Arsip Tag: torte
- 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup (100 grams) grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon (10 grams) chopped fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds (905 grams) yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into very thin (1/8-inch) rounds
- 12 ounces (340 grams) any green or yellow zucchini or other summer squash, cut into very thin (1/8-inch) rounds
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) olive oil
Prepare your pan: Line a deep 10- to 11-inch ovenproof skillet or cast-iron pan or cake pan with a large round of parchment paper, pressing it across the bottom and pleating it up the sides. [Shown here in an 11-inch braiser with a skillet-like base.]
Prepare filling: Set aside 1/4 cup sliced green onions. Toss remaining green onions, all the parmesan, flour, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and lots of freshly ground pepper (about 3/4 teaspoon) in a medium bowl to blend.
Assemble torte: Layer 1/3 of the potatoes in concentric circles in the bottom of your prepared pan, overlapping them slightly. Layer 1/2 of squash in concentric circles atop the potatoes. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of oil and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Repeat with 1/3 potatoes, 1/2 of squash, 2 teaspoons oil, and 1/3 cheese mixture. Top with the last 1/3 of potatoes, drizzle with remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, and sprinkle with remaining cheese mixture. Press gently to flatten.
Bake torte: Cover pan tightly with foil (or with a lid, if your pan has one) and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until potatoes are almost tender. Remove foil (or lid) and bake another 30 to 35 minutes, until the torte is browned on top and the potatoes are tender.
To serve: Let cool for 10 minutes in pan then use the sling of parchment paper to lift the torte out of the pan and onto a serving plate or cutting board. Sprinkle with reserved green onions. Cut into 8 wedges and eat right away.
Do ahead: The torte can be made in advance and kept chilled in the fridge until needed. To rewarm, cover again with foil or lid, and place in a 350-degree oven until heated through, about 30 minutes. P.S. I think this is even better reheated because there is something about potatoes that have been cooked twice–they get more browned at the edges and more tender inside, creating an excellent contrast.
And on Saturday, we returned from our week at sea, our week of no work, of sunshine and someone else making dinner and lo, what a bummer. But we had a great time, from stunning views as we sailed out of New York Harbor on a freak 75 degree day in March:
On an epically proportioned boat
With the second-tiniest but most enthusiastic sailor (a baby two days younger had the audacity to steal Jacob’s Youngest Cruiser thunder)
To short excursions, an abundance of pool parties and endless plates of fresh fruit.
And then we came home and I battled a torte recipe with knives and rulers and whisks and the arced steel blade of a food processor and prevailed. Because I am awesome, right? But I’m convinced that the recipe had it out for me. Well, the recipe and these still-wobbly sea legs, the feeling that the kitchen is sloshing along in choppy waters no longer charming on day two (and now three).
But mostly the recipe: I didn’t understand why it recipe demanded slivered almonds (which had been harder for me to find) if only to grind them in step one. Two vanilla beans seems excessive considering that the vanilla taste was still muted — I’d use extract next time and save the expense. A fussy orange peel syrup imparted virtually no orange vibe in the final frosting. Steps seemed out of order (preparing a syrup first that you wouldn’t need for hours) and measurements were absent where I needed them. Syrup is chilled just to be warmed again. A simple adjustment shaved 30 minutes off the prep time of the frosting. A sloshy orange “compote” seemed like something that would just dissolve a dry meringue, not complement it. Parchment rectangles were sprayed with oil (is this necessarily?) which caused the rectangles to spread into puddles which merged together and slid off my trays; only significant trimming salvaged them. And the baking time was easily double what was needed (good thing I watch the oven like a hawk).
And yet! Despite all of those laments above, I’m spectacularly excited about serving this tonight because I’m pretty sure it’s going to taste like a giant Kit-Kat candy bar. How could it not? It’s gigantic rectangle comprised of stacked, thin, crunchy layers spread thickly and then coated completely with semisweet chocolate that hardened overnight into a candy-like shell. It’s homemade from fantastic ingredients, it’s flour-free (thus kosher for Passover and gluten-free), dairy-free (paerve), practically fat free, can be made a day or two in advance and doesn’t require refrigeration. Guys, this is like the Harvard of desserts. But mostly it’s a giant Kit-Kat, which means that even schlubs like me get a piece.
One year ago: Artichokes Braised in Lemon and Olive Oil
Two years ago: Vegetarian Cassoulet
Three years ago: Arugula Ravioli
Almond Macaroon Torte with Chocolate Frosting
Adapted heavily from Bon Appetit
I’ve made a tremendous amount of changes to this recipe — adjusted cooking times, added weights, added dozens of tips, rewrote just about everything, etc. — and this is a good thing as the one I started with was exasperating. And that’s putting it mildly. But the core of the recipe — what I ended up with after a lot of tweaks and what I believe it is meant to be — is delightful, both an elegant, showy torte and a candy bar that I cannot wait to get a taste of in T-minus 7… 6… 5 hours… Not that I’m tapping my feet or anything.
