Torta (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtorta]) is a Spanish, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Portuguese, Croatian, Swedish, Serbian and also Slovak word with a wide array of culinary meanings, such as a cake, or flatbread.
Torta in Brazil and other Portuguese speaking countries refers to a pie which can be a sweet or savory dish.
It originated in different regional variants of flatbread, of which the torta de gazpacho and torta cenceña are still surviving in certain areas of Central Spain. Tortas are also mentioned in Leviticus 24:5-9, in the Spanish translation of the Bible. Presently, however, the word torta is also applied to different kinds of bread and pastry products according to the region.
Historically, the difference between torta and bread was its round and flat shape, as well as the absence of yeast in its preparation. In most regions, a torta was traditionally considered an inferior form of bread, as the well known Spanish aphorism expresses:
In turn, in Mexico a variation says: A falta de pan, tortillas ("Where there is no bread, tortillas are fine").
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Nowadays, in Spain and various countries of Latin America, the word torta, in a very common usage, is for sweet cakes (tortes), such as a wedding or birthday cake. This meaning is also present in other European languages. For example, the Italian torta, German torte or French tarte. In Mexico, the sweet cake is normally referred to as pastel, which is also used in other parts of Latin America with this meaning.
In Mexico, a torta is a kind of sandwich, served on an oblong 15 cm firm, crusty white sandwich roll. Depending on the region, this is called a bolillo, telera, birote, or pan francés. Tortas can be eaten cold or hot, and grilled or toasted in a press in the same manner as a Cuban sandwich.
Garnishes such as avocado, chili pepper (usually poblano or jalapeño), tomato, and onion are common. The dish is popular throughout Mexico, and is also available anywhere with a large number of Mexican immigrants. In Northern Mexico, the torta is very frequently called lonche by influence of the English "lunch", as it may be eaten during lunch break.
The sandwich is normally named according to its main ingredient:
The torta ahogada (meaning "drowned" torta) of Guadalajara is smothered in a red sauce. Different fillings are available and they may be mixed to create an original torta.
The Torta Cubana is another take on the classic torta sandwich Mexico has been accredited for. As the name implies by meaning literally the "Cuban Torta", this sandwich is stuffed with a variety of meats that is dependent on where it is being made at. This sandwich should not be confused for the Cuban sandwich by the similar name, the "Cubano" as the two sandwiches are not related. One may have come before the other, but this coincidence in names is not to be taken seriously as the Mexicans decided to name this dish after the street it was invented on, the Calle Republica de Cuba in Mexico City. To add on to the contrasts, the breads used to make the sandwiches are different, and the condiments of the sandwiches varies. The main similarity the two share is that they include meat. In the end, each sandwich is special in its own way, making them a delicious favorite by many.
Due to the practicality of being hand-carried, tortas are sold at massive events, such as football matches, parades, and outdoor concerts, but they are also available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at dedicated establishments or sold as street food by food carts.
In the Philippines, particularly among Northern and Tagalog-speaking provinces and islands, torta refers to a kind of omelette made with eggs or eggplant, ground meat (usually beef or pork), and sometimes minced onion and potato.
In Visayas and Mindanao, torta refers to a native porous sponge cake delicacy that resembles a large cupcake with butter, sugar, and/or cheese on top, traditionally served with "tsokolate" (a thick, hot drink made of ground roasted cacao seeds) for afternoon snack or merienda. Traditional recipes vary from family to family or from town to town, but the ingredients basically consist of flour, egg yolks, milk, fresh coconut sap as sweetener, lard as shortening, and a bit of salt. The mixture is poured into small tin trays lined with Japanese paper that are brushed with margarine or butter and then slow-baked in a stone oven heated with burning wood or coconut husks. It differs from the 'torta mamon', or 'mamon', which is a mini sponge cake made of white egg yolks and baked sweet using refined white cane sugar or puto mamon.
Torta was a work of Spanish influence in the Philippines. The Spanish are fond of using garlic, onion, and tomato, all of which can be used in torta.
Tortas can be served any time during the day. There are many variations on Filipino tortas, such as:
Some falsely believe that an Italian crust torta is a combination of layered cheeses and tomatoes to be spread onto bread. Italian torta is a pie similar to quiche and served as a brunch item. However, torta is different than quiche as the crust is mostly made of cheese, not egg. The crust can also be made from pizza dough. Ingredients vary as there are many variations of this torta. Traditional Italian torta usually includes ricotta cheese, parmesan, parsley, and onion. There are also variations that contain meat and some that are completely vegetarian. These vegetarian torte sometimes contain artichokes and spices for flavor. This torta is made in a springform pan instead of a traditional pie pan.
Torta de Chicharrones from Galicia, Spain
Torta from Ribagorza, Aragon, Spain
Torta verde from Ventimiglia, Italy
Tortas being prepared on a griddle in Oaxaca, Mexico
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