Chocolate Amaretti Torte

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

I was going through some old recipes and came across this one on a sheet of yellowing newsprint. It was from a December 1991 New York Times Magazine. The article was titled “True Confections.” The one that caught my eye and which seems perfect for Valentine’s Day is by Dorie Greenspan from her cookbook Sweet Times. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate, and this one is ready to eat in about an hour. Of course you don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day to serve this little slice of chocolate heaven.

Chocolate Amaretti Torte

Yield: One 8-inch cake

Ingredients  Chocolate Amaretti Cake8

1 ounce of high quality unsweetened chocolate

3 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate (about 64% cacao)

6 large, crisp double amaretti cookies

3/4 cup sliced or julienned blanched almonds

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

Pinch of either Kosher or fine sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with waxed paper. Butter that and dust the inside of the pan with flour, tapping out any excess. Alternatively use one of the baking sprays with flour.
  3. Melt the chocolates over a double boiler set over hot water or in the microwave and set aside. Chocolate Amaretti Cake5
  4. Place the amaretti cookies and almonds in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is evenly ground. Set aside. Chocolate Amaretti Cake6
  5. Place the butter, sugar, salt and eggs in the food processor bowl and process until the mixture is satiny smooth – about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl as necessary.Chocolate Amaretti Cake4Chocolate Amaretti Cake3
  6. Now add the amaretti/almond powder and the melted chocolate. Pulse to combine well. Chocolate Amaretti Cake2
  7. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the oven on the center rack for 25 to 30 minutes. The top will look baked and perhaps a little cracked and the center will still be moist. Chocolate Amaretti Cake1Cool on a rack for 30 minutes. Then run a thin metal spatula or blunt knife around the edge of the pan and carefully turn out the torte. I place a cutting board over the pan and turn it out onto that. The cake is too soft and moist to turn out onto a cooling rack. The indentations will eat right into the cake. You could also use a large plate but I find that the flat cutting board works best. Then peel off the waxed paper and invert the torte onto a serving dish. I do this by placing the serving dish over the torte and then carefully flipping the serving dish over while holding onto the cutting board. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or cocoa. Serve at room temperature with a little vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.Chocolate Amaretti Cake9.

Dulce de Leche Tart

Dulce de Leche tart (2)

There are some desserts where after step 1 (in this case making the crust) you think, “I’m never going to make this again – what a hassle” but then by the time you’re eating it you think “oh my goodness I will never find another dessert as good as this and cannot stop eating it” — this qualifies as exactly that. While I had cooked other wonderful recipes from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, I had yet to tackle a dessert.

This ended up being served at a dinner party where a conversation about “what really is ‘dulce de leche'” came up, followed by a passing around of the near empty jar of the caramel like filling that party guests had no compunction about just dipping their fingers into and wiping it off clean. I used the Stonewall kitchen Dulce de Leche as it was the only one in my local grocery store, but I’ve also heard you can make it with condensed milk if you’re feeling adventurous.

Ingredients
Chocolate Crust
6 tablespoons (3 oz./85g) salted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (35g) powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (35g) Dutch-process or natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt

Filling
8 oz. (230g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups (310ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon dark rum
1 cup (240g) dulce de leche
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling over the tart
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Instructions
1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar on low speed just until smooth.

2. Add the yolk, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until it’s fully incorporated.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and coca powder.  Add them to the butter mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together.  It will feel very crumbly, so just keep mixing until it holds together better.

4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

5. Once it’s rested, take the dough and using the heel of your hand to press the dough into a 9-inch (23cm) tart ring with a removable bottom, getting the bottom as flat as possible and pressing the dough up the sides of the pan until it reaches the rim.  If it’s still crumbly, just try to spread it around as best you can and be sure to try to remove any gaps (as this is where the dulce de leche will ooze out of after you bake if you’re not careful).

6. Sprinkle the salt over the bottom of the dough and press it into the pastry.  Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).  Line the chilled tart crust with aluminum foil and cover with a layer of pie weights or dried beans.  Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes, remove the foil and pie weights, and then bake for 5 minutes more, until the tart shell feels set.  Remove from the oven and decrease the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).

8. While the tart is baking, make the chocolate filling.  Melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and set a fine-mesh strainer over the top.