Update: We loved it. It was a huge, huge hit, although not precisely Kit-Kat-ish. The layers (as the ingredient list gave away to some commenters) are almost exactly like those trendy macaron, which is to say crisp but soft and slightly chewy. The chocolate remained firm. It was easy to slice cleanly with an unfancy knife and I’ll definitely be making this again.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces or 300 grams) slivered almonds (or an equivalent weight of blanched, sliced or already ground almonds)
1 cup (196 grams) plus 3 tablespoons (37 grams) sugar
2 large pinches kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 large egg whites
Frosting and assembly
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Flavoring of your choice, such as 1/2 teaspoon orange oil or extract, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, almond or other extract
20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (61% or less is recommended, I think it would also be great with 72%, a nice bitter contrast to the sweet macaroons), chopped or chocolate chips
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted (at 350 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes on a tray, stirring once or twice)
Make macaroons: Position an oven rack in the top and lower third of oven and preheat oven to 325°F. Draw two 12 x 4-inch rectangles, spacing 2 inches apart [see Note below for my tiny kitchen adjustments] on a piece of parchment paper, then two more of the same size on a second sheet. In total, you’ll use 2 sheets of parchment paper and draw 4 rectangles. Turn each sheet of parchment over (so your ink or pencil lines don’t seep into the macaroon) and spray with nonstick spray [but first see Note below about the necessity of this] .
Place almonds, 1 cup sugar and coarse salt in a food processor (you can skip the food processor, however, if you use an equivalent weight of almond meal or ground almonds, just mixing the ingredients in a bowl) with vanilla bean seeds, if using (you’ll add liquid extract in a bit) and blend until finely ground.
Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large, dry bowl with clean beaters (or a whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Drizzle in vanilla extract (if using), then slowly add remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry. Fold nut mixture into egg whites. Spread 1/4 of macaroon batter evenly within each rectangle, filling completely.
Bake macaroon layers until golden and almost firm to the touch in the center, reversing sheets halfway through — this took a total of 23 measly minutes in my oven; the original recipe says it can take up to 40. I would check in on yours at 23 minutes and then every 5 minutes thereafter if they’re not done yet.
Cool macaroons on their sheets on a cooling rack.
Make frosting: Simmer 1/2 cup of water and sugar in a medium saucepan until sugar dissolves. Measure 10 tablespoons from this and either discard the rest of save it for another use. Put the 10 tablespoons syrup back in the saucepan and add flavoring of your choice. Bring the syrup back to a boil and add chocolate to the saucepan. Remove from heat and let sit for one minute, then stir the chocolate until smooth. This should yield a medium-thick frosting, good for spreading. If yours is on the thin side, you can let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes until it is a good spreading consistency.
Assemble torte If needed due to spreading, carefully trim your macaroon layers back to their intended rectangular sizes — for me, a sharp knife lightly coated with oil worked best for this.
Place one macaroon layer on a long platter. (If you’re a follower of my layer cake tips, you’ll already know that slipping little pieces of parchment or waxed paper under the edges will help keep your platter clean; you pull them out when you’re done frosting the torte.) Spread 1/2 cup frosting evenly over. Top with another macaroon layer. Spread 1/2 cup frosting evenly over. Repeat 1 more time then top with last macaroon layer, flat side up (whoops, didn’t do this). Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of torte. Press sliced almonds onto sides of torte.
Do ahead: Can be made one to two days ahead. Cover with foil tent. Store at room temperature.
Tiny kitchen/tiny tray tweak: If you’re curious as to why mine may look a little smaller or taller than yours, I had to make my rectangles a little smaller — 11 x 3.75-inch — to work within the tiny baking sheets that fit in my tiny oven. I flipped them over so they didn’t bump into the walls of the tray, but this proved unfortunate when mine spread down the sides! I (of course) don’t recommend the tray flipping.
About that spray oil: As I mentioned in the post above, this step vexes me. I’ve always made macaroons and meringues on sheets of parchment paper that were not sprayed or grease, the nonstick properties of parchment were enough to release the cookies. But this recipe has you use nonstick spray on them, which encourages your neat rectangles of macaroon to slide and spread. This is not ideal. I hope to update this step soon with a note about whether you can get by without the spray oil, using plain parchment. Fortunately, any spreading can be trimmed but more ideal would, of course, be no spreading at all. Update: At least one commenter (thank you Kate!) made these without oiling the parchment, found that the macaroons spread less and had no trouble removing the macaroons from the parchment.
Last week, when it was ninety million degrees in New York City and all the sane people were cracking open fire hydrants, grilling on their roof decks and/or sticking their faces in their wheezing air conditioner units, I looked around my shoebox kitchen, with its half-counter and miniature oven, considered the sheer volume of items left on my to-do that I’d never get done and said, “Clearly, this is the day for me to make an 11-layer dobos torte.” Because my birthday was two days away and that seemed as good as any to sever what frayed tethers I had left to my sanity. [Plus, I already had cleaning help!]
Growing up, my family and I considered the 7-layer cake to be the ne plus ultra of bakery cakes. They were rectangular, filled with a pale, faintly mocha flavored buttercream and coated, top and sides, with a firmer dark chocolate frosting. I’ll be the first to admit that their flavor wasn’t always spectacular, but did you hear the part about the seven layers? The awesomeness of this trumped all chocolate intensity quibbles. What I hadn’t realized, however, is that the historical home of this cake was not (shockingly) a circa-1980s Central New Jersey strip mall bakery, but a Budapest, Hungary specialty food shop where one József C. Dobos invented it his namesake torte in 1887, which became so famous that the city threw a full scale city-wide fete to celebrate its 75th anniversary. That there is some cake.
