Girlfriends: Cheesecake?

by Annie

pizzaformaggio11What with the Easter holidays coming up, I decided to inquire with my girlfriends about the recipe of one of my favorite holiday treats. The pizza or torta al formaggio, literally cheesecake, is actually a savory panettone-like traditional bread baked this time of year in central Italy.

UUUUUEEEEEEEHEHHHHHHHHH!!!!!“, they harmonize in unison, hands rotating, waving the idea by. This translates roughly as “Yeah right! In your wildest dreams!”

Ah, no?“, I ask, obviously having overstepped some culinary boundary.

MACCHE’“!!” (Pshah! As if…!!)

I basically learn that to be done to the absolute minimum standards of taste, quality, and digeribilita’ (digestibility… don’t ask, we’ll cover this in a future note), requires at least a four hour process that includes repeated rising and deflating of the dough, double boilers, the right types of butter and lard, and special flour. And that’s assuming you have a flour/yeast culture that has been handed down from generations going back at least as far as the counter-reformation, as well as the knowledge of how that yeast behaves in temperatures as specific as every other decimal of a degree Celsius.

You think I jest… They began telling me how each of their own yeast derived bread doughs get moved around certain parts of the house/kitchen throughout the rising process.

“Yes, first I put it on top of the mirrored cupboard in the bathroom, which is close enough to the boiler but not too much that it expands too rapidly. This way it starts taking the taste (?!), then if its dry enough outside, I move it to the top of the refrigerator for another few hours.”

Another one compares her methods….”Then i run the dishwasher and when it’s done I keep its door open just so, with my wooden fork, and rest the dough half way across,” at which point I realize that even though they probably have no clue what isobar might be, their understanding of barometric pressures is probably superior to that of an expert meteorologist.

Fine then, I agree, I’m out of my league.

One of them does give me glimmer of hope. “There is something you can do if you’re really intent on serving pizza al formaggio for Easter…”

“Yes, yes?”, I ask with anticipation.

“Go down the street to the pasticcieria (pastry shop) and buy one!” she says as they all erupt into laughter and I realize that I’m today’s punching bag for four adorable Roman 80-plus matrons.

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