Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TWD - 15 minute magic: Chocolate Amaretti Torte


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 got to had to run out again later in the afternoon, where I finally found some mini amaretto cookies at World Market.

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."

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!


60 comments:

Kayte said...

Well, your torte with the whipped cream and the little crunchies on top looks fabulous...I don't know how you got it together that quickly, so I stand in awe! I think this will be a nice one for the quick and easy category...and I am pretty sure from the guys' comments here, it would impress most people. Most people who haven't tried the other cake, that is...LOL. Loved your post...and the photo of the littles...so precious...very very cute, one and all.

Cristine said...

I feel the same... I liked the torte, but I don't really remember much about it other than it was quick and easy to prepare! :)

Megan said...

My kids wear out everyone as well - and anytime we need something from the store, all of a sudden I have lots of volunteers!

I wasn't overly thrilled with the cake either, I wonder if we are becoming jaded?

n.o.e said...

Cathy, 13 minutes with half a hand? Now, that's multi-tasking talent! I'm guessing you used one of the Pam's? Speaking of which, my biggest challenge when my wrist and elbow were really sore was getting the top off of the can of Pam! I finally just left the top off and stored it that way. Bread baking recipes - especially Peter Reinhart's instructions - use LOTS of spray oil. I think of you every time, lol.

Back to the cake: it's not my favorite, and I kind of regret making a full recipe. The amount of chocolate baked goods in my freezer is staggering. I see many minis in my baking future.

I say you and Jane go out for a pedicure and skip the grocery store!
Nancy

Debinhawaii said...

I didn't know where to look...Darcy?...chocolate torte? ...Darcy?...chocolate torte?...Darcy?...chocolate torte?...OK Darcy! I feel so very honored that you would include the whole lake scene in your post just for me!

I think I'll watch it again... ;-)

BTW--the cake looks ALMOST as delicious as Darcy!

Natashya said...

I didn't get around to making the cream as I was running into Tuesday by the time I finished!
But reading your comments about it, I think I was fine without. Yours looks very tasty, sorry it didn't live up to the high bar set by the armagnac cake!

Steph said...

13 minutes is very impressive! I know what you mean.. I think if I was able to make the stuff that I'm baking now half a year ago, I would be really excited. It's just that we're such bakers now thanks to TWD.. haha!

Marthe said...

No cream here: it curdled as soon as I added the almond extract :(

Jessica said...

I have to admit, I've never really like "Teen Spirit" but you've given me a whole different frame of reference for that song. It sounds like you had a great weekend with family. I kind of got stuck on "cheeseburger, french fries, and orange frosted" and I couldn't move past it. Now I'm craving a burger and fries.
I loved this but I think that my state of chocolate deprivation may have had something to do with that, not sure.

Audrey said...

Oh, now NOT fair. I'm supposed to be working. It's unprofessional to gasp and moan with delight when you're supposed to be working.

Oh, and whatever it was that you baked looks good too! I seem to be playing oppostites lately...I liked this better than the armagnac cake, but it's possible that I'm just not getting past the prune thing. I didn't try the whipped cream, but now I'm going to. I'll need to stop by again later (and maybe tomorrow again) just to carefully review your notes on this recipe...

Lady Baker said...

not having made the armagnac cake, and not having anything close to discerning taste buds, I have to say I LOVED this torte. We did not do the whipped cream. I threw some vanilla ice cream on the side and thought the flavors were really well-balanced.

Love the photos of the kiddies! And what's this World Market everyone is talking about...hmm..I must find out.

Let's see...I forget what else I was going to say. All thought, and reason go out the window when Firth comes on the screen...

Jamie said...

Your kids are too cute and your torte looks great as well! I hope you enjoyed your 40 minute romp to get your cookies!

Peggy said...

Cathy your torte looks fabulous. I skipped the almond cream and now I wish I had made that too! I hope everything is going well for you today. :)

vibi said...

Oh! MY!!! Between a blue mouth, a red mouth and a dripping ice cone... I TOO would have argued to get out and get the cookies!!! LOL LOL

For the life of me, I don't know how you succeed at making such great and yummy things, and tend (and entertain) 3 kids at the same time! You must be a Saint (or insane)!