But if you’ve followed along this far, here’s the part where I fully expect you to roll your eyes and click away from this site, once and for all, because I’m about to tell you that despite the fact that I presumed that this cake would be so complicated, that I’d only give myself permission to make it as a birthday challenge and despite the fact that I made it under the worst possible conditions — oppressive heat, pressed for time, bereft of space — this was one of the easiest celebration cakes I’ve ever made. Whaa? Here’s the deal: There’s only one cake batter. No syrups, no splitting of layers or leveling tops. The layers bake in 5 minutes apiece (that’s 10 minutes of baking, total, if you do it my way). The layers are cool by the time you have the next one out of the oven; there’s no multi-hour wait before you can frost and assemble your cake. The frosting comes together in little time and tastes exactly like the chocolate-butter bomb you’d hoped it would be. Even that melted sugar madness on top is but 5 minutes of extra work (though adds little besides decor, in my opinion). This cake is infinitely doable. I am here, cheering you on. Okay, I’m here having another piece of cake (birthday cake calories don’t count!), but in my head, I know if I could pull this madness in my own mad house without sweating, anyone can.
My birthday cakes, previously: Gateau de Crepes , Pistachio Petit-Four Cake  and Neapolitan Cake . Can you figure out the theme? [P.S. No cake last year. That’s what happens when you have a 9-month old!]
One year ago: Crushed Peas with Smoky Sesame Dressing
Two years ago: Springy, Fluffy Marshmallows, Spanikopita, Wild Mushroom and Blue Cheese Triangles
Three years ago: Dead Simple Slaw
Four years ago: Fideos with Favas and Red Peppers
Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Great Book of Desserts; caramel layer and a host of tips from Joe Pastry
Time, estimated: I made this cake lazily, with several long interruptions, over a span of 5 hours. With more focus, I believe it can be done in 3 hours. With good planning and the rev of a strong cup of coffee, I suspect it could be pulled off in 2 hours, but hardly think that would be much fun.
Notes: This dobos torte, as far as I’m concerned, is rare among really showy cakes in that it tastes even awesomer than it looks, and that days later, its as good if not better than it was the first day it was made. Personally, I always pause before making sponge cakes, and they can be a little dry and a bit dull. But this one, with an insanely buttery dark chocolate frosting sandwiching it’s pancake-like layers, manages to be neither, and has a softness you wouldn’t expect from something that slices so neatly. In the fridge, that shell-like chocolate exterior locks in the moisture for days.
I detoured from tradition in a few ways. First, I made more layers than the requisite 7. You’re welcome to make your cake layers as thin as you can bake them up, as most pastry chefs enjoy challenging themselves to. You can double or quadruple the cake recipe and make a staggering stack of a cake, too. 35 for a 35th birthday, anyone?
I also made the cake rectangular as this was how I remembered it most fondly, and allowed me to minimize my baking and fussing. Although round cakes are more traditional, I felt extra validated by my choice when I consulted George Lang’s The Cuisine of Hungary and found that he, too, advised a squared-off cake and the least fussy baking approach. If you have an oven that fits a 12×17-inch pan (mine, alas, does not) you can bake this entire cake in 5 minutes, and divide the layer in a 6-high cake.
Here are some shaping/stacking options. For each, you can make additional layers if you feel comfortable baking your cake layers thinner:
- A 7-layer 9-inch round cake (the most traditional)
- A 14-layer 6-inch round (would serve fewer people but have tall, showy slices)
- A 12-layer 4×8-inch cake (my method, baked in 4 quarter-sheet pans, each divided into thirds)
- A 6-layer 4×8.5-inch cake (the more traditional rectangle, baked in a single 12×17-inch sheet pan)
7 large eggs, separated
3 large egg yolks
1 pound (3 1/2 cups or 455 grams) confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting racks
3/4 cup (94 grams or 3 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Frosting and filling:
1/2 pound (8 ounces or 227 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound (2 sticks or 226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Caramel layer (optional)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
Handful of toasted, peeled hazelnuts
Prepare your cake pans: Choose a cake size and shape option from the Notes, above. Assemble either the cake pans you will need, or sheets of parchment paper if you don’t have all the necessary pans. If using cake pans, line the bottom of each with a sheet of fitted parchment paper, and butter and flour (or use a butter-flour spray) the parchment and sides of the pan. Tap out excess flour, if needed. If using sheets of parchment paper, cut each larger than needed for the cake shape and size. Stencil your cake shape on one side of the sheet, then flip it over and butter and flour the shape area on the reverse side. Again, tap out any excess flour. [Want to make the number 1 for your kid’s first birthday? This is how to approach it.]
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 450°F and place a rack in the center of your oven. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 10 egg yolks for a few minutes at high speed, until pale and lemon-colored. Reduce speed and gradually add sugar, then increase the speed and beat the yolks and sugar until thick and glossy. Scrape bowl occasionally with rubber spatula. Reduce speed again and gradually add flour and salt; increase speed mix for 5 minutes more, then mix in lemon juice. Scrape bowl again with a rubber spatula. In a separate bowl with cleaned beaters, or by transferring your cake batter to a new bowl and washing it out and drying it with a long sigh, beat the 7 egg whites with a whisk attachment until they hold stiff peaks. Because your yolk mixture is more or less the thickness of spackle at this point, stir a few heaping spoonfuls of the whites into it to loosen the mixture, before folding in the rest of the whites in three additions. When you’re done, your batter will have transformed from a dry paste to a spreadable, foamy batter.
