At lunch I field questions from new yoga students while I nibble the edge of my crostino, toast spread with warm liver paste. I watch mother and daughter bustle back and forth to the table, bringing new courses and removing used dishes. While the guests finish the main course, I slip back to the kitchen.
“I feel like I’m taking advantage of your kindness,” I say. “I’m not sure the yoga lessons balance out the wonderful meals you give me.”
“Allora, here. Help me.” Donatella slices a wide, flat cake into squares and slips the squares onto individual plates. “Schiacciata alla Fiorentina,” she says. “A Florentine sweet. You can finish them.”
She shows me how to hold a stencil over the portions of cake and sprinkle powdered sugar so that each will hold the sweet imprint of a fleur-de-lis, the symbol of Florence.
I give myself to the task, and when I’m done Donatella approves. “Good,” she says, “but you are not hired in the kitchen. Please stay after dinner; I think we have found other work for you.”
I return to my seat to eat my cake and to wonder what work Donatella could be referring to.
Recipe – Schiacciata alla Fiorentina – The cake is usually prepared at Carnival time. The traditional recipe calls for lard and yeast dough, but traditions change and the more familiar cake, at least as made in the Baldini family, uses baking powder and vegetable oil. The old recipe ends up with a cake that is more breadlike in texture. I recommend, instead, this version, that the author calls “Orangy Florentine Easter Cake.” – Buon appetito.