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desserts Italian Recipes sweets & cookies

Torta Caprese – Italian Flourless Almond Chocolate Cake

May 23, 2011
torta caprese - italian flourless chocolate almond cake

torta caprese - italian flourless chocolate almond cake

torta caprese - italian flourless chocolate almond cake

I spent the weekend on a decongestant induced producivity high (that pseudoephedrine stuff really makes me unable to sit still! Sure clears out the sinuses though) which turned me into a bit of a domestic superwoman– cleaning floors, and bathrooms, and reorganizing my pantry, labeling all of my spices, and fertilizing the garden, and trimming it, and doing laundry, and making a delicious dinner of tri tip, chimichurri sauce + farro with fava beans, and washing/prepping all the produce in my refrigerator (which believe me, was a lot). To boot, I made this cake. And it’s delicious.

Torta Caprese – Flourless Almond Chocolate Cake Recipe
9 ounces (255 g) quality dark chocolate
1 cup (225 g / 2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup (25 g) dark cocoa powder (I scored some Valharona)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/4 cup (250 g) granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups ground almonds*
6 eggs, room temperature

*If you have whole, slivered, or other almonds, and a high powered blender or food processor, please toast your almonds to release the oil/fragrance for about 15 minutes at 310, and then grind into a meal (but not into a butter; you may need to “pulse” instead of blend to achieve this); otherwise, buy almond meal at your grocery.
Preheat an oven to 310°F and line the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper.
Slowly melt the chocolate and butter over a double-boiler. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer), whisk together the melted chocolate mixture, the cocoa powder, almond extract and sugar until combined.
Add the ground almonds and whisk until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.
Pour the mixture into the spring form pan.  Make sure the mixture is level and smooth on top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.
A note about oven temperature:  Make sure your oven is not hotter than 310 (or the temperature you intend to maintain through baking) when starting. You will avoid the “muffin top” problem I had by doing so; mine started at 325, so the cake puffed, and then the oven fell to 310, so it then sank, creating a two layered situation on the sides where the heat effected it most. It did take a full 60 minutes at a true 310.
Serving: I’d recommend an unsweetened whipped cream, ice cream if serving the cake warm, and/or creme fraiche or mascarpone cheese with raspberries or fruit of your choice.
Recipes sweets & cookies

Red Velvet Macarons & Thank You Gifts

October 24, 2010
red velvet french macarons made with italian method

red velvet french macarons made with italian method

Another round of macarons..using the Italian method. Admittedly, I was a little rushed and a little lazy piping this out, so they are a bit unevenly sized.

Basic French Macarons (Italian Method)

Part One
1 1/2 C powdered sugar (168 grams)
1 1/2 C Almond flour (or other nut flour; 168 grams)
2 large egg whites (55 grams)
Any extracts (use sparingly, 1/4 tsp or less), cocoa powder, or food colorings are added in this stage

Part Two
2 large egg whites (55 grams)
3/4 C granulated sugar (150 grams)
1/4 C water

Stand mixer (If you choose to use a hand mixer I recommend having four hands, or you will find this to be a pain.)
Candy thermometer or good probe thermometer
Piping bags (1 large, one smaller for the icing; I prefer to use one with a coupler)
3/8 plain piping tip
Non-temperamental oven, or oven thermometer and hawk eye

Line 2 baking sheets with silpats or parchment; You may want to create a template to place below the parchment when piping of 1 inch circles. Prep your large piping bag with the tip, using a coupler or not. Preheat the oven to 275 F.

Place two egg whites in bowl of the stand mixer and add the whisk attachment. Plug the beast in.

In a bowl, preferably with a flat bottom, mix the powdered sugar and almond flour well. Add any powders such as matcha or cocoa at this time. For RED VELVET cookies/chocolate cookies, add 20 grams cocoa powder as a replacement for some powdered sugar. Always replace powdered sugar with dry flavorings in order to keep the balance of the batter. Add the egg whites and any food coloring and extracts such as vanilla, almond, etc. Mix into a paste with a large spatula, until it shows even color.

In small saucepan on medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. Place the thermometer in the pan from the get-go, when it gets to 226F, begin whipping the egg whites on high. When the sugar reaches 230 (egg whites should be a bit foamy), remove it from the flame and add the liquid slowly to the whipping egg whites to create an Italian meringue. Continue whipping until the bowl is cool to touch, about 8 minutes or so, depending on the temp of the room.

Fold the cooled meringue into the almond mixture. Notice that the batter looks like shiny plastic; watch for it to look like wet plastic shortly after the ingredients are combined. Be sure not to stir the batter, but to fold* cutting in and rotating the bowl. When it looks shiny, stop, and put it in the piping bag.

*Find a youtube video on this if you aren’t sure how. The videos are all wrong, I just looked. None of them are quite right. The main thing is to put your spatula in vertical, like a knife. Then, pull it through along the side of the bowl and around, gently turning it over the center and letting the batter you scooped drop. Rotate the bowl 1/4 and cut into the center and do it again. Rinse and repeat. It’s important.

Pipe them out into even 1-inch circles spaced 1 inch apart. Bake for 12-20 minutes; Mine took about 14. Check every 2 minutes after the first twelve by touching the top of the macaron with a flat finger and trying to shake it. The cookies are done when the top moves just a little against the ruffle.  Let them cool a minute or two before attempting to remove with a small, sturdy metal spatula. They taste best if you stick them in the fridge covered overnight, or even the completed cookies this way. They’re good up to five days, and the cookies without filling can be frozen.

Cream Cheese Icing for Red Velvet Macarons
4 oz cream cheese room temp
1/2 stick butter room temp
1/2 lb confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix butter and cream cheese – whip 30 seconds or so. Slowly add sugar with a hand mixer on low, scrape sides once in a while. Add vanilla and blend until fluffy, 1 minute.

Italian Buttercream Icing – Great standard macaron filling
2 egg whites (55 grams)
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
60g unsalted butter at room temp, roughly diced (just less than a 1/2 stick)

Whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl bain-marie style (over a pot of simmering water) and heat the mixture, whisking often, for 3-5mins until the  sugar has dissolved.

Remove from heat and whisk on high speed with a hand mixer until it is stiff and shiny, similar to the Italian meringue made for the macarons. Add the butter slowly, one cube at a time, and continue to mix till all the butter is combined. Add any flavorings and refrigerate to firm up to use in a piping bag.

You can flavor and color this icing many different ways; try adding some green tea powder when the sugar is melting, or some food coloring once it’s whipped up.

ligurian olive oil

& Thank you gifts! I hosted my old roommate (of Tuscany Road Trip 2006 fame) & her friend a few weeks ago; recently a surprise package arrived! She sent me delicious fig balsamic and extremely hard-to-get-my-paws-on Ligurian Olive oil!! Way to bring back awesome times, K! I spent lots of weekends in Cinque Terre when I lived in Florence, and it just brought back amazing culinary memories. I can’t wait to use it.