(Italian chocolate-almond torte)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a baker in possession of a surfeit of eggwhites must make macarons.
While at times I have adhered to this rule, it is my preference to reject such truths. I enjoy taste-testing everything I bake, and macarons just don’t rock my sugar addicted taste-buds the way cakes and pastries do.
This dairy-free and gluten-free cake from one of my favourite baking books, is so delicious that I wish I had excess egg whites lying around more often. Surprising to think that it took me awhile to finally try this recipe, even though it had been recommended by others many times before. The idea of egg whites, sugar, chocolate and nuts had me initially envisioning some sort of meringue cake which I’d once made and disliked. This one however, tastes exactly like how you would want any good chocolate cake to be. Softly yielding, rich but light. So. Very. Chocolate.
(Banana, yogurt and mesquite cake)
In case popping up after more than a month of not blogging comes as a complete surprise, I plead exhaustion and lack of time. At my current job, I’ve been working fairly long hours. That’s more of a statement than a complaint. In fact, I’m enjoying working in a kitchen more than ever. Long peppers, liquid nitrogen, toasted barley, preserved lemon meringues, caramelised milk crumbs and blistered buttery wafers now count amongst some of my favourite things.
Aside from perhaps too many conversations about cars and sports (football being the exception), I don’t mind the blokey atmosphere either, even if sometimes I’m tempted to request a token conversation about makeup and ‘feelings’.
As often as I can, I’ve been supplying this kitchen with snacks such as banana cake, to show my appreciation. Most people I’ve worked with, both past and present, often express complete surprise that I would spend my days-off baking. If you work 80+ hours on a regular basis, I probably wouldn’t either. Not only because it’s the cooking equivalent of taking your work home with you, but there’s probably nothing in the fridge at home anyway. Not even a carton of milk past it’s due by date. While I’m willing and able however, there will always be cake.
The idea of pairing banana with mesquite flour came about from a conversation with Kerry. Mesquite flour, from the bean of the mesquite plant, has a very distinctive sweet and spiced caramel flavour. It is especially good in chocolate chip cookies or even cookies such as these. Generally speaking, when using, I like to substitute up to 20% of the flour content with it.
Below are the recipes for both cakes, which I’ll hope you’ll go on and make to share with others. If you’re willing and able.
Italian chocolate-almond torte :
(Torta Cioccolata; recipe from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)
1 cup (140g) unblanched or blanched whole almonds
200g unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 large egg whites (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 175’C. Grease the sides of a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with baking paper.
Combine the almonds, chocolate, 1/2 cup of sugar and the slat in a food processor and pulse until the almonds and chocolate are very finely chopped but not completely pulverized. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Add one third of the nut mixture to the egg whites and fold in with a large rubber spatula until nearly incorporated. Fold in half of the remaining nuts, then fold in the rest of the nuts.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until the torte has risen and is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, or with a little melted chocolate, 25 to 30 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the bottom of the pan and then the baking liner. Turn the cake right side up and cool completely. Cover or wrap tightly, and store for up to 3 days at room temperature.
[Note: if you can’t get a hold of unsweetened chocolate, use the darkest chocolate you can buy eg. 70% or 85% and reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe]
Banana, yogurt and mesquite cake :
(based on Pichet Ong’s banana cake recipe, as appears in The Sweet Spot)
78g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g plain flour
30g mesquite flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
72g light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
228g roughly mashed bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
130g full-fat plain European style/Greek yogurt
Preheat the oven to 175’C. Lightly butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.
Sift together the flours, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
Put the butter, honey, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the bananas and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until the mixture looks lumpy, about 1 minute. The bananas should be smashed, with a few small chunks remaining.
Turn the speed to medium-low and beat in the egg until incorporated. Gradually add the sifted flour mixture, mixing just until no traces of flour remain, about 10 seconds. Fold in the yogurt gently. At this point, you can also fold through a handful of cocoa nibs if you wish.
Transfer the batter to the greased pan. Bake in the center of the oven until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool completely on the rack.