Gotta Share This – Torta Caprese

A couple of weeks ago, Saturday afternoon, I was watching America’s Test Kitchen on PBS. Among the dishes they made was a Torta Caprese – “an Italian flourless chocolate cake with finely ground almonds (which breaks up the heavy fudge crumb of most flourless chocolate cakes)”. They’re right – it does.

I went to the website to find the recipe: America’s Test Kitchen – Torta Caprese. I saved it, and printed it out. (If you can’t get to the recipe let me know because I created a PDF from the “print” pages and can pass that on.)

Torta Caprese

I was anticipating a very chocolate-y, light cake and it is.

Here is my torta caprese – I must explain why it doesn’t look like the one above (from America’s Test Kitchen).

Torta Caprese

First, there’s an ambiguity in the recipe – it calls for 2 cups (7 ounces) of almond flour – well, which is it? 2 cups or 7 ounces (and BTW my cup = 8 ounces, not 7, but I ignored that discrepancy.) I added 1 cup of almond flour at the appropriate place in the recipe, mixed it into the batter, and I thought the batter looked reasonably thick at that point but to be on the safe side, I added another 1/4 cup scoop of almond flour, just in case the batter really needed more. I’d say, having sampled the cake, that it’s just a tad on the dry side and next time I’d only add a single cup of almond flour.

Second, my springform pan is 9 1/2″ – I could have used a smaller diameter which would make the cake taller, or I could have baked it in a 8 1/2″ parchment-lined cake pan which would also have produced a taller cake.

Third, the recipe recommends turning the cake around half way through the baking. I did that, but had an accident! I was baking the cake in my convection toaster oven which is large enough for my spring form pan. I pulled out the rack to be able to reach  the cake pan when the rack tipped toward the back of the oven, the cake pan tipped spilling some batter into the oven. I managed to right the pan and the rack and get both back in position. I left the mess in the bottom of the oven hoping I’d be able to clean it reasonably easily if it didn’t bake on too badly. So the top of my Torta is kind of wonky having been disturbed half way through baking.

But I have to say the cake tastes “right some good” as folks say in this part of the country. Served warmed (I’d zap a slice in the microwave for, say, 12-15 seconds), with a spoonful of a good vanilla ice cream – a lovely dessert for guests.

I’m planning on cutting the cake into small portions, freezing each separately, and eating the whole thing myself – preferably over a period of weeks.

Craving Cocolate!

I ate the last of the chocolate I had in the apartment three days ago (except for the chocolate chips which I have been saving to make some cookies – more later).

This afternoon I found myself craving chocolate. I remembered the sugar/dairy free chocolate which I haven’t made for a number of years – I had the ingredients, I hauled them out, and put a batch together.

Sugar/Dairy Free Chocolate

I more or less followed the recipe – I added ground cacao nibs, some finely chopped candied ginger and dried cranberries along with finely ground hazel nuts. This batch should last me a couple of weeks. A little satisfies.

Click here for the recipe and other commentary.

The chocolate was actually the second thing I made. I started with Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (Flourless, No Butter). (I made a batch last week which are, of course, gone.)

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Another recipe I didn’t follow precisely. I used both chunky and smooth peanut butter, but I also had a small amount of tahini I wanted to use up which I threw in. In addition to the oatmeal (called for in the recipe), I added 1/2c finely ground hazelnuts; forgot raisins or dried cranberries.

No flour in the recipe, no butter. What makes this very sticky dough is the nut butter/egg combination. The only way to get it onto the cookie sheet is to pick some up with a tablespoon and push it onto the cookie sheet using a teaspoon. You can’t handle it. The Silpat baking mat makes it easy to remove the cookies when baked and cooled. I store them in the refrigerator.

Says to bake for 9-12 minutes; I baked these for close to 15 before I thought they were firm enough to take out of the oven.

They are “right some good!”

[A recommendation from my friend Susan in Alberta:

I made the peanut butter cookie recipe you posted on your blog. Wow!They are great.David loves them.I broke up a dark chocolate bar. 90% cacao to add since I didn’t have dairy free chocolate chips. It will be a standard recipe now for us. April 11/2020]

The cooking/baking overcame me AFTER I finished up the face masks from yesterday, washed them and hung them to dry.

Today’s Batch Of Masks Hanging To Dry

I have to collect 20 of them, pack them up to courier to Toronto tomorrow. I have another batch of 40 sitting by machine ready to work on when I get up in the morning.

There’s now a huge controversy raging over whether there’s any value to these face masks or not. One of the local seniors’ homes has put out a call to the local sewing guilds to please make face masks for them. So whether public health considers them useful or not, clearly there is a demand in my community.

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

Several months ago a friend gave me a jar of rhubarb ginger jam – oh wow! It has the sharpness of the rhubarb and the liveliness of the ginger. Delicious on toast, but amazing on ice cream! Good with roast pork… There are a ton of ways you can pair this jam to make something remarkable – it’s just a matter of imagination.