9. Whisk the eggs in a bowl.  Heat the milk in a saucepan, then gradually whisk the warm milk into the eggs.  Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until it’s steamy and thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.  (If it separates a bit, remove it from the heat, and whisk it vigorously to bring it back together.)  Pour the custard through the strainer into the chocolate.  Add the vanilla and stir until smooth.

10. Spread the dulce de leche over the hot tart shell in an even layer, being careful as you spread to make sure you don’t break the flaky bottom of the tart.  (If the dulce de leche is very thick, let it sit in the tart shell for a minute or so to let the heat soften it, which will make it easier to spread.)  Set the filled tart shell on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then pour the chocolate custard over the dulce de leche, smooth the top, and add a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

11. Place the tart on top of a baking sheet (just in case the dulce de leche leaks) and bake the tart for 20 minutes, and then turn off the heat and leave the tart in the oven with the door closed to glide to a finish, 25 minutes more.

12. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.  Serve the tart with softly whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, or just as is.

Amish Apple Pie

Amish Apple Pie

Since I have never been able to replicate my mother’s deep-dish apple pie to my satisfaction, I keep trying to find a recipe that will take its place. I made this pie for Thanksgiving along with my Bourbon Pecan Pie. It was a hit with everyone, although it still won’t fill the void of my mother’s pie for me….

NOTE: A few of the changes that I am mentioning here are not reflected in the photo but are what I would do when making this pie again. I have also given the non-vegan version of ingredients as well.

Amish Apple Pie from Cooking from Quilt Country by Marcia Adams and adapted by me

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

For the Streusel

1/2 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of Kosher salt

8 Tablespoons cold unsalted buttery vegan sticks (I’ll be honest – nothing truly is a substitute for butter, in my opinion, but if you want this to be vegan…) 

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats OR 1/2 cup coarsely chopped English walnuts

For the Pie 

1 unbaked 10-inch pie shell, chilled (I used my go-to double crust vegan Crisco pie crust recipe.)

4 large apples (I used Honey Crisp, but other apples such as Granny Smith or McIntosh could also be used.)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 Tablespoons instant Tapioca

1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of Kosher salt

1 cup thicker non-dairy milk (I used the full-fat vanilla soy milk. If you are not going vegan, the recipe calls for heavy cream or half & half.)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Using a food processor, mix the first 5 streusel ingredients. Add the cold butter with the oats or walnuts and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Don’t over-process. Set aside. (I used a different process which had me pulverize the oats and melt the butter, which is why my streusel looks wetter and less streusely than it should. The taste was fine, but it will be prettier if you do it the way I have instructed.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. You should have at least 4 cups.
  3. Place the apples into the chilled pie shell, arranging them to fill most gaps.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, Tapioca, salt and cinnamon. In a glass measuring cup, add the vanilla to the non-dairy milk. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture to thoroughly combine. Pour the mixture over the apples.
  5. Bake the pie for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes carefully remove the pie from the oven and working quickly, sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top, covering all of the apples. Return the pie to the oven for another 40 minutes or until the top puffs and is golden brown. Allow the pie to cool before serving. If you are not vegan, this is especially delicious with some good vanilla ice cream on top.

Plum (or Apple)and Almond Paste Tart

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The French and Italians learned a long time ago that more does not always mean better. While I love a really good “mile-high” apple pie (and my mother still made the best, in my opinion) there is definitely something to be said for a simple fruit tart with just a thin, but very flavorful filling. This recipe (and I use the term loosely) is very flexible. I made it with golden delicious apples for Rosh HaShana and it would also be delicious with other stone fruit such as apricots or peaches. It is easy to throw together and the resulting tart will draw surprised looks and oohs and aahs with that first bite. The surprise comes from the layer of almond paste that lines the pastry shell and makes this seemingly simple dessert so decadent and satisfying. This tart was made with some end of season plums that were available in the market.

