This week, this life

(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
85g honey
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.

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  1. clumbsycookie said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 2:52 am

    I was wondering where you were! This post made me miss working in a kitchen! There’s nothing better than having cake arround and sharing it with others! Both look special!

  2. Rosa said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 2:56 am

    A wonderful torte and cake! Banana and mesquite, that is one incredible combo.



  3. Trissa said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 4:14 am

    So funny you mentioned macarons. I love making them but many flavours I find too sweet and really just enjoy the process of making them and seeing the feet rise. I’ll surely try the chocolate cake now! Looks superb.

  4. Asha@FSK said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 5:23 am

    Great to see you back posting!!! πŸ™‚ missed you while you were away! And this is the perfect post I was looking for. I plan to have am abundance of egg whites and I think you have given me a solution to that problem aside making way too many scrambled whites :))

  5. Hannah said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 6:03 am

    Beautiful, and your banana cake looks pillow-soft. I love the idea of including mesquite flour- I imagine it would add delicious malty, cereal-y flavors. Gotta try that in my next banana bread.

  6. Lucie said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 7:06 am

    Your chocolate almond tore sounds delicious! I make a similar French cake without the chocolate–I’ll add some next time and see how it turns out!

  7. Jennifer @ Maple n Cornbread said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 8:28 am

    Great way to use up the egg whites and I am loving the sounds of the mesquite in the banana bread!!

  8. Steph said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 8:51 am

    I totally empathise with the lack of time and exhaustion, but it’s great to see you back! And I’m surprised (and envious) with all the snacks you are supplying to your workmates. Meh to macarons, that torte looks like a much better way to use up egg whites.

  9. shez said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    So glad to hear you’re enjoying your present position (work hours, exhaustion & lack of time aside), and that you’re still able to find some pleasure in the work you bring home with you.

    Love the look and sound of your cake too (and what are universal rules for, in any case, if not to be broken).

  10. Betty @ The Hungry Girl said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

    Glad to have you back! I was just browsing some of your old stuff and then I was surprised to find a new post! YAY! Glad you’re enjoying your new job! The cakes look delicious πŸ˜€

  11. Ali said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    Y, I am so glad life is busy but full for you. I love both of these recipes. Mesquite is rumoured to have the same aphrodisic effects as oysters; I hope bringing this cake to a kitchen full of men has not created a porblem for you in your new workplace πŸ˜‰
    Have fun Ali

  12. faithy said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    Mesquite flour sounds interesting..i’ve never heard of it. I have to go google after this..:) I should be making this almond torte..i have TONS of eggwhites in the freezer..i don’t know what to do with them..:S

  13. Shaheen said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

    Glad you’re back! I had coworkers giving me that same look when I baked on my day off from well, baking! Need to look up that mesquite flour

  14. OohLookBel said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

    Oh, I love the look of the mesquite cake. The pretty icing is girly enough to counteract the manliness of the ‘woody’ cake, hehe!

  15. Anh said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

    Take good care of yourself, Y. we always miss you here πŸ™‚

    And that chocolate cake! Remember once I asked u about unsweetened choc? πŸ˜€ It’s for that very cake. But you beat me to it!

  16. Anda said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

    They both look and sound exquisite. By the way, I can confirm that mesquite and bananas are a match made in heaven. After seeing Aran’s cookies, i bought mesquite and tried it in all kinds of deserts, but the ones that I love the most are: a banana, cocoa beans and coconut cake and cocoa bean mesquite cookies (with kamut flour as the base).

  17. the caked crusader said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

    I am always drawn to anything with almonds – so rich and flavoursome. Never had mesquite so would be interested to try the banana cake.

  18. shaz said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

    One can never have enough chocolate, in my opinion πŸ™‚ Glad to see you here! Umm, do you really work 80 hour weeks? And then bake at home? Wow. Just wow.

  19. Jamie said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    Welcome back, dear! Your job sounds like it is making you very happy and satisfied and lucky them to be the recipients of your treats. That Italian chocolate torte looks scrumptious and is now on my must list!

  20. Wei-Wei said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

    Glad to see you back! I’ve read your blog before but somehow lost it… I’m back again, and loving it as much as ever. This looks so dense and moist, like pound cake almost! Yummy πŸ˜€


  21. veggie wedgie said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 12:25 am

    Yummy-I love mesquite!

  22. Laura said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 1:08 am

    Y, I am so glad you posted these recipes. I have Pure Dessert but I haven’t baked much from it, not sure why.

    I was laid off last week due to poor sells so now I have all the time in the world to bake at home. But we are working on opening a small bake shop in my home town and that is so exciting I can barely contain myself. I am scared to death by the amount of details and things that need to be done but I can’t wait to be my own boss. Keep your fingers crossed that we can raise the money we need.

    I was working in a whole male kitchen too, mostly Spanish speaking and I have learned some “interesting” expressions lately….

    Thanks for the recipes!

