Things I learned from Francine Segan’s Sweet Spinach Pie, also known as a Torta co’ Bischeri agli Spinaci:
-Some Italian! A torta is a pie or a cake, and bischeri refers to the crimped crust. (Segan says that crimping isn’t common to Italian pies.) Bischeri has several other meanings too: tuning frets on musical instruments, fools, and male genitalia. (More on this later.)
-Pie can offer not just your daily 9 ounces of butter, but also a serving of vegetables.
Read below for the recipe, and click here to enter YOUR delicious pie (or pies) in the 4th Annual Good Food Pie Contest on Saturday, September 8th at LACMA.
Here’s some information about 00 flour, in case (like me) you’d never heard of it. Segan uses the finely ground flour in the crust.
She’s the author of Dolci: Italy’s Sweets.
Tuscany’s Sweet Spinach Pie
(Adapted from Francine Segan’s Dolci: Italy’s Sweets)
Lost in translation:
The word “bischeri” has three meanings.
#1: Bischeri are the tuning frets on stringed instruments like guitars and violins. The points on the pie crust mimic that shape.
#2: In Florentine dialect, bischero is slang for a fool, someone easily taken advantage of, especially in money matters.
The derivation is old and fascinating. In the 13th century Florence, when land was being assembled for the magnificent Duomo, there was a single holdout, a noble family who stalled so long for the best possible price that they failed to sell it at all. Their name was Bischeri. (When you visit Florence you can still find a marble slab that reads “Canto de Bischeri” near their old property on Via dell-Oriuolo).
#3: It’s also slang for penis. The inclusion of pine nuts is a little wink at that meaning.
For the crust
18 ounces, about 3 cups, OO or all-purpose flour
9 ounces butter (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
7/8 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling
10-12 ounces frozen spinach or 1 pound fresh baby spinach
8 ounces blanched almonds
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 ounces minced candied citron or lemon peel
1/4 cup Maraschino or other aromatic liqueur
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Serves 8 to 10.
For the crust: In a large bowl, in a food processor, or on a clean work surface, mix the flour, butter, and sugar until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Add the egg yolks, baking powder, zest and salt and mix until dough forms.
Roll the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
Lightly butter a 10-inch deep-dish pie pan.
Roll out 2/3 of the dough, making it large enough to hang well over the sides. If you like, make a series of “fret” shapes along the outer edge of the dough. To do that, fold the edges of dough over, and cut into the edges and gently press “fret” shapes by pinching the dough between thumb and forefinger at a distance of about 1/2 inch apart.
Using a fork poke holes throughout the entire bottom and sides of the crust.
Roll out the remaining dough to form lattices over the top of the filling. Refrigerate all the dough, covered in plastic wrap, until ready to use.
For the filling: Cook the spinach in a few ounces of salted water until tender. Allow to cool. Squeeze out all the cooking liquids, and finely chop in a mini food processor. Reserve.
In food processor, grind the almonds until they resemble coarse sand. Reserve.
In a bowl, beat the yolks with 1/3 cup of the sugar until creamy and light yellow. Add the almonds and beat until well combined. Add the spinach, candied peel, and liqueur and mix until well combined.
In a separate bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks form, then add in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until it forms a glossy meringue.
Slowly fold the meringue into the yolk mixture. Pour into the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and top with the remaining dough in a lattice pattern.
Bake for about 1 hour, until golden.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.