Saturday, April 23, 2011

CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO PECAN TORTE

I’M LISTENING…


I am occasionally accused, wrongly so, I might add, of not listening. Or, worse, of being “tĂȘtue comme une mule”, headstrong and going my own way, not adapting to the necessities of the situation, of refusing to understand the needs and requirements of those around me. This usually, under normal circumstances, has to do with our sons. Yes, he has told me time and again that I speak to our sons as if they were daughters, explaining where no explanation is required, using too many words where one sharp No! would suffice. Of appealing to their better judgment, their feelings as sons, reasoning with them when all that I should be doing is setting down the law, our law, and giving them the iron eye if they attempt to argue. I negotiate, plead, understand, and, according to others, cave in. Instead of listening to him.




I have been scolded for joking where jokes fall flat, teasing those who have no sense of humor whatsoever, but yet I can’t help myself. On and on I go, making light of a situation or trying to coax out a smile only to be stared at blankly or downright ignored. Or of opening my mouth when I should just keep quiet, letting off steam, which only makes the room hotter instead of listening to the unstated “just let it pass!” I have been accused of throwing money out the window by continuing to buy certain foodstuffs, cheeses or cookies or flavors of this or that because I haven’t listened when I was sternly informed that no one liked them. But how many times can they tell me how much they love something, how delicious it is, before I am to understand that what is really being said is “I don’t like this so please don’t ever buy it again”? I listen but I obviously don’t hear! I am admonished for letting my mind wander during discussions of money or politics or films or agendas, of claiming at some later date that it was never said, plans or appointments never spoken of. Or denounced for thinking of other things while an argument rages around me or a powwow is in full force demanding my participation.

But they are wrong, for I do listen. I am sensitive to the wants of others. Their desires and requests are always uppermost in my thoughts, driving me to purchase this food or that, or fighting against my own personal beliefs or, worse, those automatic reflexes of the woman that I am, that I have become. I suffer from neither stubbornness nor self-will, from inflexibility or disregard. I neither misinterpret nor do I purposefully make decisions based on idle supposition. I listen and I try, yes I do.

I admit that my head is often in the clouds, full of fluff. I am quite often oblivious to the world at large. My work, my writing is all consuming and if spoken to while in the middle of a thought, a paragraph, a sentence I simply will not hear. Nose and brain deep inside a book and everything else just disappears. I cannot focus on two things at once and when I put my mind to something the rest simply floats lazily around my head like butterflies on a warm day, gently tapping against my skull, like a dull, monotonous buzz, a fuzzy background noise lulling me to sleep. Sometimes I just ignore what is said as something superfluous to my own beliefs or to whatever it is I must focus on in the here and now. Food trends or famous people, a must-read article or touted event, the happenings of some far away place that simply have no interest for me must make way for what is nearer and dearer. Idle blather or teen ramblings don’t grab my attention nor do statements that I just find, well, useless. But as for all the rest, well, I know for a fact that sometimes they claim to have told me something that was just never uttered or enlightened me of certain facts that just rubbed against the grain, asked me to behave in a way that was just impossible for me. Or simply my lack of reaction fed their belief that I didn’t hear, that I was somewhere else.


Yet some things said and repeated definitely do make an impression even if it takes me some time to sit up and notice, a few jostlings of the old noggin to arouse me to action. It may just take time for the idea to be absorbed before popping up to the surface or it may be hidden somewhere, nestled deep inside the mysterious folds of gray matter before stimulation causes sparks to fly, igniting the nerveways, finally registering and causing me to respond. But when I notice that my traffic jumps, that my popularity soars whenever I post something rich, decadent and chocolatey I do eventually acknowledge it. I must! When you raise the hue and cry about what turns you on, what flavors drive you so wild that you drop to your knees and beg for more, yes indeed I listen. And as my one desire is to make you happy, I do everything in my power to indulge your every whim, satisfy your pleasure, fulfill your wants. Cherry, orange, almond, blueberry may excite and send us into a passionate state of ecstasy, but nothing inspires, nothing thrills like the addition of a mere spoonful or two of deep, dark, bitter, earthy espresso. It turns a simple chocolate cake into something elegant, adult, heady with flavor and mystery. Or lighten it into a creamy, smooth, delicate mocha and watch eyes light up, heads turn, smiles of utmost satisfaction steal across and lighten even the most hardened expression.

Well, dear readers, I have listened.


Another Passover dessert. I couldn’t resist. The others, the Berry Mascarpone Cheesecake on a Chocolate Sponge Base and the Chocolate Almond Torte with Cherries, disappeared in record time! But let us push all the berries of spring aside for a moment, those light, feminine accessories, and satisfy our deeper appetite, our craving, our predilection, nay, weakness for that most adult of flavor combinations, that earthy bite of espresso and dark just-bitter chocolate. Oh so very adult, we feel as if we are delving into a world of sin or wicked pleasure, pampering ourselves as the children look on enviously from afar. Well, go ahead and share if you dare, for this cake is much too good to keep all to yourself. Or shall I say it is too good to share? But, then again, maybe you aren’t listening….


