Makes 2 torte
Here’s my version of our family’s favorite Umbrian road food: the torta al testo (or crescia) baked and served at Il Panaro, the outdoor eatery and truck stop near Gubbio. The unique wood-oven- baked character of the Il Panaro torta is hard to replicate in the home kitchen, yet I’ve found that baking the breads in a cast-iron skillet gives very nice results. The dough is easy to mix and shape, so even if you’re a bread-baking novice you’ll have success with this one.
- For the focaccia
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working the dough
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fillings for the torte
- Grated Taleggio or stracchino (about 5 ounces for each torta)
- Prosciutto and grated-cheese combination (about 4 slices prosciutto and 3 ounces cheese for each torta)
- Broccoli di rape or other greens, sautéed with garlic Tangy salad greens like arugula or mesclun mix
You will need a food processor fitted with a steel blade; a wooden rolling pin; two 10-inch cast-iron skillets (or just one, if that’s what you have). Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water in a small bowl; let it sit for several minutes, until it starts to bubble. Put the flour and salt in the bowl of the food processor, and pulse for a few seconds to blend. Combine the dissolved yeast with a cup of warm water. With the processor running, pour all the liquid into the flour.
Process until the dough clumps on the blade and cleans the sides of the bowl, about 20 seconds. Process another 20 seconds, for a total of about 40 seconds. (If the dough does not gather on the blade or process easily, it is too wet or dry. Feel the dough, then work in more flour or warm water, in small amounts.) Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand for a minute to form a smooth round. Put the dough in a large, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven, and heat it to 450º. Deflate the risen dough, and cut it in half. Flatten the pieces into rounds, about 9 inches in diameter, and lay them in the cast-iron skillets. Press and stretch the dough to fill the entire bottom of the pan, then dimple the top all over with your fingertips. (If you only have one suitable skillet, put one piece of dough back in the oiled bowl and let it rise again, covered, while you shape and bake the first torta. When the skillet is empty, deflate the second piece of dough, shape it, and bake it.)
Bake the breads about 15 minutes, until just a light brown on top. Turn them out of the skillets, and let cool on a wire rack. To fill the torte: Slice off the top half of each with a long serrated knife, and cover the bottom with slices of prosciutto, grated cheese, sautéed greens, or a combination of these. Replace the tops of the torte, set them on a baking sheet, and return to the oven. Bake another 10 minutes or so, until the torte are golden and the fillings hot. (If you like, lift the top of the torta and scatter salad greens on the hot fillings, then cover). Slice the torte into pieces or wedges and serve.