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

My jar of jam is just about empty. Time to make some for myself. I checked out several recipes online – the one I decided to try was the one I found at “all recipes.com“. My friend got her recipe from the UK Certo website. (You can also download their book of recipes).

I started with a bag of frozen rhubarb (early January is definitely not rhubarb season although fresh rhubarb was what the recipe called for), put it in a pot (still frozen), added three tablespoons of grated fresh ginger root (I keep my ginger root in the freezer and grate it as I need it, works fine), three cups of sugar (next time I’ll try 2 1/2 cups – it shouldn’t affect the sweetness all that much and will reduce the quantity of sugar used; I might even be able to get away with 2 cups), and three tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice (no substitute for this).

Started the mixture on a low heat to defrost the rhubarb – once it was softened, I turned the heat up to medium high, brought the mixture to a boil, turned it down to medium and boiled for 15 minutes until the rhubarb was falling apart. (Here’s where I cheated a bit – I used my immersion blender to break up the remaining intact pieces of rhubarb after boiling for 15 minutes, but didn’t whiz it enough to purée the jam).

The recipe made 5 small bottles of jam which will go into my refrigerator as soon as it’s cooled to room temperature.

I couldn’t resist tasting as I went along – I admit to licking the spoon and the pot before cleaning them. The taste is heavenly. Do try it.

Christmas Shortbread Bars

1/8 of Cookie Sheet

I described in December of 2015 how I make my Christmas Shortbread Bars. I related their history and offered recipe information.

They are a once-a-year-thing, for the Christmas season. I made them again yesterday – the photo above is 1/8 of the large cookie sheet I made. It’s enough for a gift – it can, in turn, be cut into 12 – 16 bite size pieces – more than enough for anyone to taste because these bars are VERY rich.

So if you are interested in how I make them check out that earlier writing – Christmas Shortbread Bars. They’re easy to make, pretty fool-proof. And if you make them once, I guarantee you’ll make them again next year.

The story from yesterday is I thought I had assembled all the ingredients. I made the shortbread and baked it for 15 minutes to set it up. I had the topping ingredients in a bowl ready to be mixed when I discovered I had no condensed milk to glue everything together. So off to the supermarket to get some. While I was there I picked up some of the ingredients I need for the Christmas Sweet Kugel – more about that next week after I make a batch of them. Came home, mixed the topping, spread it over the now-cooled, partially baked shortbread, put the full, heavy cookie sheet back in the 350° oven to bake for another 20ish minutes – until the coconut began turning golden.

You can see, this pastry is forgiving – it turned out fine and the gals in my knitting group today enjoyed it. Now to refrain from eating any more myself!

Vegetarian Chili

Fall has arrived here in Nova Scotia – it’s drizzly today and windy with a chill in the air. A perfect day to make a large pot of chili.

This time I decided to make it vegetarian. I guess that was because I had been listening to a CBC radio program “White Coat, Black Art” – today’s episode was a repeat of an earlier one on a plant based diet. I’m eating less meat than I used to, so I thought a vegetarian chili would be a good thing to have in my freezer.

A Pot Of Vegetarian Chili

Here is the recipe (see below) I sort of used – it calls for onions, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cans of tomatoes and corn, white and red kidney beans… In addition, I substituted a jar of flame roasted red peppers (Unico) for the bell peppers, added mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, leftover coleslaw cabbage, 1/3 can tomato paste, a good glug of tomato ketchup (French’s), a splash of HP sauce, and squeezed cilantro paste from a tube to liven the flavour.

Vegetarian Chili Recipe

In other words, since I was making a vegetarian chili I simply emptied my fridge, tossing in whatever vegetables were there.

My final secret ingredient was a full teaspoon of Sambal Oelek which gives the chili a lovely “zip” – you have to be careful with the amount because a very little goes a l-o-n-g way. It gives you heat with a hint of garlic, but doesn’t  overpower the chili flavour.

The pot’s still simmering.I will leave it on low heat for another 10 minutes or so to give the carrots, cauliflower, cabbage time to soften more. Then I’ll set the pot aside to cool before putting single servings in containers and stashing them in my freezer.

Yum!

Dessert For Easter Dinner

I got assigned dessert for today’s Easter Sunday Dinner. I thought about it for a bit and decided the Hazelnut Torte recipe from my friend Marlene is an easy but tasty cake. Takes no time to whip up.

(click on the recipe and you’ll get a clear readable, printable single page copy)

Torte in the oven I decided to use the egg yokes (with a couple more eggs) to make a half (more or less) recipe of this delicious lemon curd:

Positively yummy! Tart, yet sweet (next time I’d go light on the sugar – I used 1 cup for a half recipe 3/4 c is more than enough)

Next I made a batch of no-churn vanilla ice cream to put on top of the torte:

Then to top it all off my sister Donna’s “Best Chocolate Sauce” (it really is!)

It’s overkill, I realize but each of these dessert elements is so decadent I couldn’t help but go overboard!

