Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh Nuts.

Someone told me recently that people are more emotional on airplanes than they are in regular on-land life because of effects from the altitude and pressurized cabin.  I think I believe it. I’m much more likely to cry at a particularly compelling novel (or magazine article) at 30,000 feet. Not that I don’t do that on land. I mean, I get teary at television commercials. There’s a reason I work in the business. I like to think it’s because I’m highly empathetic…but maybe I’m just a great, huge sap. 

Anyhow, here I am on another airplane, composing yet another overdue blog post. Channeling emotions and all that. I got upgraded, and I’d be lying if I said the free wine wasn’t helping. 

The other day, by which I mean several weeks ago, I was tasked with making dessert for a dinner party in honor of some good friends from college who were in town. 

Lately, dessert presents a bit of a problem. In addition to needing to limit sugar, regular flour is not an option. (Ugh.  I decided to rebel and I ate a flour burrito tortilla a few weeks ago and I really, really regretted it. I won’t get into details – let’s just say the reaction was...systemic. Lesson learned.) As if the sugar-flour thing wasn't tricky enough, many winter-seasonal fruits are also not an option. And last time I checked, it was still winter. Basically, I've got chocolate and nuts on my side. And cream. 

I don't know if maybe you have picked up on this but sometimes I like to make things as hard for myself as possible. I will always pick a near-impossible challenge over a moderate challenge. The more impossible something seems, the more I want it and the harder I try.  

Yes, this might have something to do with why I'm currently single. 

As if figuring out what dessert to make wasn't challenging enough with those restrictions, Kristin and Chris were bringing fresh ravioli to the table and I thought it would be nice to have an Italian-ish dessert. 

After combing several cookbooks and sites, I happened upon this Chocolate Almond Torte recipe from Bon Appetit.
That's right. I found a chocolate flourless cake that didn't seem like it would cook up into a giant piece of fudge. This felt like what I imagine hitting the jackpot would feel like, except that has never happened to me, so I don't really know. 

And I got excited. 

Kate's Chocolate-Almond-Orange Torte
adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 12ish 

1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt

Man, I love zest. Almost as much as I love my Microplane grater.
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier 
1 tablespoon granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Combine almonds and 1/3 cup sugar in processor. Blend until almonds are very finely ground. 

Transfer almond mixture to medium bowl; do not clean processor. Add chocolate and 1/3 cup sugar to processor.  Blend until chocolate is finely ground but not beginning to clump, about 45 seconds; stir into almond mixture. 

Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in large bowl until mixture falls in heavy ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes. 

I swear it was a "heavy ribbon," not a "sad drip" but I just couldn't capture it on the camera.

Beat in almond extract and lemon peel. Fold in chocolate-almond mixture, then butter.

Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. 

Stiff peaks!

Fold whites into chocolate batter in three additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Yeah. The batter looks pretty gross. Have faith.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 40 minutes.

Cool cake completely in pan on rack. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.) Cut around pan sides to loosen; release sides. 

Combine cream, Grand Marnier, and granulated sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Dollop on individual slices of cake, or, if your sous chef is a 3 year old, let her "frost" the cake. 

Forgot to snap a pic before we served everyone. Oops.

There you go. The only thing I will do differently next time will be to grind the almonds even finer. This was a little...toothy. 

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