Lisa’s Plum (or Apple) and Almond Paste Tart

Yield: One 9-inch tart that serves 6-8 (A little goes a long way)

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Ingredients

One unbaked 9-inch pastry shell (This is my go-to crust, which is also vegan)

About 4 medium plums or about 3-4 apples

7 ounces of almond paste (I like Odense brand)

1/4 cup of granulated, raw, or Demerara sugar

2 Tablespoons sliced natural almonds (optional)

1 Tablespoon of Amaretto (optional)

2 Tablespoons of good margarine or unsalted butter (My preference is for butter, but a good margarine will do)

About 2 Tablespoons apple or red currant jelly

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a shallow pie plate or fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (If you are going to be baking , you really should buy one of these.) Roll out the almond paste into a 9-inch circle. Don’t worry about being perfect. A little patching won’t show. Refrigerate or freeze the dough while you prepare the fruit.
  3. Wash, dry and slice the fruit into thin (but not so thin that you see through!) slices – between 1/8 and 1/4 inches. Remove the dough from the fridge or freezer. Lay out the slices of fruit so that they slightly overlap and form concentric circles. Sprinkle with the sugar and scatter the almonds, if using, and then generously dot with the butter.
  4. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any oozing that might occur. Bake for about 45-55 minutes. Ovens vary so watch the tart. You want the fruit giving off some juice and the pastry should be golden.
  5. Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the tart with the Amaretto, if using. While the tart is till warm, carefully brush the fruit with a little of the apple or red currant jelly. It isn’t essential to do this step, but this not only adds a bit more fruit flavor but it also gives the tart that gem-like glisten you see in professional tarts. I was able to buy a wonderful apple jelly online that is very clear and which just melts beautifully over the fruit. If you can’t find a really clear jelly you might need to heat and strain the jelly before using it.
  6. Allow the tart to completely cool before removing it from the tart ring. You should slice relatively small wedges for serving. It may not look it, but this is quite rich and a little goes a long way.

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler1

Even though fresh berries are now available year-round, nothing says summer quite like a fresh berry dessert. I make a great blueberry pie and so does Frances, but sometimes you want a blueberry cobbler and this one is it! I came across the recipe from the website kitchn – another favorite food site that I frequent. I don’t know if its claim as the “ultimate blueberry cobbler” is accurate, but I will say that it is darn good. And best of all, it can be thrown together in a few minutes. All you need is some really good quality vanilla ice cream for serving and summer dessert doesn’t get any better than this. One thing I love about this recipe is that it is neither gummy nor overly sweet. And the biscuits are a real treat; they are both light and moist and just perfect for soaking up the blueberry liquid. The recipe’s originator talked about the secret ingredient of the coriander. I honestly didn’t taste anything in particular that I could identify, but the overall effect was just lovely.

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler by Sheela Prakash of the kitchn and tweaked ever so slightly by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 pints or 5 cups fresh blueberries (24 ounces total), washed and dried well
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Sanding or casting sugar for garnish
Vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions   IMG_3371

  1.  Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F.
  2.  Toss together the blueberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and coriander in a large bowl.  (I mixed the dry ingredients together first and then sifted them over the berries so there wouldn’t be any lumps. Then I added the lemon juice and gently tossed everything being careful to not break up the berries.) Transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8-inch baking dish or divide among 8 (6-ounce) ramekins.
  3.  Mix the flour, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt for the cobbler topping in a separate large bowl. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the cream and stir until the dough is shaggy.
  4.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough just until it all comes together, about 30 seconds.
  5.  Pat the dough into a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 8 square pieces or pat handfuls of dough into thick palm-sized disks if using ramekins. (I used a star cookie cutter because it was the 4th of July and because it was fun.)
  6.  If baking in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, overlap the disks on top of the blueberries to make a “cobblestone” look. If baking in individual ramekins, top each ramekin with a disk of dough. If you have any extra topping, crumble it and sprinkle it over the surface of the cobbler. Sprinkle the biscuit dough with the sanding or casting sugar.
  7.  Place the baking dish or ramekins on a baking sheet to catch drips, or place aluminum foil beneath it in the oven. Bake until the topping is turning golden-brown around the edges and the fruit filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes for the individual ramekins, or 45 to 55 minutes for the 8 x 8-inch baking dish.  The blueberries will bubble up quite a bit and then will settle down once it is out of the oven.IMG_3372
  8.   Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Everything needs to settle down. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

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My husband has never met a custard that he didn’t like, so when he asked me what a clafouti was that was in the case of a local bakery, I decided to surprise him by making one. I confess that I actually enjoy the occasional mindless, slightly tedious task that can be involved with food preparation. It’s a great time to catch up on my own thoughts or to have a cozy moment with a child, spouse or friend. So when this recipe called for 1 pound of stoned cherries, I didn’t flinch. If you don’t enjoy snapping the ends off of crisp green beans or peeling vegetables, then you can use a different fruit or a well-drained canned, pitted cherry. I, however, had some lovely, ripe cherries, a sharp paring knife and 20 minutes to spare for the task.