Sweet Kugel Time Again

It’s time to make my mother’s sweet kugel again – it’s a once a year thing which I bake around Christmas time. I’m a week early this year mostly because I’ve committed to making four and I wanted to get them done and in the freezer so I can cross them off my “to-do” list.

Sweet Kugel In The Oven

This year I had help – I was mentioning today would be kugel making day and Deb thought it would be interesting – I Invited her to help me make them. With two of us preparing the dough, slicing the apples, rolling dough… we were done the whole production in just over an hour including the clean up!

I took the kugels out of the baking dishes before they were fully cooled because the juices get very thick when cold and I wanted the pastry to fall out onto waxed paper when I inverted the dishes. They’re all wrapped and in the freezer and the dishes washed and put away.

A brief recap: this dish is made with a sticky stretchy dough – flour, a beaten egg, 1/4 c vegetable oil, 3/4 c water (pinch of salt). Once rolled out it’s covered with cinnamon/sugar, strawberry jam, cranberry sauce (with berries), finely sliced apples, raisins. Then you fold the dough edges over the filling, gingerly pick it up and plop it in to a greased baking dish bottom side up, sprinkle more cinnamon/sugar on top, bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes (until top starts to brown) then reduce heat to 325 and bake another hour, hour and a quarter, covered. The kitchen smells wonderful by the time the kugels are baked.

I described in detail how the kugels are made and provided the recipe two years ago. I made them the same way this time.

Wonderful with poultry.

I had one in my freezer from last year and when my friend Elayne was visiting late summer I was looking for a dessert and decided to defrost it and we had it with ice cream so while the dish is intended to be served as a savoury – it’s also a lovely dessert!

All Set To Bake

I’m all set to make and bake the Christmas cakes on the weekend. The fruit will have soaked in rum for a week (large white bowl with blue lid). I have the flour and sugar, baking soda and baking powder, molasses and semi-sweet chocolate, real vanilla and almond extract, ginger, nutmeg, clove, allspice and cinnamon (the seville orange marmalade has already been incorporated into the soaking fruit).

The foil baking pans and parchment paper are on hand, butter and eggs still in the refrigerator but I’ll bring them out Friday night so they can come to room temperature before I start to mix ingredients.

The Ingredients Ready To Go

I’ll start by prepping the foil load pans by adding a wee bit of vegetable oil to the bottom and sides of each (to stick the parchment in place), fitting in parchment paper (so I can lift out the cake more easily after they’ve cooled). Then I need to retrieve my lobster pot (an old 21 litre blue/white enamel canning pot I mostly use for mixing the Christmas cakes), wipe it out, find a sturdy mixing spoon because the fruit is heavy to mix.

21 litre Canning Pot

It’ll take me close to an hour to mix the batter, add and blend it with the fruit. Finally, I’ll partially fill the lined loaf pans (too full and they’ll overflow into the oven), then bake them in a slow oven until a skewer comes out clean.

If you’re interested here’s the recipe. Trust me, it’s a delicious dark fruit cake if you like dark fruit cake.

I haven’t mentioned the Christmas shortbread bars yet. It’s the only other Christmas baking I do. I make one cookie sheet, cut it into eighths and give 7 away! They’re too rich to keep around. They’ll get made closer to Christmas and this year I will try to remember to take a picture to share.

Sweet Kugel – 2016

Sweet Kugel

Sweet Kugel

That time of year again.Two days before Christmas – making the sweet kugel for Christmas dinner at Marlene’s. Can’t make just one, my sister Donna loves this kugel so one for her (for her freezer); and one for a friend also in time for Christmas dinner.

I described in detail last year how I make it – Sweet Kugel – so I won’t go into the details again. If you want to learn how it’s done click on the link.

They’ve been in the oven about 20 minutes and already the apartment is smelling wonderful!

Death By Chocolate Brownies (Gluten Free!)

brownies

This is what they look like – VERY chocolatey and moist.

Here’s the recipe from Delicious Obsessions (click on recipe to see an enlarged image you can print):

brownie-recipe

Here’s how I make them:

In blender put: cut up banana, vanilla, 2 eggs, maple syrup and 3 tbsp of coconut (or almond) milk and blend thoroughly

In a medium size bowl: measure out the cocoa powder and baking soda (I use 1 tsp).

Add wet to dry and mix well. I add raisins, sometimes coconut, ground pecans. (You could also add candied ginger bits if you weren’t worried about cane sugar…)

Pour into a parchment lined 8×8 or 9×9 cake pan, bake for 25-30 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

This is important: let brownies cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.

The brownies freeze well. I get 16 servings from one pan – they’re so rich that I quarter the brownies, then quarter them again.

I serve with Hagen Das Limoncello Gelato (which contains, of course, diary):

lemon-gelato

Yum! The tanginess of the lemon with the intense chocolate is very satisfying. You can even go further and splash some Bailey’s Irish Cream over the whole thing but then, of course you’re adding more sugar and diary! But who really cares, right?

The recipe (without the additions) can be gluten, dairy, and grain free!