Torta Bianca: Medieval Cheesecake
As adapted by Sabrina de la Bere
Go To Recipe
Background: The Torta Bianca was prepared as a special dish to celebrate purity and in particular the Virgin Mary. Thus, it is white, as white symbolized goodness and purity. All efforts to make this dish as white as possible were considered when choosing the ingredients.
Piglia una libra et meza di bono cascio frescho, et taglialo
menuto, et pistalo molto bene, et piglia dodici o quindici albume
o bianchi d'ova, et macinali molto bene con questo cascio, agiogendovi
meza libra di zuccharo, et meza oncia di zenzevero del più
biancho che possi havere, similemente meza libra di strutto di
porcho bello et biancho, o in loco di strutto altretanto botiro
bono et frescho, item de lo lacte competentemente, quanto basti,
che serà asai un terzo di bocchale. Poi farrai la pasta
overo crosta in la padella, sottile come vole essere, et mectiraila
a cocere dandoli il focho a bell'agio di sotto et di sopra; et
farai che sia di sopra un pocho colorita per el caldo del focho;
et quando ti pare cotta, cacciala fore de la padella, et di sopra
vi metterai del zuccharo fino et di bona acqua rosata.
[Maestro Martino, Libro de arte conquinaria 15-16th C. recipes]
Translation from: The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban, & Silvano Serventi, p. 157-8.
White Tart. Take a libra and a half of good fresh cheese and cut it up fine, and pound it well; take twelve or fifteen egg whites and blend them very well with this cheese, adding half a libra of sugar and half an oncia of the whitest ginger you can find, as well as a half libra of good, white pork lard, or instead of lard, good, fresh butter, and some milk, as much as needed; this will be a good third of a boccale. Then make the pastry, or crust, [put it] into the pan, as thin as it ought to be, and cook it nicely with the fire both below and above; and make sure that the top is a little colored from the heat of the fire, and when it seems cooked, remove it from the pan and put fine sugar and good rose water on top.
[NOTE: I did not use The Medieval Kitchen recipe, nor did I follow their assumptions.]
My translation with assistance from Babblefish and other translation
Take one weight and some of good fresh cheese, cut it fine and chop it well; take 12 or 15 egg whites, mixing it well with the cheese; add some weight of sugar, about 1 ounce of white ginger (the whitest possible to have); similarly add some weight of pork lard beautiful and white; or in place of the lard add good high quality fresh butter; add in the milk as much as 1/3 of a boccale. Then prepare the paste/pastry crust in the frying pan, thin and beautiful, cooking it with fire under and over; cooking until it is coloured and warm from the oven. When it seems cooked, removed it from the frying pan, over it you will put sugar and good rose water.
o Fresh cheese = fresh farm cheese (option 1 use farmers cheese, option 2 a ricotta drained overnight)
o 12-15 egg whites = medieval eggs weighed about 1/3 less than modern, size large, by weight and even less by quantity
o Butter = unsalted butter
o Boccalle, per The Medieval Kitchen could equal 1/2 quart/liter to more than 2 thus milk of about 6 oz to 12 oz
o Pastry if this is a sweet dish the pastry should be a sweet pastry. Recipe does not say to cook pastry separately first so I chose a recipe that did not require precooking.
Oven 325 degrees. Cook about 1 hour
[since this type of baking would have been done after the bread baking and at a cooler temperature]
1 1/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter chilled
up to 1/8 c. water as needed
Refridgerate 1-2 hours, then roll out for 9-10" tart pan or press into tart pan.
15 oz. ricotta - well drained (overnight through cheese cloth works well)
7 egg whites
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger or 1 T. fresh chopped ginger
1/2 c. unsalted butter softened
4 oz milk (preferably whole milk) if final mixture is too dry add an additional 1-2 oz.
1 T. flour (helps with binding)
Mix well the cheese with the milk. Mix sugar with the egg whites and whisk until well mixed but not stiff. Add to cheese and milk mixture. Add flour and ginger. Mix well. Pour into crust.
Topping add upon removal from oven
2 T. sugar (fine sugar preferably)
1 teaspoon rose water
You may need to stir the filling gently so as to not disturb the crust, a couple times during the baking. The butter tends to float to the top and needs to be reintegrated into the mixture.
Be careful not to let the pie brown. This is a white pie and all efforts need to be made to keep it as white as possible.