Bake your cake layers: Spread your batter in prepared pans or within their stenciled shapes on parchment paper; try to push the batter rather than pull it with an offset spatula, it will help keep the parchment from rolling up. Don’t worry if they spread past the shape outline on parchment; you will trim them later. If you have a digital scale and want to be super-fussy about making sure the layers are even, weighing the batter and dividing it out accordingly will do the trick. [I can make it even easier; the net weight of my batter was 985 grams.] If not and you’re aiming for a traditional 7-layer 9-inch round cake, spread batter to about 1/4-inch thickness in each circle. Spread the batter evenly to the edges with an offset spatula; be careful not to leave any holes. If you’re using parchment shapes, slide cookie sheets under them before baking.
Bake each layer for 5 minutes, or until golden with some dark brown spots. Thicker layers may take up to 2 additional minutes. When layer is baked, remove it from the oven and flip it out onto a cooling rack that has been dusted with a small amount of confectioners’ sugar. Carefully, gently remove parchment paper then flip cake back onto another lightly dusted cooling rack to finish cooling. It’s best to cool the layers right side up; the tops are the stickiest part.
Repeat with remaining layers. Dunk your cake batter bowl in water right away; that egg yolk-enriched batter dries quickly and was surprisingly hard to scrub off later! Layers will cool very quickly. Trim edges of cake, if needed, to make even shapes or divide larger rectangular pans accordingly.
Make the filling and frosting: Melt chocolate until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature, but of course not so cool that it hardens again. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until soft and smooth, scraping frequently. Add vanilla and 3 egg yolks. Add sugar and cooled chocolate, beating until thoroughly mixed and scraping as needed.
Assemble the cake: Place four strips of parchment or waxed paper around the outer edges of your cake plate. Place first cake layer on plate and spread chocolate on top and to edges with an offset spatula. The filling must be spread fairly thinly to have enough for all layers and the outsides of the cake. However, I’d preemptively scaled up the chocolate filling and frosting and had nearly two cups of extra — the levels listed above should be just fine. Repeat with remaining layers (or all layers except one, if you’d like to do a decorative caramel layer), stacking cake as evenly as possible. Once fully stacked and filled, you can trim the edges again so that they’re even.
Spread chocolate on outside of cake in a thin coat, just to cover and adhere the crumbs to the cake. Place cake in fridge for 30 minutes (or freezer for 5 minutes) to set the chocolate. Spread chocolate more thickly and smoothly to make a final exterior coat of frosting. Remove paper strips.
Caramel topping, if using: Lightly grease a sheet of parchment paper. Place last cake layer on this sheet. Lightly oil a large chef’s knife (if cutting layer into 16 traditional wedges) or sharp cookie cutter of your choice and set aside. Combine the sugar and water in a small, heavy saucepan and swirl it until the sugar melts and begins to turn a pale amber color. Quickly and carefully, pour this (you’ll
When it comes to large family gatherings, no matter how much I humble-brag about my brisket, roasted vegetable sides or the way I know my way around a salad, I am always instead nominated to bring desserts. So, like a certain Phoebe on cup-and-ice duty that I will date myself by referencing, I take things very seriously, in part because I have a lot of rules for Passover desserts. The first is that that whatever dessert I make cannot include even a speck of matzo meal. I’m sorry, I realize this is a sensitive topic and I should tread more carefully, but I find the taste of matzo meal just awful in anything but matzo ball soup. My difficult palate aside, I also figure if I’m going to go through the effort to come up with something new (and hopefully better) in the flourless department, it would be of more use to more people were it also gluten-free, so that’s the second rule. The final rule is that I want the dessert to be good enough that I’d choose it any other day of year. It can’t just be good for a Passover dessert. It can’t just be good for something gluten-free. It has to be objectively good. Really, shouldn’t everything be?
My inspiration this year was a cake I found on Epicurious. Isn’t it a beaut? I knew I had to find a way to make it happen, but I also knew it wasn’t going to be the way it was written. Aside from the fact that it is not actually a Schwarzwälder Torte (a chocolate cake with whipped cream, cherries and often Kirsh, what we sometimes refer to as a Black Forest Cake) and that it contains both flour and powdered sugar (a Passover no-no, unless you find or make cornstarch-free stuff), reviewers seemed very unhappy with the meringues, which were too thin and from what I could tell, not particularly flavorful. I turned instead to the macaroon component of an almond torte I made a few years ago; the torte was a headache but the macaroons ended up having a lovely flavor largely because they contained such a high proportion of nuts. Given the choice, I always prefer meringues that are closer to macaroons.
The result is one of the best cakes that has ever come out of my kitchen — I mean, it’s up there with the Dobos Torte and this hulking mass of chocolate and peanut butter. We love this. It’s not too sweet. The macaroons are soft enough to be cake-y but firm enough to add a great texture, and they’re slicked with just the right amount of bittersweet chocolate before cuddling against tufts of lightly sweetened whipped cream. This is, if you’re not yet convinced you need to make it, in short, a deconstructed-then-reconstructed Nutella stack. Go; go make it happen.
