Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Last Minute Save. The Hail Mary Almond Torte

   While working on the James Beard dinner with St. Martins' Press and California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, the one thing that I kept worrying about was dessert. My mission was to recreate James Beard's recipes using California Olive Ranch oil, all the while adding my own Indian twist. The dinner could be worked with. The dessert was another matter all together. For dessert, there could be no tinkering around... well, maybe just around the edges, an Indian twist here and there. With that in mind I went searching through my battered, falling apart James Beard Cookbook looking for something to suit.

   I poked through pies and creams, custards and ices, cookies, tarts, bombes, souffles and cakes until I finally found something I thought I could manage and add to. Almond Torte. What was it that hooked me about that particular dessert? The springform pan. I happen to have three of them and rarely use them. Why did I buy them? Well, I love tricky equipment when experimenting with food, the more complicated the better. I know there's no big whoop about baking with a springform pan for most people, but for me it's the equivalent of one of those MI6 guys showing James Bond some cool new piece of equipment you just know is going to be used against Penny Serenade or Thunder Pussy or someone like that in the third act.

   So there I was, cruising for a use for one of my spring form pans plus a partner for the pistachio saffron ice cream I'd made and I quickly found one.


Almond Torte

Here's What You Need:

6 eggs, separated
1 cup of sugar
3 Tbs of orange juice
1 tsp of orange rind
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 cup of unbleached almonds ground in a blender or grater
1/2 cup of toasted white breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp of almond extract
1/2 tsp of cream of tartar
1/4 tsp of salt.
1 cup of whipped cream
 ice cream

Here's What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease the bottom of an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.
Separate the eggs.

Beat the yolks in a mixing bowl until they're nice and light gradually adding 1/2 cup of sugar.

Beat in the orange juice, orange zest,and cinnamon.

Fold in the ground almonds and the toasted breadcrumbs.

Fold in the almond extract. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites until they are foamy.
Beat in the cream of tartar and salt.
Keep beating, adding the other 1/2 cup of sugar gradually until it forms stiff peaks.

Fold in the yolk and almond mixture just enough to combine them well.

Pour the mixture into the springform pan.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the pan.

Okay, so far so good, right? Not quite. The cake deflates a bit of course, but when it comes to unmolding from the springform pan, this is what happened.

   Not so pretty. I have unmolded things before and I've never baked anything in a springform pan without greasing it or lining it with parchment paper. But who am I to question James Beard???? The man says just grease the bottom, I just grease the bottom. So there I was with a sunken cake, a quart of pistachio, saffron, ice cream and the ticking clock. What to do?

    I was all set to toss the cake in the garbage when Alan broke off a piece and ate it.
"You are not throwing this out!"

   "Yes, I am."

   "Step away from the garbage and put down that cake!"

   "How the hell am I going to serve this? It's grinning at me like an open wound."

   "There must be something you can do. Can't you call your mother?"

   My Mother? Fran? That's the culinary equivalent of calling in Hervey Keitel from Pulp Fiction. I had no idea what she'd say. Turns out it was something like this. Put A Bird on it?

   "Cut it up and put some whipped cream on it. They'll never notice. It's what I always did." Now THAT explains a lot.

   Well, to prevent any kitchen dumpster diving, I did what she suggested. I broke up the cake and layered it at the bottom of wine glasses.
 On top of that I placed a layer of the pisctachio saffron ice cream
A bit more cake on top of that.
And a final layer of unsweetened whipped cream sprinkled with a bit of chipped pistachios.

    I don't quite know what to call this, a trifle, a parfait, a whatever? What I do know, is that it most definitely worked! Accompanied by a hot cup of chai, we had dessert  perfection. Coming up next a caramelized mango salad, and some more tricks with olive oil. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. You totally made it work! I love the deconstructed style - a save!

  3. Gosh Kathy, these are gorgeous and quite possibly, more gorgeous than the torte on its own :) And that Alan is a wise man indeed.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin