Erbazzone Dolce (Sweet Spinach and Almond Tart)

A sweet spinach tart? Yes, really. It is delicious. I have discovered this original dessert from the North-Italian town of Reggio Emilia thanks to Simona who is from that region and has the wonderful Italian food blog Grembiula da Cucina (which means kitchen apron). Her recipes are unpretentious but always very tasty. This is locally called erbazzone dolce, to indicate it is a sweet version of erbazzone. Compared to Simona’s recipe I increased the spinach and reduced the sugar. The spinach has a larger impact on the appearance than on its flavor, which is dominated by almonds. I don’t think you can even taste the spinach if you don’t know it’s there. Everyone who tried this cake loved it, and was very surprised after I had described it as a spinach cake. The official booze to be used for this recipe is the local anise liqueur called Sassolino, but any anise liqueur (preferably Italian) will do. I used Sambuca. For the crust I used a special technique to create a more flaky crust.

Ingredients

Serves 6 to 8 for dessert

300 grams (.66 lb) spinach

150 grams (1 1/2 cups) blanched almonds

100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar

3 eggs, separated

pinch of salt

50 grams (3 1/2 Tbsp) butter

60 ml (1/4 cup) anise liqueur

grated zest of 1 lemon

confectioners’ sugar (to finish)

For the crust

100 grams (2/3 cup) cake flour

50 grams (3 1/2 Tbsp) cold butter

1/2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp cold water

butter and flour for the spring form pan

1 Tbsp dry breadcrumbs

Instructions

To make the crust, combine 70 grams of flour, 1/2 Tbsp sugar and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor and process briefly to mix.

Add 50 grams of butter, diced.

Process until the dough comes together. This will take some time.

Flatten the dough with a spatula.

Sprinkle the remaining 30 grams of flour on top.

Pulse a few times until you have pea sized pieces of dough that are covered by flour.

Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of cold water.

Carefully fold in the water with a spatula until the dough just comes together. Do not process more than needed.

Shape into a thick disc and wrap with plastic, then refrigerate.

Make the filling while the dough rests. Toast 150 grams of almonds in the oven for about 8 minutes at 180C/350F, or until golden but not too dark. Allow to cool.

Wash 300 grams of spinach and put it in a casserole or pot with the water that clings to the leaves.

Cover and cook until the spinach has wilted, stirring once or twice.

Drain the spinach and squeeze out most of the liquid using a spatula.

Melt 50 grams of butter in a pan (or the same pot that was used for the spinach).

When the butter foams, add the spinach.

Cook, stirring, until the spinach is coated with butter and most of the liquid is gone. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.

When the almonds have cooled off, put them in the food processor with 50 grams (1/4 cup) of sugar.

Grind them until they are quite fine. (If they are a bit coarse the filling will have more texture.)

Combine 3 egg yolks with the remaining 50 grams of sugar in the bowl of the food processor.

Process until the mixture is pale yellow.

Add the grated zest of a lemon to the egg yolk mixture.

Add the spinach and almonds as well, and pour in 60 ml of anise liqueur. Add a pinch of salt.

Process to mix.

Prepare a 22 cm (9″) spring form pan with butter and flour.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F (or 180C/350F if fan forced).

Take the pastry out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic. Use a rolling pin to roll it out on a floured surface…

…to a circle with a diameter of about 30 cm (12 inches).

Line the prepared spring form pan with the rolled out pastry. The sides should be 3 to 4 cm high (1.5 inch).

Pierce the crust all over with a fork.

Sprinkle it evenly with a tablespoon of dry breadcrumbs. This will help to prevent a soggy bottom.

Whip the egg whites until they are stiff.

Transfer the spinch mixture to a large bowl. Fold in the whipped egg whites in three additions…

…working from below with a spatula…

…with gentle movements to keep it as airy as possible.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Flatten the top.

Bake the tart at 200C/400F (180C/350F if fan forced) until the filling has just set and the crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Allow to cool in the spring form pan.

The spring form pan should be easy to remove if you used enough butter and flour to prepare it.

Following Simona’s example I used some leaves from my garden as stencils…

…and used confectioners’ sugar…

…to decorate the tart.

Wine pairing

This will work well with a dessert wine with a nutty flavor that is not overly sweet, such as Vin Santo or a Verduzzo Passito (from Friuli). Even more appropriate may be an Albana Passito from the same region as the tart.

Flashback

DSC01308

A nice variation on the usual is this passion fruit crème brûlée. The passion fruit adds another layer of flavor and the tartness balances out the sweetness just a bit.

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11 thoughts on “Erbazzone Dolce (Sweet Spinach and Almond Tart)

  1. I bet it is good. I’d love to try it. I love the color too. So much of what we categorize in our food as sweet/savory/good/bad is the result of nurture and culture. Sweet eggplant preserves? delicious. Why not, eggplant is a fruit afterall….
    On the other hand this falls under what i call the carrot cake theory (i’m sure i am not the first one to come up with it but i’ll take the credit). Carrot cake is tasty but really, are we tasting the carrots? I argued once with coworkers that we can sub almost any root veg and the cake will be equally good. So, I made a yummy parsnip, beet, rutabaga cake. Guess what? It was delicious and if blindfolded you would not really be able to tell the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. More homework! I better reach for my long unused springform pan at the back of the cupboard – this looks fascinating with its spinach and nuts 🙂 ! And your ‘artistic’ endeavours have more than paid off: one first appreciates with one’s nose and then one’s eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am going to take your word for this cake, it is just too green to be a sweet dessert for me, savory — I would take any day of the week. Any idea why someone decided to use spinach in a sweet recipe? I wonder if it was because they had a bumper crop one year and needed ways to use it up. It is still a very interesting recipe and I thank you for the introduction to it. Great tip about the bread crumbs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. one of my fav tarts-cakes. I discovered it yrs ago in Nice (Lebovitz has a version too: taste au blettes, I think) and I then found it (made with spinach) in the Claudia Roden’s Jewish book. In tuscany is called often torta coi becchi or di verdure.. and I have seen and eaten few versions. I tend to use spinach and chard, and I chop them instead of pureing. I make it often during the year, sometimes adding apples too, in autumn, sauted first in butter.
    on the pastry: yes, it is a good one. easy. I found it in serious eats first but it is clearly derived from a thomas keller’s recipe (his pate brisè)…. I sometimes use instead of puff pastry. well done, stef!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did get the original idea from Serious Eats too, but they use an outrageous amount of butter so I consider this my improved version. The recipe by Keller of pâte brisée that I have, does not use this trick as all of the flour and butter are completely mixed.

      Like

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