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Torta co' bischeri: the pilgrim cake

Imagine a soft cream made with white rice, dark chocolate, pinenuts, candied fruit, raisins and spices in a shortcrust pastry pie. It is called the "Torta co' bischeri" and it's a traditional cake of the Pisa province.

Torta co' bischeri [Photo credits: Pasticceria Artigiana Dolci]
Torta co' bischeri [Photo credits: Pasticceria Artigiana Dolci]

The "Torta co' bischeri” is  originally from Pontasserchio, near Pisa, and it was first made around the beginning of the sixteenth century as an offering to the pilgrims who visited the town every April 28th for the feast of SS. Crucifix of Miracles. The famous Via Francigena passes through Italy, 400 kilometers (250 miles) of which are in Tuscany. In the past, when the pilgrims stopped in a city or small town, the local people treated them with respect. As well as accommodation the locals looked out for them and fed them.

Torta co' bischeri is ready! Which one do you prefer? [Photo credits: Pasticceria Artigiana Dolci]
Torta co' bischeri is ready! Which one do you prefer? [Photo credits: Pasticceria Artigiana Dolci]

This delicious cake is characterized by the folds of pastry dough made on the outer edge of it, which are called "bischeri" because they are similar in appearance to guitar tuning heads. Since 2007, it has had a quality brand with a rigorous specification, according to the area of production, the origin of raw materials and the requirement of specific pinenuts that must come from the Regional Park of Migliarino (Pisa).

You can surely find it in San Giuliano Terme and Vecchiano (Pisa) but if you’re too far away, you can try to make it at home with local ingredients. You can buy the shortcrust pastry at any supermarket, but if you're feeling adventurous :) here is the full recipe:

Making "bischeri" [Photo credits: Pasticceria Artigiana Dolci] 
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Camera di Commercio di Pisa (Sapori e Tradizioni della Provincia di Pisa 2011) 
For the filling
  1. 200 g of rice
  2. 200 g of dark chocolate
  3. 100 g of pinenuts
  4. 100 g of cocoa
  5. 150 grams of black raisins
  6. 100 g candied fruit
  7. 100 g vanilla sugar
  8. 200 g sugar
  9. 3 eggs
  10. Nutmeg
  11. A glass of Strega liqueur
  12. Rum to taste
  13. Cinnamon to taste
For the dough
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 250 g of sugar
  3. 100 g of butter
  4. 100 g of vanilla sugar
  5. 5 g baking powder
  6. Plain white flour
  7. Grated rind of one lemon untreated


Preparing the filling

  1. Cook the rice in salted water flavored with a little cinnamon. Drain and immediately add the chocolate and cocoa powder and stir vigorously to melt everything well, then cool.
  2. Beat the eggs and add them to the rice mixture, then add the pine nuts, raisins, candied fruit, sugar, some grated nutmeg and the liqueur.

Making the dough

  1. Whisk the egg with the sugar, whisk the yolks and mix with the melted butter in a bain marie, baking powder and lemon zest.
  2. Add flour until it becomes the consistency of dough and knead.

Assembling the cake

  1. Roll a thin sheet of dough and line the entire baking tin with it.
  2. Pour in the filling and level the surface. Shape the "bischeri" using the dough around the edges of the cake with a knife to carve the small pyramids.
  3. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for about an hour and a half.
  4. Enjoy!
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