  23. Caitlin said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 1:57 am

    Welcome back, at least for a little bit πŸ™‚ I hope the trip-planning is going well – shoot me a note when you have things down so we can hopefully meet up! And since I finally have all of my baking ingredients back with me after three months, my baking list is a mile long. But that first cake? Totally speeding its way to the head of the list πŸ™‚

  24. kelly said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 4:25 am

    80+ hours a week? Whew! I thought I had it bad (leaving retirement for a year which is officially over. YEAH!) Good for you that you’re still plugging along here in spite of your busy life– especially with such yummy treats. I’m with you on the use of extra egg whites. Macarons are good, but it’s not what I run to make with my frozen extras. Good choice on your part.

  25. steph (whisk/spoon) said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 5:00 am

    long peppers and milk crumbs…i do wonder where you are working! mesquite flour also has me intrigued, but i’ve been wanting to make that torte from medrich for ages now!

  26. Juliana said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 7:11 am

    Wow, both the torte and the cake look fantastic…specially the almond one…cannot resist anything with almond and chocolate πŸ™‚ Nice nice pictures as usual πŸ˜‰

  27. Su-yin said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 7:16 am

    I’m intrigued by your banana cake.. I’ve never used mesquite flour but now I will have to!

    p.s. If only you were my colleague/neighbour….

  28. grace said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 7:28 am

    until now, i considered myself a baker, but then i realized that when i have excess egg whites, i make an omelet. i guess that effectively banishes me from the world of bakers. πŸ™‚
    great treats, y!

  29. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said,

    July 20, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    Thanks for giving us a two-fer. Both of these look amazing, Y. I’m glad you’re enjoying your job in spite of the hours and how lucky for your coworkers to have you to make such wonderful treats.

  30. Tara said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 1:05 am

    So glad to hear you’re happy in your work again! It always feels good to be busy when you’re doing something that fulfills you. The cakes both look lovely. I’ve been playing with mesquite also, and so far my favorite has been the espresso brownies I put it in. But with bananas? I’m intrigued, and convinced it would be delicious! Good thing I’ve still got some mesquite left. And it’s funny you mention the “universal rule” about egg whites and macarons. My own preference has been to make Swiss meringue buttercream, for stocking my freezer. I’d much rather be one step closer to cake than to have a bunch of macarons laying around!

  31. Jas said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

    yum – I’ve been looking for a recipe just like the almond torte! Thank you!

  32. Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

    Now that you mention it – it is fairly odd that you bake in your time off. I wouldn’t. But then, I’m seriously lazy! Luckily for us that you do, your creations are always so gorgeous. Welcome back too!

  33. cakebrain said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

    Mesquite flour? wow. fancy stuff! You sound so happy with your job, even though you work long hard hours! I did miss you and glad to see this post! It looks yummy!

  34. Lee said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

    “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 β€˜feelings’.”

    This made me smirk out loud because I can sooo relate. Although football does my head in as much as the rest and I probably would have said, I don’t know – shoes and feelings πŸ™‚

  35. Arwen from Hoglet K said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 5:08 am

    Caramalised milk crumbs sounds very exotic! The homelier cakes are more appealing to me. The soft chocolate cake sounds wonderful, as does a yoghurty banana cake.

  36. Laetitia said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    both recipes look so delicious!

  37. Laetitia said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

    Both recipes look so delicious!!

  38. shirley@kokken69 said,

    July 25, 2010 @ 1:05 am

    It is quite evident from your numerous posts that you Love chocolates! This cake looks wholesome, rustic and totally versatile!

  39. erin said,

    July 25, 2010 @ 4:39 am

    Mesquite. Interesting! You’re always teaching me something new, Y. Must try this!!

  40. Relish_Desserts said,

    July 26, 2010 @ 5:38 am

    “While I’m willing and able however, there will always be cake.”

    Love this!

  41. Big Boys Oven said,

    July 26, 2010 @ 5:24 pm

    wow this two are truly excellent! πŸ™‚

  42. cathy x. said,

    July 26, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

    oooh yum yum :P* have you planned your holidays yet? mesquite sounds like a type of hallucinogenic cactus from mexico..

  43. deeba said,

    July 27, 2010 @ 1:25 am

    You make me want to grab egg whites and race to the kitchen… wow! Both excellent bakes, but the chocolate torte is calling my name first!
    {Living in India, mesquite reminds me of mosquitoes …LOL}

  44. InTolerantChef said,

    July 27, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    I love the first cake as I don’t have to change a thing! I’ve never used mesquite flour before, but will now. I find working in an all male atmosphere confronting at times- and I now know much more about the male of the species than I am comfortable with and I have been married for 20 years!

  45. anna said,

    July 28, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

    OMG I want that banana cake! I want The Sweet Spot. At least I can go into Spot once in a while for a little Pichet magic. Wish I could send you some of his glittery confections!

  46. Cannelle Et Vanille said,

    July 29, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

    oh i have to try the banana mesquite cake!

  47. Nina said,

    May 21, 2011 @ 5:09 am

    I had so many egg whites from making ice cream.. now half of them are used up! Your chocolate cake is ingenious and so delicious, thank you!

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