This week's TWD selection was chosen by Holly of Phe/MOM/enon. I went in to this torte wanting to love it for its 15 minuteness alone. I figured that anything beyond that would just be icing on the cake (ganache on the torte?)
STEP 1: PROCURE THE AMARETTO COOKIES
David's parents were visiting us the weekend before Easter, so my kids were in their glory, reveling in all of that grandparent adoration, performing for a rapt audience, and generally keeping the grandparents hopping from sunup to sundown. Now, like any proud mom, I think my three little darlings are super charming and adorable. That said, I have long suspected that if my kids had a rock & roll anthem, it would be from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit:"
"HERE WE ARE NOW, ENTERTAIN US!"
Yes, my kids have an insatiable appetite for playing, and more specifically, for playing with you. The words "let's sit and rest for a few minutes" are usually met with a confused "no comprende" look. Needless to say, by the end of a weekend, they've worn out any and all grownups in their path. So anyway, fast forward to Sunday, when everyone was hanging out, and I realized that I really needed to track down amaretto cookies if I was to have any chance of getting this torte baked in time to bring it with us when visited David's grandmother over Easter. And I knew that finding the cookies in this town would be a challenge. So I grabbed my purse and my internet picture of an Amaretto di Saronno cookie tin, and announced that I was going to run to Whole Foods to look for the cookies.
At that point, every adult in the house leapt to their feet and took turns making eloquent, impassioned statements as to why THEY should be the one to get to go to Whole Foods to look for the cookies. In the end, David and his dad won the grand "get out of the house for 40 minutes" prize. (Next time, it'll be you and me, Jane, and we'll tack on pedicures while we're out.) Unfortunately, our hunter-gatherers came back cookieless. So I
STEP 2: MAKE THE TORTE
Every once in a while I like to include photographic evidence that 9 months of food blogging has not improved my hack food photography skills even a little bit.
A bold claim is embedded in the name of this recipe: that it only takes 15 minutes to get this torte mixed up and into the oven. I was skeptical, because I feel like I am the world's slowest cook. Even when I cook or bake without distractions (which is rare) I seem to exceed the stated prep times by at least 30%. So I guessed that this would take me at least 25 minutes, but you can bet that I was going to time it to be sure. I made this on Good Friday morning, at the same time we were trying to pack to get out of town for the weekend. The whole house was in a state of chaos; my one year old wanted to be held (that left me with one hand); and then my mother (from whom I inherited my love of the spoken word) called, which knocked me down to just 1/2 of a hand available to make this torte. AND EVEN WITH JUST A HALF HAND, I got it into the oven in 13 minutes. Dorie is not kidding -- there is some serious time magic at work here.
The torte comes together so quickly because it's the food processor rather than you doing all of the work. First it grinds up the amaretto cookies and some almonds, and then some butter, sugar and eggs. Add the cookie/almond mixture and some melted chocolate back to the processor, mix together, and pour it into an 8" pan. I used an 8" springform pan in the hopes that it would be all the easier to remove the cake. The recipe says to bake the torte for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out "streaky."
Well, yes, it is blurry as well, but I thought the knife was more "wet" than "streaky," and popped the torte back in the oven for a few minutes.
After around 35 minutes, the knife looked more streaky than wet, and the cake looked like Dorie said that it was supposed to look on the top -- cracked and dry.
STEP 4: MAKE THE GANACHE
I felt like I stared at the bottom of this pan of cream, sugar and water for hours, just willing it to boil. I am really trying to do better about not walking away from my baking liquids when they are, or might soon be, boiling. But boy, if ever a pan of liquid made me want to scoot off for just a second to water the plants, it was this one. Eventually it did boil, and I added it to my chopped up chocolate, stirred, and was richly rewarded for my patience with some ganache.
STEP 5: MAKE ALMOND WHIPPED CREAM
That would be whipping cream, confectioner's sugar and almond extract whipped together in the Kitchen Aid. I did not take any pictures of it because hubs was reminding me that if we didn't leave in 15 minutes, we'd be going through Atlanta at rush hour.
STEP 6: EAT AND CRITICALLY EVALUATE THE TORTE
David's parents, grandmother and I had the torte for dessert on Saturday night. I really liked the torte, but I didn't love it as much as I wanted to. Part of that is that I had just eaten a cheeseburger, fries and Frosted Orange at The Varsity in Athens a couple of hours earlier, and was still reeling. And part of it is probably attributable to the fact that I've been completely spoiled by TWD. If I made this torte a year ago, I would have been astonished that I baked something so decadent and delicious. But now, I couldn't help but compare this to the chocolate armagnac cake (another very dense, nearly flourless cake). I just didn't think that this torte had the complexity of flavor or the richness of texture that the chocolate armagnac cake did. Don't get me wrong, it is good -- very very good. Just not as good as the chocolate armagnac cake. On the other hand, it's significantly easier than the chocolate armagnac cake, so this is still a nice dessert to have in the arsenal when you need a quick dessert. And with any luck, you'll serve it to people who haven't tried the armagnac cake.
David's family seemed to enjoy this. I did not sense that eating this torte was a life-transforming experience for anyone, but I suppose if that is the standard by which I measure the success of my desserts, I'm bound to be disappointed most of the time.
Interestingly, I think you get two completely different desserts depending on whether you serve this with or without the almond whipped cream. I served it with the almond cream to David's family, and I thought the dominant flavor was almond. I had another taste of it on Sunday (without the almond cream) and the dessert had a much more chocolatey, nutty vibe to it. I actually think I preferred it without the whipped cream (although I usually love that almond flavor). Next time, I might cut down on the amount of almond extract in the whipped cream. I also preferred it cold, straight out of the refrigerator, rather than at room temperature.
Thanks for the fun pick, Holly! I will look forward to pulling the rest of this out of my freezer!
I'll conclude with some pressing business that has absolutely nothing to do with this chocolate torte. My friend Deb in Hawaii of Kahakai Kitchen was disappointed that I did not end my "Ode to Mr. Darcy & Coconut Butter Thins" with the famous lake scene shot of our dashing hero, and I hate to disappoint my friends. I thought I'd try to make it up to her by including not just one lake scene picture, but the entire lake scene. Deb, this one's for you, sister!