More Passover recipes: Here.
More Gluten-Free recipes: Here.
* Note: Neither archive is exhaustive as there are many-a salads, meat and poultry dishes, vegetable sides and soups that have no offending ingredients.
One year ago: Soft Eggs with Buttery Herb-Gruyere Toasts
Two years ago: Oat and Maple Syrup Scones
Three years ago: Bakewell Tart and Romesco Potatoes
Four years ago: Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Corn Bread and Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Coulis
Five years ago: Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts and Feta (true story: this is my MIL’s favorite recipe on the site) and Caramel-Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake
Six years ago: Skillet Irish Soda Bread, Lighter-Than-Air Chocolate Cake and Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas and Red Peppers
Chocolate-Hazelnut Macaroon Torte
Adapted from these two tortes
Serves 8 generously, and up to 12 or possibly even 16 in thin slices (which is what is always demanded at our gatherings, where there are multiple desserts)
Oil or butter for greasing parchment rounds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
2 1/2 cups hazelnuts (about 12 ounces or 340 grams), toasted, then skinned as much as possible*
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract**
6 ounces (170 grams or the equivalent of 1 cup chips) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso granules (optional)
Whipped frosting and filling
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Frangelico or another hazelnut liqueur or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract**
A semi- or bittersweet chocolate bar for shaving (optional)
Make macaroons: Position oven racks in the top and lower thirds of oven and heat oven to 325°F. Outline four 8-inch circles on individual pieces of parchment paper. Turn each sheet of parchment over so your ink or pencil lines don’t seep into the macaroon, place each piece of parchment paper on large baking sheets, and very lightly coat each piece of parchment with oil or butter. (I sprayed mine with a cooking oil and wiped all but a sheer coating away with a paper towel.)
Place hazelnuts, 1 cup sugar and salt in a food processor and blend until finely ground. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large, dry bowl with clean beaters (or a whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Drizzle in vanilla extract, then slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 1/3 increments (i.e. a little at a time so it doesn’t overtake the fluffy egg whites). Spread 1/4 of macaroon batter evenly within each circle, filling completely.
Bake macaroon layers until golden and dry to the touch — this takes 20 to 23 minutes in my oven. Cool macaroons on their sheets on a cooling rack. You can speed this along by placing them for five minutes each in your freezer.
Make chocolate filling: While meringues cool, heat half of chocolate, water, and coffee (if using) in a small heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring until smooth. Off the heat, stir in second half of chocolate chunks until melted, which should also cool the mixture to lukewarm. Spread chocolate evenly over tops of meringue rounds; it will be just a thin slick on each. Cool until chocolate is set, a process that could take a few hours at room temperature or, again, could be hastened along by resting each disc in your freezer for five minutes, or until firm.
Make whipped frosting and filling:: Beat cream with sugar and liqueur or vanilla in a bowl with cleaned beaters until it holds stiff peaks.
Assemble torte: Gently peel the parchment off the back of each macaroon round. Arrange your first disc on your cake serving plate. If you like to follow proper cake-decorating protocol, you will insert some small strips of waxed paper under the edge to protect the cake plate while you decorate. If you don’t, hey, I too embrace cake imperfections. Spread 1/3 cup whipped cream over it. Repeat with second and third macaroon rounds, then top with final round. Frost top and side of torte with whipped cream. I did this in two parts, a thin “crumb” coat (after which I put the cake in the freezer for 5 minutes to “set” it, although whipped cream doesn’t really set) a thicker final one, with the remaining cream, which led to a neater final result.
If desired, use a vegetable peeler to scrape away curls from a chocolate bar for decoration. Remove waxed paper strips if you used them, and serve immediately or up to a day or two layer. Store in fridge.
Do ahead: Whipped cream confections are generally best on the first day, but we found ours to hold up just fine in the fridge for more than 24 hours. Macaroons alone, or macaroons with chocolate coating, can be baked in advance. Simply keep them separated with waxed paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days. Humidity is the enemy of macaroons, so if you live in a humid environment, you’ll want to store them as little time as possible lest they become sticky.
* I toast hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350 for anywhere from 8 to 12 minutes, rolling them around once or twice. One cool, I roll them around in dry hands over the tray to remove as much of their skins as possible. This is not a popular method. More common is to roll them around in a dishtowel but I find this coats my entire existence (counter/floor/self) with hazelnut skins. You’re probably neater than me, however. A third and even awesome method would be to happen upon toasted and skinned hazelnuts at Trader Joe’s, as I did this week, for a measly $6.99/pound. Finally, if you have already ground hazelnut meal or flour, you can use the equivalent weight of it instead of whole ones.
** Passover legal-ese: If you follow a strict Passover regimen, Frangelico and other liqueurs may not be acceptable, and neither will vanilla extract (although Passover-friendly stuff is available) because they contain alcohol derived from grains. This cake is dairy and many kosher Seders are meat meals, so it would not be acceptable to eat until two hours, or even six hours, after the meal. Which should give everyone enough time to digest your cousin’s brisket, huh? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Update: Helene (comment #118) brilliantly made a suggestion for a non-dairy whipped cream alternative: 7-Minute Frosting, which is also sometimes called Marshmallow Frosting. It’s billowy, white, shiny and light and can even be toasted on the outside with a blowtorch for a toasted marshmallow effect, but very easy to make. Here’s my favorite recipe for it. While it holds up well for two days, I do want to warn that it “crusts” (a gross word for getting dry out the very outer edges) after a day or so. It’s very light, might just seem faintly crisp, but the inside will still be pillowy.
