The Torta coi Bischeri


The torta coi bischeri, a typical Pisan dessert, is simply a chocolate rice cake which takes its name from the horns of dough which are used to decorate it.

The word bischero literally means the small key which is used to adjust the strings of a violin but as always the people of Tuscany have adapted the word so that it can now mean a dozen other things! It can now also be used to describe any small, protruding object, including that certain protruding part of the male anatomy! Eventually it even evolved as a way of referring to people who are very naive, and therefore very easily taken advantage of. Today, this is definately the most common meaning of the word.

However, for all those gluttons out there, the word bischero means only one thing: a delicious cake produced in the provinces of Pisa and Lucca. It is a type of rice and chocolate tart, decorated with currants, pine nuts and candied fruit. During the preparation of this delicious dessert, the rolls of dough for the pastry are arranged so that they border the circumfrence of the cake, moulded in the shape of little beaks which look exactly like the afore mentioned small violin key. And so, it was in this way that the famous torta co’bisceri was born, the taste of which is best when accompanied by a quality santo liquoroso wine, according to experts.

As well as the traditional recipe, that which includes chocolate and candied fruit, there is also a green version of the torta coi bischeri, which involves the rice being mixed with beets. However, the general idea remains the same: a cake decorated with delicate horns of golden puff pastry.

Although it is also widely sold throughout Lucca (where it is better known by the name torta coi becchi, yet another reference to the cakes significantly shaped decorations), the torta coi bischeri originates from the countryside of Pisa, or more specifically, from Pontasserchio (a small village located on the riverbanks on the left side of the River Serchio just a few kilometres away from San Giuliano Terme).

In the village of Pontasserchio the cake is especially popular during the month of April. This is because in April a festival takes place in the village for which all the village residents must bake a dessert which is typical of the spring season. As the cake is a popular gift amongst family and friends during Easter, it is therefore an obvious choice for this particular festival and so, more often than not, the festival becomes more like a competition, a war almost, as to who can make the best torta coi bischeri!

Commenti (2) | March 15, 2010

2 Responses to “The Torta coi Bischeri”

  1. Laura Says:
    November 18th, 2010 at 00:52

    Thanks so much. My parents were from Molina di Quosa near Pontasserchio and I grew up eating this delicious cake here in the U.S. where my mom and aunt made it. But I never knew the origin of it. The also make this in Lucca where it’s known as “torta con i becchi.” You know, the two cities have an ancient rivalry so, of course, they are going to have different names for the same cake!

  2. chiaraloche Says:
    November 19th, 2010 at 13:16

    Dear Laura,
    thanks a lot for your comment, I’m happy to know that your family exported a little bit of Italy to the USA many years ago…so keep reading us, maybe you’ll discover some other tips on our tuscany travel reports!

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