This recipe comes from an old French pastry book that I purchased in 1977. It is the Gaston Lenôtre’s Desserts and Pastries. So what is clafouti? It’s a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. This recipe uses a short pastry crust underneath. I know that my husband will be very happy tonight when dessert-time rolls around.

Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

Yield: Two 8-inch flans (about 6-8 servings)

Ingredients

Short pastry dough for 2 8-inch pie plates or flan pans

1 cup of whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

6.5 Tablespoons heavy cream

4 large eggs

Generous 3/4 cup, granulated sugar

4 drops orange blossom water (about 1/4 teaspoon)

1 pound of fresh, ripe cherries, halved with the pits removed (You will end up with about 3 cups of fruit)

Directions

  1. Roll out the dough and line 2 lightly buttered 8-inch pie plates or flan pans
  2. Refrigerate the pans for at least 1 hour before baking. This can be done one day ahead.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Line the 2 pie shells with waxed paper or foil and using dried beans or pie weights, bake the pie shells for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the paper or foil and weights and set the shells aside.
  5. Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan and allow it to gently boil for one minute. (If you are using a vanilla bean, you will add it in with the milk.) Don’t do what I did which was to carry on a texting conversation with my husband while the milk was on the stove. Of course, the milk boiled over. What a mess! After 1 minute, turn off the heat and add the cream and vanilla bean paste, if using. In all honesty, I’m not certain that this step is necessary. I have made plenty of flan and other custards over the years and I never cook the milk first…
  6. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with a wire whisk, until smooth and light yellow in color. Beating constantly, add the milk mixture a little at a time to temper the eggs. Stir in the orange blossom water. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and cold. You should end up with 3 cups of liquid.
  7. Fill the half-cooked pie shells with the cherries. Pour the creamy filling over the fruit. The pie pan should be no more than 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve the clafouti warm or cold. IMG_3342

NOTE: If you use a fluted flan pan instead of a pie plate, you will have more ingredients than the pan can easily hold. I used one flan pan and one pie plate (both 8-inches) and ended up with a little of the custard left over because the flan pan isn’t as deep as the pie plate. The flan pan baked in exactly 20 minutes. The pie plate which was deeper took somewhat longer.

Pistachio, Chocolate and Dried Cherries Tart

Valentine’s Day for some reason always means chocolate dessert for me.  Whether it’s a molten lava cake or a sachertorte or really any other chocolate dessert.  This would be great for this year’s weekday Valentine’s as it is easy to make ahead.

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We found this recipe after watching the Food Network and much to my pleasant surprise, this ended up being one of those recipes turns out exactly as you would expect.  I might have had to go to two or three different grocery stores to find the ingredients (dried cherries in a pinch are at Trader Joe’s, though I’d recommend buying from nuts.com if you have the time to plan ahead)!

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This is a very rich dessert though, so wouldn’t recommend making for a crowd that is looking for lighter desserts.  On the other hand, if one of your crowd members is a dedicated chocolate enthusiast (ahem, Matthew) this is a winner!

Also, I might have called this a cake for the 4 days it was around before Matt finished it off, and was reminded multiple times that this is a TART not a CAKE.  Not that that in any way diminished from its deliciousness.

Ingredients

Crust:
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing pan
  • Eight 4 1/2-inch-long plain or almond biscotti cookies, coarsely broken (about 5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cherry preserves or jam, such as Bonne Maman 
Filling:
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 cup chopped shelled pistachio nuts
  • Salt flakes, such as Maldon, optional

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Combine the biscotti, butter and sugar in a food processor. Blend until the mixture forms moist crumbs that stick together when pressed. Firmly press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until golden and feels firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. Spread the cherry preserves over the cooled crust leaving a 1/2 to 1-inch border.

For the filling: Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate chips. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the dried cherries and 1/2 cup of the pistachios. Pour the chocolate filling over the cherry preserves and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup pistachios on top. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or preferably overnight.

Loosen the tart from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the edge. Unmold the tart and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt flakes, if using. Cut into wedges and serve.