Marian Burros’s plum torte is a cult classic in which a mass of plums are coated with cinnamon sugar and baked into a pancake-like batter, where they melt into pie-like pockets and you definitely don’t want to miss it. It’s the perfect September baked good. This is ideal with blueish/purple Italian prune plums, but if you can’t find them, other plums will do. The internet is full of riffs on the cake, like cutting the sugar back to 3/4 cup (feel free to, although I didn’t find the 1 cup too sweet at all), with or without lemon juice, ranges of cinnamon (1 teaspoon is the original amount; 1 tablespoon was a typo that’s not bad at all, but I usually use the smaller amount). I’m not immune, either: I sometimes start by browning the butter and letting it cool to room temp before whisking the batter together by hand. In 2023, I’ve made a few minor updates: Sharing how I one-bowl the cake,and bumping up the salt (previously: a large pinch).
- 1 cup (200 grams) plus 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (use less for sweeter plums)
- 1/2 cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder (ideally aluminum-free)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a large bowl, beat butter and 1 cup (200 grams) of the sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and lighter in color. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt over batter and mix it until just combined.
Spoon batter into prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Arrange the plum tightly in the pan, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out free of batter (but of course not plum juice), about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack.
Once cool, if you can stand it, and I highly recommend trying, leave it at room temperature overnight as this cake is even better on the second day, when those plum juices further release into the cake around it, becoming not just “cake with plum,” but cakeplumughyum (official terminology, there). If planning more than 2 to 3 days out, I’ll store the cake in the fridge for longevity.
I think if you were to rank foods in order of how intimidating they are to cook, at the bottom of the list would be stuff you throw together any night of the week without a recipe, the top would be basically anything Grant Achatz has ever made and then maybe, just barely a notch below would be a dish that someone you love and respect makes so perfectly that you consider it to be “their” recipe. It feels almost wrong to make someone else’s signature dish, to meddle. It’s their thing, not yours, thus there’s clearly no way you could do it justice. I mean, sure there’s something else you could contribute to the holiday baking curriculum, maybe one of your favorites instead?
And this has been my feeling about linzer torte for all of the years since we first met at this url in 2006. I am lucky enough to join a high school friend for Christmas Eve dinner every year, and her mom always includes squares of incredible linzer torte in her array of Holiday Baking Wonders. Her mother is an excellent cook and baker, and the one that introduced me to Maida Heatter, from whom you should buy every book, immediately, without questioning me because her recipes are detailed without being irritatingly so, charmingly written*, and will never lead you astray. Truly. I mean, remember when she showed us how easy Dobos Torte could be to make? Dobos Torte. Imagine what she could do with a black truffle explosion!
My friend’s mom’s linzer torte is indeed Heatter’s linzer torte, which automatically means two things: It won’t be terribly hard to make because the directions will tell you everything you need to know and it will be the best linzer torte you’ve ever made. And for me, a third thing, which was that I was terrified that whole time I finally baked it at home this week, worried that I would not do a favorite recipe from one of my favorite cooks justice.
But what I hadn’t considered is that about halfway through the baking time, my apartment became filled with the aromatic blend of walnuts, cinnamon, cloves and lemon zest that is distinctly, wonderfully December to me. It was strange and cozy to have it in my own home instead of someone else’s and the resulting tortes were everything I remember about them — delicate and spiced, firm but fragile, not overly sweet and absolutely stunning. Consider this a warning: I don’t think anyone only makes these once.
“Happiness is baking cookies. Happiness is giving them away. And serving them, and eating them, talking about them, reading and writing about them, thinking about them, and sharing them with you,” — Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Cookies.
Cookie Week! This week is all about the cookies. Monday, we talked about Cigarettes Russes (Piroulines), Tuesday, Sugared Pretzel Cookies (made, in part, with rye flour), Wednesday, Eggnog Florentines and then Thursday, I completely abandoned you to go do some holiday-ing with my mom, rather rude, I know, but I think this Linzer is worth the wait and hope it becomes a regular December favorite.
More Cookies: There are over 85 cookie recipes in the archives. My favorite holiday-ish ones, as in, get these away from me or I’ll eat them all, are Austrian Raspberry Shortbread, Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies, Grasshopper Brownies, Seven-Layer Cookies, Tiny Pecan Sandies, Nutmeg-Maple Butter Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies. For a cookie ideal for gingerbread men, “ninja”-bread men or gingerbread
tenements houses, try these Spicy Gingerbread Cookies. [All The Smitten Kitchen Cookies]
Signed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks: Copies of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook can be ordered with custom inscriptions — i.e. not just the usual signature but anything you’d like, be it Merry Christmas! or Congratulations on your engagement! (Now bake me some cookies.) or No matter what anyone else tells you, you’re my favorite reader. No seriously. It’s you. all of which have happened because you guys really are that funny and awesome, through McNally-Jackson, an independent bookstore in Soho. This year, we have a hard deadline for Christmas shipping (i.e. you’d pay standard and not rushed shipping and the book will reach you by Christmas) of tomorrow, Saturday, December 14th. Thank you! [Order Custom Inscribed Smitten Kitchen Cookbooks from McNally Jackson]
Adapted, with somewhat modified directions, from Maida Heatter’s Book Of Great Desserts
Linzer tortes hail from the city of Linz, Austria. There are many variations, but almost all include a very buttery base mostly comprised of ground nuts — there are versions with almonds and hazelnuts, too. Read more here.
