This feels so out of character, sneaking in here after a long absence with nothing short of a slice of decadence to share. We have just been eating so gloriously healthily lately, and I have so much to share, but this is what I show up with. Maybe I should apologize.
It has been just splendid in our kitchen again, of late. Winter was such a busy time and creativity ran so thin, you see, that the inherent glory in our new slower schedule and in the luscious offerings of our weekly vegetable boxes has sparked a revolution. The past few weeks have been full of new recipes, I keep renewing a new favorite cookbook from the library, and we are already in our second week of the new CSA season.
Breakfast has become a more adventurous time, replete with oat muffins, baked oatmeal with berries, new granola recipes, mixed berry Dutch babies, French toast on weekdays (even on Monday!); the kids and I are again happily snacking on cucumbers, carrots, and radishes fresh from a farm; lunchtime has featured one of my very favorite dishes: boiled beets with sauteed beet greens. I even found a perfect recipe for turnips.
Things are good. So good that I feel silly for letting budgetary constraints keep us from our beloved CSA membership last summer. Granted, we have changed farms this time around, finding one in which members pay a monthly fee rather than having to cough up the entire season's payment upfront, and that has made all the difference for us as we continue to limp through this faltering economy.
But I didn't come here to talk about money. Accounting is my day job - well, it is one of them. This here though, this lovely little slice of internet that I call home, is about everything in my life besides boring old financial talk.
And today, I bring you chocolate.
The Carnivore and I enjoyed a rather smashing dinner at The National recently, a dinner in which even the olive oil for bread-dipping was a revelation. There were scallops and grits and fava beans, there was chewy ciabatta, there was an exquisitely-prepared stuffed trout with ramps and even more fava beans, (there was also some sort of meat dish that The Carnivore ordered which slipped my disinterested mind), but what stood out the most was dessert.
Can you believe it? That I would let chocolate overshadow all else?
It was a torte which took our breath away, a flourless chocolate torte, with blackberry sauce and a tiny but perfect scoop of espresso-almond semifreddo. It was ridiculous, of course, just utterly mind-blowing, and I may or may not have used my finger to mop up the very last crumb. When I mentioned to The Carnivore that I had a recipe for a similar torte that I had been wanting to try but just hadn't gotten around to it (for, you know, a couple of years), he looked at me like I had gone mad and encouraged me to get to it. And soon.
Soon, as it would turn out, was only a few days later. The Carnivore had a birthday, you see, which was why we had been at The National in the first place, but when the actual date rolled around mid-week, I unearthed that recipe and gave it a go.
Have you ever had a torte? It is a bit like cheesecake in texture, though not quite as heavy. Actually, the best description I can think of is to call it a fudge-like pie. It is rich and it is dense, but surprisingly light at the same time, almost fluffy. Oh, don't mistake me, I do not use the word "light" to imply that it is in any way low in calories or fat. That would be entirely untrue. This dessert could easily clog your arteries, put some weight on your bones, and even take a few years off your life, but it would be worth it.
The recipe I used did have a wee bit of flour, unlike the one from the restaurant, and I couldn't help but use dark chocolate. A few other tweaks were also in order, of course. Blackberries are a bit hard to come by right now, so I decided to make a sauce using some frozen raspberries that I had on hand, and I ran out of time before figuring out what to do about the semifreddo component, so I simply tossed some heavy cream into the mixer with a bit of sugar and homemade vanilla extract and dolloped a little lightly sweetened, softly whipped cream on top of the finished torte.
The torte itself was rather simple to prepare, but was a bit fussy to remove from the pan. My only advice with this is to go with a rustic presentation and be prepared to lick the bottom of the pan to extract all the yummy goodness. Then again, it is also possible that I undercooked it slightly and that is why removal was a sticky process, but in my experience with baking desserts, undercooking is always preferable to overcooking. So there you go.
One last bit of advice: a little goes a long way when serving this. It is decadent, as I said (as I also said, it is completely worth it), and a tiny sliver dished out onto a pretty plate will be, I think, more than enough.
DARK CHOCOLATE TORTE (serves 12 to 16), adapted from Fine Cooking
Note: Do not be dismayed by the wordy instructions. This is really quite simple to prepare, and does not take very much hands-on time at all.
- 12 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbs instant espresso granules
- 6 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- In a food processor, grind the chocolate for about 30 seconds, until it resembles coarse meal.
- In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.
- Add the cream to the food processor, and process with the chocolate until smooth, about 10 seconds.
- Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 Tbs hot water and add it to the warm ganache in the food processor; process until fully mixed, about 10 seconds.
- Transfer the ganache to a large bowl.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees, and very generously butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Have ready a roasting pan just large enough to set the springform pan in, and put on a kettle of water to boil.
- In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip together the eggs, sugar, and flour, at just under high speed for about 6 minutes, until mixture has doubled in volume and is pale and fluffy.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir about 1/3 of the egg mixture into the ganache mixture until fully combined.
- With the rubber spatula, gently fold the remainder of the egg mixture into the ganache until just combined and all egg streaks have disappeared.
- Pour the batter into the greased springform pan. If at all worried about water seeping into the springform pan, line the outside bottom and sides with heavy duty aluminum foil (I didn't bother). Set the springform pan into the roasting pan, and add boiling water to the roasting pan until it covers the bottom one inch or so of the springform pan.
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, until a dry crust forms on the top and the edges seem set. The center should still be a bit wobbly.
- Remove the torte from the water bath (and remove the foil, if you used it). Cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate it until completely cold and fully set, at least three hours - longer if you can stand it.
- To unmold, remove the springform ring. Put a piece of plastic wrap on the top of the torte and invert it onto a baking sheet. Remove the pan bottom, using a knife around the edges to help separate it from the torte. Things may get a bit messy here. Stick with it, and if a lot of the torte sticks to the bottom of the pan, simply scrape it off with a knife and gently press it back onto the bottom of the torte. It is the bottom after all - who cares what the bottom looks like? Invert the torte onto a serving platter (so that it is now right side up again) and remove the plastic wrap.
- To cut, use a knife that has been dipped in hot water, or use unwaxed dental floss.
- To serve, top with freshly whipped cream, a tiny scoop of coffee ice cream, and/or berry sauce (recipe below).
BERRY SAUCE (makes about 1 1/2 cups), adapted from Bon Appetit
Note: Leftover sauce is delicious on top of French toast or pancakes, or stirred into plain yogurt.
- 16 oz frozen blackberries or raspberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice, divided
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp finely grated lemon peel
- In a small saucepan, bring the berries and sugar to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for one minute.
- Stir 1/2 Tbs lemon juice and cornstarch together in small bowl until cornstarch dissolves.
- Add cornstarch mixture to berries and stir until thickened, about one minute. Remove from heat.
- Stir in remaining 1/2 Tbs lemon juice, and lemon peel.
- Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature, as desired.