This is truly a stunning cake! Perfect for Passover, it is fabulous all year round for any occasion. Not at all like other Passover cakes, this is both moist yet cakey and feather light. The pecans are less aggressive in flavor than almonds, less bitter than walnuts and the dash of espresso gives the cake just a warm hint of coffee. This must be my absolute favorite Passover treat, one that I continue to make all year round. Go on, try it. Listen to Mama…


CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO PECAN TORTE
A recipe adapted, twisted, tweaked and personalized from Jayne Cohen’s marvelous cookbook The Gefilte Variations.

¾ cup (150 g) sugar, divided
½ cup (125 ml) water
6 oz (175 g) fine-quality, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or a combination of the two *
6 large eggs, separated
Pinch salt
1 ½ - 1 ¾ cups (150 – 180 g) pecan halves
3 Tbs matzoh cake meal
1 ½ tsps fine instant espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla


* I used Lindt 70% dark chocolate, 100 grams Doux or mild semisweet and 75 grams dark bittersweet

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Set rack to lower third of the oven. Line a 9-inch (23 cm) cake pan with parchment paper.

In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine and heat ½ cup (100 g) of the sugar and the ½ cup (125 ml) water over medium heat just until it comes to a boil and the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.

Separate the eggs very carefully. Place the whites in a large, very clean, grease-free mixing bowl, preferably plastic or metal if possible, with a pinch of salt. Place the yolks in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Grind the pecans with the remaining sugar and the matzoh meal in a food processor; do this in 2 batches if using a small processor. Stir the ground ingredients and the espresso powder in with the beaten egg yolks. Stir in the cooled chocolate and the vanilla until the batter is smooth and well blended.

Using very clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt on low speed for 30 seconds then increase speed to high and beat the whites until stiff peaks form and hold and the whites feel thick like marshmallow cream when touched. Using a spatula, fold about a quarter of the whites into the chocolate batter to lighten, then fold in the rest of the whites in two additions, incorporating them gently but firmly, scooping up from the bottom and around the sides, folding over as you turn the bowl with your other hand. Fold only until no more white lumps are visible; do not overfold.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smooth the surface then bake for about 30 minutes or until set yet still slightly gooey in the center. The top should have a pale, matte appearance. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. When completely cool, carefully slide a knife blade around the sides to loosen the cake and turn out onto a cake platter. Be very careful as the surface may crack and crumble a bit around the edges. The center will have sunk slightly in the center.


This cake is perfect eaten as is or serve with whipped cream, ice cream or fruit.

29 comments:

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

You're not the only one whose constantly being accused of being tĂȘtue. My mother has been saying that about me since I can remember, of course when she does I sweetly reply "Well where do you think I get it from?". :-)

Jamie said...

@Sylvie: That's funny but too bad I can't say that to my husband...or can I?

Sarah said...

Wow! You have been listening! Thoughful post.

Nisrine Merzouki said...

Wowza! I have made pecan torte before and it was delicious but I must say that this chocolate one has a little something extra.

Absolutely love it!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

You really don't strike me as someone who doesn't listen... The way you write shows how much you care. But I can totally relate to you, when you say that your head is in fluff and that you cannot always concentrate on what people are telling you when you are deep in your thoughts.

That torte is just heavenly!

Cheers,

Rosa

Nina said...

No such thing as too many Passover desserts! Love that you used Pecans for this, ya hear? ;)

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful piece of writing and the photos punctuated the mood perfectly. The cake looks exquisite and your writing has brought a whole new meaning to the cake... the cake that was heard - the cake with substance - the little cake that could... it looks moist and deep. What a profound way to start my early Saturday. Off to the market with a smile on my face.
:)
Valerie

A Canadian Foodie said...

Your writing is beautiful and was punctuated perfectly with your photos and has brought new meaning to your cake: the cake with substance, the cake that was heard, the little cake that could...and it is deep and dark and rich. You have definitely put a smile on my face early this morning on my way to the Saturday market.
:)
Valerie

Barbara Bakes said...

You had me at chocolate. I'll take mine with ice cream please!

A Thought For Food said...

I tell my husband that all the time... and he always argues that he does listen. Well, I don't buy it. ;-)

Lana said...

This is not a good day for Banana Fish (i.e. me:)to indulge in such delicacies, and you keep on tempting me. Woman, you are surrounded by boys, and I have two small, slender pre-teens who cannot do a lot of damage to a cake, even though they love chocolate (especially flourless). Husband is another story - he is willing and able, but has been growing more rotund every day:)
Joking aside, I love the combination of the flavors: dark chocolate, espresso, and nuts? Beautiful!

Nancy Baggett said...

Stubborn as a mule--who knew that that was not only a saying in English but also in French! (Well, I didn't!) Thanks for stopping by my blog--hope you like the raspberry marshmallows as much as I do.

tasteofbeirut said...

