this is more traditional) and other recipes are flavored with a little lemon zest but I chose to enhance the almonds with almond and vanilla extracts. Next time I will try substituting some of the flour with finely ground cornmeal. The original Martha Stewart recipe yields a very thick cookie so I decreased the recipe for a slightly thinner cookie.
How to blanch almonds
Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook
1 1/2 sticks of butter, cold
1 1/2 C AP flour
1 1/2 C blanched almonds, finely ground
1/2 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of almond extract or 1 - 2 tsp of amaretto
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 10 inch springform pan. I found that buttering the pan was unnecessary since the cookie is quite buttery.
In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, finely ground blanch almonds, and salt or pulse ingredients together in a food processor. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients then about halfway through sprinkle in the extracts and continue to cut until the mixture is fully incorporated and starts to come together, there should be no dried crumbs. Or alternatively you can pulse the butter into the dry ingredients in a food processor. Squeeze the mixture to form pea to 1 inch size clumps of dough.
Gently press about 1/4 of the crumbs into bottom of the springform pan. Sprinkle the rest of the mixture evenly over the top. Bake until the cookie starts to turn pale golden, about 20 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 300 and continue to bake for 20 more minutes until the cookie is dry and crisp. Cool on a rack and release from the springform before serving.
Place on a platter and dust with powdered sugar if preferred.
Makes 1 10 inch cookie
Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries