28 December 2010

TWD December Rewind: 15 Minute Magic Chocolate Amaretti Torte

In case it was not obvious from my post yesterday, I didn't travel for the holidays this year.  A very small number of off days, plus a 15-hour-away family, plus emergency repairs on the Cloudmobile, plus somewhat distressing news about my graduate school situation meant that I stayed put at Thanksgiving and at Christmas.

It was mostly cold, and totally quiet, but I stayed busy this week:

I finished the two baby quilts.

I started laying out a crib duvet cover, and finished tying and attached binding to a little boy quilt.

I cranked out burp cloths and bibs.

And because I am at bottom a Selfish Seamstress, I also cut blocks to make myself a quilt for my bed:

But I did take a break from all of that to fix myself a proper dinner of sorts on Christmas.  The one nice thing about not doing Family Christmas is that you can really make yourself WHATEVER you actually want for dinner.  I'm pretty sure there has been at least one holiday when I happily had grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches for dinner.  In any case, this year there was fondue and my selection for our TWD rewind post: a lovely dessert, made by the group in April 2009 (before I joined) with an slightly unfortunate title that makes it sound like something made of Dream Whip and Ritz Crackers and Campbell's Soup. 

It does not contain any of those things.  Mind you, I'm no food snob, and I have eaten my share of processed stuff (I've already mentioned my love for Kraft Singles in certain items) and will continue to do so without complaint if you want to feed it to me.  But I usually figure if I am gonna cook I might as well cook.  This dessert actually only includes one pre-prepared item: amaretti cookies.  I had no idea what they were, but hey, I'm in central New Jersey, with an Italian bakery next door (!) and two Italian markets within 5 minutes' drive.  Finding them was not hard (it's hard to find non-Italian "ethnic" foods around here). Deciding which brand to get was hard, but finally I just went for the pretty box with the ribbon on it.  I've got simple tastes.

The "15-minute magic" portion comes from the fact that being a classic torte, this cake has very few ingredients, mostly relying on ground nuts (almonds in this case) with eggs, butter, and chocolate.  And everything is blitzed together in the food processor and then slapped in the oven.

The resulting batter was very thick and filled my 2" pan to about 1.5 inches deep.  Dorie said the cake would be "very thin," but mine wasn't.  (I wonder if I used too many cookies?  Having never seen them I just assumed the ones I used were "mini"--they were only about 2" in diameter--and used all 16 in the box.)

Once it cooled, I made the glaze.  I was a little surprised by how thin the glaze was;  I had to put it in the fridge to get it to thicken a little, and even then it wasn't the consistency I expected.  I might add less water next time, or use a different recipe.

I forgot to save a cookie to decorate with, so I added more almonds (Can never have too many!)  and gold dragees because, well, 'tis the season:

I don't usually get very excited about chocolate things, but OMG I LOVE THIS CAKE.  I don't think my processor chopped the almonds quite enough (will likely use almond flour next time) but I DO NOT CARE.  It is chewy almondy chocolatey goodness--not too sweet, not too bitter, not too fudgy, not overly iced.   A perfect easy and fast Christmas dessert that only required me to purchase one item!

I hope we will have more rewinds in the future.  I really enjoy them, especially as someone who was kind of a latecomer to the group and who now works 9-5...gives a nice chance to catch up.  

27 December 2010

TWD SNOWPOCALYPSE 2010 edition: Cardamom Crumb Cake

Today is my first snow day from work!  Yay!

scene from my window Sunday afternoon

Yesterday we were graced with a full-on blizzard.  It was very strange.  Christmas Day was sunny and not especially cold.  I was sitting on the couch as usual on Sunday afternoon, watching the Jets-Bears game and pressing fabric, when a scrolling headline caught my eye:  "The Vikings-Eagles game scheduled for 8 PM has been postponed due to weather."  What on earth could be going on over in Philly, I thought, to make them cancel an 8 PM game at 1:30?  I live only about 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia, so anything going on there weatherwise is usually happening here, too.  I turned my head to the window 2 feet away and saw the above and was like, ooooooh.  

It snowed hard all day and night.  No work today--which is more than fine, because I REALLY wanted another day, and anyway I couldn't get out if I wanted to:

 (that's my little Cloudmobile on the far left, and again, that was yesterday.  It's deeper now.)

So I decided to go ahead and make last week's TWD, which I had been putting off all week:  Dorie's Cardamom Crumb Cake, selected by Jill of the appropriately named Jill's Blog.

Now why had I been putting it off?  I like crumb cakes, especially if made by me.  And I haven't made one in a long while.  And this one sounded interesting:  cardamom, coffee, and orange all together.  But...the recipe sounded awfully fussy and suspiciously time-consuming for a crumb cake.  I think of crumb cake as the sugary version of quickbread--something very fast to throw together when you have company coming over or something.  This generally follows the quick-mix routine, but it requires a little bit of prep work (butter at room temp, grating orange zest, making and cooling coffee, melting and cooling butter, smooshing zest into sugar), which honestly is often a little more than I can handle when I wake up in the morning and my body is like GRRRRAAAARRR FOOOOD NOOOOWWWW AAAAAAAARGH.  I can skip dinners with no problem, but breakfast is non-negotiable.

My Household Supervisor is even more noisy and insistent than my own stomach in the mornings, which also blocks my morning cooking capabilities.

But today I was up late and decided to go on and give it a whirl.  First thing I noticed is that I am nearly out of white sugar and I have no oranges.  So with the thought that brown sugar generally makes anything better, and tangerines are pretty close to oranges, I subbed with abandon.  Don't judge me.  I'm snowed in.  Applaud my pioneer spirit!

making streusel

Once I had all the fussy bits done, it was quick to mix together. 

mixing batter

And wonder of wonders, it actually baked in 30 minutes' time:

All in all, I think it took me about two hours to do.

The cake is...interesting.  I had a warm piece and it was nice and moist and the streusel was perfectly crunchy.  Despite containing a full cup of sugar and a stick and a half of butter, it's not super sweet or greasy.  There are a lot of flavors, though, and though I am no expert they did seem to be doing battle for supremacy:  the tangerine, the coffee, the brown sugar, the cardamom.  (That's the order in which they seemed to be winning.)  I wonder if it will be different when cold;  I wonder if it would have been different with more innocuous white sugar or orange zest.  I think I like it, but I'm gonna have to think about whether it's a repeater...

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