My favorite French author, Jean Dutour, wrote in my favorite book of all time "Les horreurs de l'amour" that people live in their own little bubble, like goldfish, drowned by their own thoughts and concerns and their glass bowl do not communicate with the other's; or something like that. In any case, it is good that you are introspective and trying to improve what you think is a shortcoming. I personally believe that you have a lot of empathy, so that take care of it. Love that cake, it is absolutely perfect and a classic. One cake a month would be this one for me.

Jayne Cohen said...

As an Ashkenazi Jew who has been a devoted Francophile since age 6, I love your posts (not to mention those b&w movie photos!). Linking the two cuisines is always a culinary frisson for me: the Gallic spin on Ashkenazi treats on the rue des Rosiers, the long line of a very diverse tout Paris outside L'As du Falafel on Sundays...

But this Passover post I had to comment on because I made almost the exact changes in my Hungarian Chocolate Walnut Torte for our seder. I used pecans, which I also often substitute for walnuts (I usually use them in Fesenjan, the Persian duck with a sauce of ground walnuts and pomegranate). Instead of using the expresso powder though, I substituted very strong brewed coffee for the water (used to make the simple syrup and melt the chocolate).

However--full disclosure: though I have made this cake more times than I can remember (it's not only in Gefilte Variations, but also in Jewish Holiday Cooking, my book that replaced it), this time I knew something was wrong because the cake was just too perfect looking. Yes, I use a springform to avoid cracking as much as possible, but if a Passover chocolate cake comes out all puffed and perfect, you know you've overcooked it and it will taste like, well, a Passover cake. I pulled it out at 30 minutes, but the thermostat on our oven is off and the oven had gotten way too hot and so the center was a pretty pouf, not the homey gooey fudge it should be. Salvageable nonetheless with generous drifts of coconut sorbet and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds. And a candle, for my cousin's birthday surprise, before we ate the afikomen.

I'll be making it again though without all the seder cooking madness, and carefully watching that thermostat...

California Laurel said...

Looks delicious! I love your pie plates!

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

I hear you! Know exactly what you mean about disappearing into your own world. Gorgeous recipe.

Jamie said...

@Jayne Cohen: What an honor to have you pop in and comment on my blog! Thank you so much! And this cake must be the best "Passover" cake (quotes because it isn't only for Passover!) I have ever made and will be making it over and over again. Thanks for your notes here, too, because I pulled mine out of the oven at 30 minutes & realize I could've taken it out sooner as I had wanted it gooey inside. It isn't gooey but fabulous nonetheless.

I also must tell you that I love The Gefilte Variations and it is my go-to book for every holiday. Fabulous recipes and reading! And now I must get my hands on Jewish Holiday Cooking.

Thanks again so much for the visit and happy holidays!

Lick My Spoon said...

Writing this post obviously means you have been listening. But it's the same in our house.... apparently it's worsened since i started blogging.

The torte looks delicious BTW and I'm sure your readers will be mighty glad you'be been listening to them.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

From someone who knows you - I would say you listen and not only do you listen but you are sympathetic and a wonderful friend who cares. I do not see this as one of your shortcomings. Being headstrong is not bad - I am too - we need to be with men like ours ;o)

Priya said...

Very tempting and addictive torte..

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a beautiful chocolate torte Jamie. Your photos are outstanding and I truly mean outstanding. The slices of chocolate torte almost looks like a dream against a white cloud.

I'm having a hard time believing you aren't listening. I think "listening" is one of the topics that most couples frequently have a problem with.

As far as your head in the cloud, as a writer I find that if I have an important thought and I don't want to lose it, I have to write it down immediately, no matter where I am or what I'm doing. When that happens, whoever is around suffers when I disappear into my own world.
Sam

Deeba PAB said...

Love the way you listen, love the way you bring posts to life...and sweetly so sistah! Deliciously too! This has my name written all over it!Need time to bake this...soon! xoxoxo

5 Star Foodie said...

A wonderfully decadent and delicious torte! Hope you had a great Passover celebration!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

It is "selective hearing/listening" or that is what my children seem to say. I am weighted with heavy Passover desserts and look forward to "delving into a world of sin or wicked pleasure, pampering ourselves as the children look on enviously from afar." What a wonderful line :)

lisa is cooking said...

I admit, I often only pay half attention to what's being said around me. Unless, of course, the conversation is about food or chocolate! Chocolate, espresso, and pecans always get my full attention.

Elra's cooking and baking said...

Beautiful torte, chocolate and espresso sound delightful together.

Sanjeeta kk said...

...lend me your ears, Jamie :) Love the Torte..beautiful color.

asiangrrl said...

The torte is simply gorgeous, Jamie. And, I think you listen. Maybe they just aren't speaking in the right way!

Anonymous said...

Gotta love the Torte! I’m sure it tastes great but is still lowfat and organic. Great job! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Extreme-Chef/195324160502642

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