Two thumbs up to you, Cathy!

Katherine Aucoin said...

Looking at the pictures, it looks amazing, but I'll take your word for it that it was ok. Don't you just hate going to all that trouble, hunting down ingredients and then making it and being somewhat not thrilled with the outcome?

Your children can wear me out anytime...they are the bees knees!

spike. said...

I suppose not every torte can be a life-transforming experience. However any torte served to you by one Mr. Darcy would totally be a life-transforming experience.

Karen said...

Well, I didn't time it but was really glad it came together so quickly. Don't you know we moms have to have 8 hands but can mamage with just half! :) Glad it turned out good if not life transforming! :)

myfamousrecipe said...

There does seem to be a close correlation between a mother's stress of "I've got to get this batter finished" and a child's need to be held. Dorie should add that it takes less than 15 minutes and can be done with one arm.

Heather said...

oh no! how did your husband win the get out of the house card?! the chef should always get to say who runs the errands ;)

the cake looks yummy!

Sabrina said...

The torte looks great! and your kids are adorable!!! :)

Maria said...

Cute kiddos! I am all about chocolate desserts, looks good to me! Nice end to the post too:)

Anne said...

It's kind of funny how making great desserts all the time can change your opinion of a perfectly good dessert, huh? Your torte does look delicious and I'm sure everyone loved it.

PS, I totally know what you mean about the "going out sans kid prize." And I only have one (and a half I guess!) I'm glad you guys had a good Easter!

natalia said...

Ciao Cathy I love this post !I totally understand you when you need to go out shopping but 'somehow'it's someone else who wins and so on..they'll grow up won't they ?

Flourchild said...

Your little darlings are too cute! I have to agree with you on this one, I didn't love it either. It was to sweet for us!

Melissa said...

I'm glad everyone enjoyed this despite it not being life-altering! I skipped this week because I had WAY too much going on, though I do want to make this sometime. And you'll never believe it, but Mr. Darcy himself is filming a movie in our town. They showed him on our local news giving autographs outside of the building they're filming in. I've gotta go down and do a little stalking! :-)

Teanna said...

You may be the most talented baker EVER, because seriously, I don't know anyone who could whip up a dessert with a half a hand!!! If I were holding a one year old and talking on the phone, I'd be scared that I'd drop the baby or the phone into the batter!

Hahah great post!!!!

Di said...

I love the picture of your kids. =) And I totally sympathize with the half a hand. I swear, it's like Gillian has a sensor that tells her when the worst possible time is to interrupt me in the kitchen--usually when I'm taking something out of the oven. I'm hoping to match your 13 minutes, since it's halfway through Tuesday and I haven't started my cake yet... =)

Pamela said...

It looks fabulous, Cathy...even the blurry pics! :o) Great picture of the kids, too. I think they all come with that "you are my entertainment committee" gene, too!

CB said...

I totally appreciate your blurry photos. haha. Sometimes I think posting failed recipes and blurry photos makes bloggers more human. To err is human right? That's why I have no problem posting things that are less than perfect on my blog. I can live with being "practically" perfect. ;)
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

pinkstripes said...

Your torte looks great. I can't believe it only took 13 minutes with a half a hand. I still don't know how you do it all. You're amazing!

Jacque said...

You're the third person I've seen that said they like the chocolate armagnac cake better. Interesting. I liked this one better for some reason.

But anyway, I can't believe you got it made at all with all of the distractions. You deserve a prize for conquering adversity in the kitchen this week.

Your cake looks wonderful!

Pam said...

Your posts are always so entertaining to me. My husband and I fight over who gets to do errands on the weekend just so we can enjoy some alone time. The torte looks tasty to me, especially the almond whipped cream.

chocolatechic said...

Oh...the lake scene...where he asks how her parents are...twice...and is all wet and flustered....and fabulous......


I heart Pride and Prejudice!

Oh...and your torte sounds great.

bakingwiththeboys said...

Love the story about your kids. My 4 yr old has become wise to the "but the Bat Cave is on the couch and Catwoman is trapped there" story line I try to throw his way.