Yield: 2 9-inch round tortes, 2 8-inch square tortes, 1 9×13-inch or 1 11- to 12-inch round torte. The round shape is traditional, and served in wedges. (8 wedges from each 9-inch round). The square shape can be cut into bar cookies (16 from each 8-inch square or 32 from a 9×13 rectangle).
Base and lattice
4 1/2 cups (1 pound or 455 grams) shelled walnuts
3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I halved this, using only 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon table salt (Heatter says 1/4, I really prefer this with 1/2)
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces or 285 grams) cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 2/3 cup (330 grams) granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup (about 20 to 25 grams) fine, dry breadcrumbs
2 cups (about 575 grams) seedless raspberry jam
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
2/3 to 1 cup (75 to 115 grams) to slivered almonds (julienne-shaped pieces) (optional)
Make base: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round layer cake pans (preferably with removable bottoms if you plan to serve this in wedges, like a cake), two 8-inch square pans (what I used, then cut each into square bars, like cookies), one 9×13-inch rectangular pan (again, for bar cookies) or one 11- to 12-inch round cake pan (again ideally with a removable bottom). Line the bottom of each with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit, then butter then paper.
In a food processor, process walnuts and 1/2 cup of the flour (reserve remaining 2 1/2 cups for next step) for 15 seconds, or until the nuts are finely ground but have not formed a paste.
Place remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a large, wide-ish mixing bowl. With a pastry blender, work the butter into the dry mixture until it forms coarse crumbs. Stir in the sugar and walnut-flour mixture. In a small dish, beat the whole egg, yolk, and lemon rind utnil combined, and stir into crumb mixture. Stir the mixture in as best as you can with a spoon, then work the rest in with your hands. Knead the dough a few times inside the bowl until a cohesive mass, one that holds together, forms.
Divide dough into quarters if making two tortes, or halves if making one.
Place one portion into the bottom of each pan, and press evenly and firmly over the bottoms and then about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches up the sides with your fingers. Don’t worry about making it smooth or level on the sides; it gets filled in later.
Bake shell(s) for 15 minutes, or until it barely begins to color at the edges.
While the shell(s) bakes, roll remaining piece(s) of dough between two pieces of waxed paper, until 1/4- to 3/8-inch in thickness one inch bigger than your pan size. [I.e., for each 9-inch round torte, you’ll want a 10-inch diameter circle; for each 8-inch square torte, a 9-inch square, etc.] Transfer to freezer until the dough is well-chilled, about 20 minutes.
Remove shell(s) from oven and let cool slightly; reduce baking temperature to 350 degrees.
Make filling: If you’re using panko or another coarse dry breadcrumb, you can pulse it in a food processor until it is fine powder. I found I needed almost double the volume in panko (7 tablespoons) to yield 1/4 cup of a fine breadcrumb powder.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons finely ground breadcrumbs over each par-baked shell, or all 1/4 cup over your single large one. If jam is not already soft, stir it until it is, then spread 1 cup over each shell. Cut dough(s) into 1/2- to 3/4-inch wide strips, cutting through the bottom of the waxed paper at the same time. Lift each strip-and-waxed paper over the jam and reverse it onto the jam, then peel off waxed paper. Cut the ends of the dough by pressing them onto the sides of the pan. Arrange strips 1/2- to 3/4-inch apart, crisscrossing them on an angle to make a lattice top with diamond-shaped openings. [Note: I neither “wove” my lattice or ended up making “diamond-shaped” openings. Oops.] Use leftover pieces to fill in any gaps between lattice-strips and tall sides of shells. The two doughs will blend together in the oven.
To finish: Mix egg yolks and water. Brush it all over lattice top and border. Sprinkle with almonds, if using. (I prefer to use 1/3 cup per smaller torte, instead of the 1/2 cup Heatter recommends. I only sprinkled them on one.) Bake torte(s) for 45 to 60 minutes (Heatter recommends 60, I find it perfect, but ovens and baking pans vary, check yours sooner if you’re nervous), until crust and almonds on top are well-browned.
Remove from oven and place on racks. If you’ve baked it in a cake pan and wish to serve it as a “cake,” i.e. in wedges, Heatter recommends that you remove it from the pan while still warm by cutting around the torte carefully (the crust is very fragile) with a small, sharp knife and loosening the torte in the pan, before reversing it onto a cooling rack, and then back again onto another rack to finish cooling. If using a pan with a removable base, you should safely be able to remove it once it has fully cooled. Personally, I had no trouble letting my cool fully in the square pan but the first square did not come out cleanly.
Once fully cool, Heatter recommends you let the tortes stand overnight (covered with foil) before serving for best flavor. You can decorate the tortes with powdered sugar before serving in wedges or squares.