This cake didn't get a lot of rave reviews on my end either. I think it was too nutty for us.

The Food Librarian said...

Really? I've been found out? I'm not just the Super-Duper helpful Auntie who will always run to the store after watching High School Musical yet again with the kids? Darn.

Your torte looks great!

leanne said...

13 minutes with only one arm. You are superwoman! I didn't love this cake either. I wanted to. The batter alone was enough of a reason to remake the cake though.

Heather said...

Love your post! The cake sounds great, and with 1/2 a hand?! Well done.

Jill said...

It looks like it turned out perfect despite all of your distractions! This one edged out the chocolate armagnac cake for us, but they're both awesome.

Leslie said...

Aww, now I wish I'd made this one! It looks so good. And I love reading about everything entailed in making one of these at your house. I always think I'm the only one who has drama in the kitchen but not so!

Bridgett said...

Oh wow, the torte looks AMAZING!! I have yet to try Dorie's but I love a good amaretto torte. Your little ones are darling! I bet they keep you on your toes.

Katrina said...

Way to get 'er done! Looks great!

Mary Ann said...

I can't believe you ate at the varsity and then had this for dessert! That makes me laugh. I love the play by play. looks delish!

Tracey said...

What a great post! Your kids are too cute. You're not alone with the food photography problems....I can't believe some of the photos I see when I upload from my camera to the computer. This wasn't my favorite recipe either - way too rich for me.

Pearl said...

wow - the photo of that torte looks incredible! i found your blog through another's and was hoping to add you to my blogroll... i'd love to read more of your posts! :)

farah said...

This looks great! I'm glad everyone enjoyed it :)

Nazarina A said...

This torte looks "like slap me silly" delicious. I am so sorry that it did not surpass your expectations but to me the pictures scream a thousand yays!

Gabe's Girl said...

from one mother to another, i understand the "one-arm" moves! i usually have to cook and bake like this. your kiddos are adorable. this dessert did taste nuttier and more chocolaty the next day! I had some this morning for breakfast. And, I love Pride and Prejudice!!!

Jennifer said...

I love how fast this was, too, but must admit I share your love the armagnac cake. (Plus I just love saying "flaming the prunes!)

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm amazed you did that with half a hand. I would have melted into a sobbing hysterical puddle and pulled my dress over my head.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I love your "get out of the house for 40 minutes" prize. I know the feeling. I also like your "half-a-hand" method of making this..which truly makes this a magical torte! I will have to try this torte now without the almond cream since I've only ever tried it with. Thanks for the inspiration!

Liz said...

Looks great! You're the second person who's recommended the chocolate prune cake thingy over this one, so I guess I have to go back and make it so I can compare. :)

Mary said...

I made my cake "one handed" (holding a two and three year old sometimes cuties sometimes monsters) as well so I really liked this post! I agree that the armagnac cake is better.

Anonymous said...

"If I made this torte a year ago, I would have been astonished that I baked something so decadent and delicious."

Funny how this happens. Every time I find myself in this situation I imagine what it must be like for professional chefs/pastry chefs after years of perfecting their work.

applecrumbles said...

Great post. Glad you too have blurring pics. once in a blue moon. It happens WAY too often to me.

dharmagirl said...

colin firth as mr. darcy is the almond whipped cream on your blog post:)

kimberly salem said...

OMG the lake scene! be still my beating heart :)
i have to agree that the choc armagnac was better. but hey, pretty awesome that you got it in the oven in 13 mins :) that is a pretty good tradeoff.

TeaLady said...

WOW!! You have a world market AND a whole foods. Lucky you... Lucky we have a STORE here. Your torte, blurred or not, looks great. And Darcey .....**SIGH**

Justin Schwartz said...

that torte looks fantastic

Elyse said...

Wow, Colin Firth and this torte are totally making me hungry. This looks amazing. Oh, and by the way, your kids are adorable. I would totally come play with your rambunctious little ones, if I lived closer!

AmyRuth said...

You are a funny woman!!! I've missed reading your stories. I still see a book in your future. he he
Maybe a cookbook? One never knows.
Your C H O C O L A T E Tore looks so delish. I must make one. NOW!
AmyRuth

 
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