I have forever seen recipes on TV and around the web for something called Mexican Lasagna, a giant layered casserole that contains pretty much everything we love and cannot get enough of — tortillas, beans, salsa, cheese and then some — but couldn’t bring myself to make one because I make bad decisions based on trivial things, such as the name, which made me cringe (must we blame the people of Naples or Mexico for the unholy ways we Frankenstein their cuisine?) and the fact that I hadn’t exactly run out of excuses to eat tortillas, beans, salsa and cheese yet and thus didn’t need to enlist another one. Don’t worry, Deb is going to see the error of her ways in the next paragraph.
Sometime in the hazy weeks after bringing this bunny home from the hospital, I spied a version of the dish in Katie Workman’s Mom 100 Cookbook that stopped me in my tracks for all the reasons any recipe ever does: I was so hungry, and it was so pretty. Regardless, I then looked for excuses not to make it, first arguing to no one in particular that there was no way it was nutritional enough to pass off as dinner, only to realize it contains nearly 4 cups of beans and 6 of vegetables. I then decided that there’s no way you could fit all that in one little cake and did that charming thing I do when I cook but I’m too tired to cook where I point out all the ways it couldn’t possibly work and was definitely going to flop and instead, what went into the oven was an exactly perfect-as-written and what came out looked exactly like the photo and tasted even better than I could have dreamed.
It has taken a level of self-control I succeed in employing nowhere else in my life to not make this at least once a month since, and it’s only the fact that my next book is not going to solely focus on taco tortes (though I would need little convincing at this point) that I’ve somewhat varied our diets since. It’s honestly that good. Does the fact that it’s also pretty — prettier even when you make it because you’re going to remember to line the pan with foil or use a springform so it comes out neatly — really matter? No. And by no, I mean, seriously, I’m not fooling anyone.
One year ago: Charred Cauliflower Quesadillas
Two years ago: Garlicky Party Bread with Cheese and Herbs
Three years ago: Pasta and White Beans with Garlic-Rosemary Oil
Four years ago: Cheddar Beer and Mustard Pull-Apart Bread
Five years ago: Meatball Subs with Caramelized Onions
Six years ago: Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Seven years ago: Chicken Milanese + An Escarole Salad and Flaky Blood Orange Tart
Eight years ago: Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree and Candied Grapefruit Peels
Nine years ago: Icebox Cake
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles with Cucumber
1.5 Years Ago: Blueberry Crumb Cake
2.5 Years Ago: Charred Corn Crepes
3.5 Years Ago: Zucchini Tomato and Rice Gratin
4.5 Years Ago: Corn Buttermilk and Chive Popovers
Adapted, just barely, from the Mom 100 Cookbook
The original recipe calls for making this with 4 tortillas, or 4 layers. I made mine with 5 both times, but think 6 would be even nicer, so there’s less heavy filling between each, and have recommended this below. While you can use a fitted 8-inch cake pan if you have one, I have found that whatever bits of filling and/or cheese spill into the margins of a 9-inch cake pan are the most delicious parts — don’t you dare leave them in there. A 5- or 6-high stack will go over the top of a standard cake pan, but if you’re nervous about spillover (a non-issue in a 9-inch pan), you can always bake it on a foil-lined tray. Finally, should you wish to lightly fry your tortillas to a light crisp before you layer them, I’d expect them to get less soft when baked.
Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer or light meal with a salad, 6 to 8 for dinner
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon olive, vegetable, or canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fresh chile pepper, chopped small (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (adjusted to taste)
1 can (14 ounces) or 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, drained, with 1/3 cup juice reserved
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cans (15.5 ounces each) black, red or kidney beans (or a mixture of any two), drained and rinsed
Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh (from 1 to 2 ears), from 1 15-ounce can, drained, or frozen and thawed
3 cups (about 2 3/4 ounces) rough-chopped spinach leaves
6 medium-size (8-inch) flour tortillas (although corn should work too)
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (I used a mix)
Chopped fresh cilantro, sour cream and/or salsa for serving (optional)
Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan or cast-iron skillet tightly with foil and spray it with a nonstick spray. Or, you can coat a 9-inch springform with nonstick spray and skip the foil, since it’s easier to remove from a springform.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, fresh chile pepper (if using), cumin, chili powder, and and cook until you can smell the spices and the onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with the 1/3 cup of reserved juice and the tomato paste, then stir in the beans. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the bean mixture simmer until everything is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the corn and spinach and stir until the spinach has wilted and everything is well blended and hot, about 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper as necessary.
Place 1 tortilla in the prepared cake pan. Spread one-sixth (just eyeball it) of the bean and vegetable mixture evenly over the tortilla, then sprinkle 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the shredded cheese evenly over the top. Repeat with 5 more layers, ending with the last of the bean mixture and shredded cheese.
Bake the tortilla stack until it is hot throughout and the top is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. You can run it under the broiler for extra color on top, if you wish. Let the it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes, before removing it from the pan, either by carefully lifting the foil that lines the pan or by opening the sprinform sides. Cut it into wedges using a sharp knife and serve it with a spatula or better yet a pie server. Sprinkle the top with cilantro, if desired, and serve with sour cream and/or salsa on the side, if you like.
Do ahead: You can make this ahead of time, cover it in the fridge overnight then leave it at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before baking it. The torte also reheats well.