Amaretti Cookie-Chocolate Fudge Torte

Amaretti Fudge CakeI am a third generation newspaper and magazine recipe clipper. My grandmother has decades worth of these withered yellow gems stuffed into old cartons in spare bedrooms while my mother’s collection is shoved into kitchen drawers and old cookbooks. (Mine are in a massive folder above my cookbooks.) Despite our questionable filing system, when I needed a decadent and chocolate-y she knew just the recipe: Rich chocolate fudge baked into an amaretti cookie crust and topped with whipped cream. The recipe was originally featured in a 1989 issue of Gourmet Magazine as “Chocolate Fudge Pie,” provided by the Millbrook Inn.

Some notes on ingredients: Amaretti cookies are Italian meringue cookies made out of almond paste, or marzipan. They are small, about 2″ wide, and sold in bags in specialty grocery stores. I was feeling cheap and made my own in about the same amount of time it would have taken to go to the store, but it was not a great recipe (they came out chewy instead of dry and crispy), so once I get that sorted out I will post it as an option for this crust.

CookiesAmaretto liqueur is not a necessary ingredient; however, it will provide a nice underlying almond flavor. If you decide to omit the alcohol, replace with vanilla or coffee extract to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.

When baking with chocolate, be sure to use good-quality blocks of chocolate that you have to chop up and NOT chocolate chips. Chips have all kinds of added ingredients. You’ll get a better flavor with chocolate blocks.

A note on technique: To melt the chocolate, you can use a microwave or a double-boiler (AKA “bain marie”). I prefer the double-boiler, as there is minimal risk of burning the chocolate this way (you NEVER want to heat chocolate by itself above ~93˚F). To make your own double-boiler, you will need a small saucepan and a glass or stainless steel bowl that fits on top of the pot. Put about 1″ water in the pan, bring it to a boil, seat the bowl on top, and shut off the stove. Immediately add the chopped chocolate and walk away for about 5 minutes. Come back and stir the chocolate with a spoon or spatula. You’re using residual heat from the water to gently melt the chocolate and ensure it doesn’t burn. Just be careful — if any water from the steam below gets into the chocolate, it will seize up and be unusable. The bowl will also be hot — use mitts or a dry towel to remove it from the pot once the chocolate is melted.

Double boiler set upAnd now, without further ado, I bring you Amaretti Cookie-Chocolate Fudge Torte, adapted from the Millbrook Inn’s 1989 classic!

Torte Slice
Ingredients
Amaretti Cookie Crust
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
30 amaretti cookies, finely crushed

Chocolate Fudge Torte Filling
3 ounce unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur
1-3 tablespoon granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)

Grated chocolate, as needed

Directions
For the crust:

1. Over a double-boiler, slowly melt the first amounts of chocolate and butter, stirring periodically with a spatula. It will look curdled at first from the butter; it will melt, and everything will mix together nicely. Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Melted Chocolate2. Line a 9″x3″ round springform cake pan with a disc of parchment.
3. In a medium bowl, mix crushed cookies, sugar, and cooled chocolate and butter mixture together until well-mixed.
4. Put some of the crust mixture into the springform pan and, using knuckles, pack the crumbs first around the corner of the pan (between the bottom and sides), then along the floor of the pan. Pack remaining crumbs around the walls of the pan, coming up about 1″ up the sides. Set aside.

Cookie CrustFor the chocolate fudge torte filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. In a double boiler, melt the second amounts of chocolate and butter together. Allow to cool.
Double boiler 23. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whip attachment on medium speed, beat the eggs with the salt, then gradually add the second quantity of sugar. EggsScrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat the egg mixture until thick and pale. Decrease to medium-low speed. Beat in the corn syrup and scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Add the heavy cream, vanilla, amaretto, and reserved chocolate mixture, beating until blended.
Batter4. Pour the filling into the reserved crust.
Pouring Batter5. Bake torte about 45 minutes.
Panned TorteWhen done, it will barely jiggle in the center. Allow to cool. This can be done two days in advance. And don’t worry if your husband gouges a chunk out of the middle of the cake to taste it; you will hide it with whipped cream!
Baked CakeFor the whipped cream:
In the chilled bowl of the stand mixer with the whip attachment, beat the whipped cream, sugar, and amaretto on high speed until peaks can hold their shape, but not until the fat starts to separate out from the cream. Reserve in the refrigerator until ready for use.

To assemble:
1. Remove the cake from the pan: Release the hinge on the pan. Place a 10″ or 12″ cardboard cake circle over the top of the pan. Invert the pan and allow the cake and cake bottom to drop out onto the cake circle. Remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Center another cake circle on the bottom of the cake and flip back over so that the cake is right-side up.
2. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream over the top of the cake, being sure not to drip the whipped cream down the sides of the cake.

Iced Cake3. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
Finished Torte4. Optional: complete decorating with thin cookies made out of tuile paste.
5. Chill until ready to serve. Once the whipped cream is spread on the cake, it should be consumed the same day for freshness. (You can still enjoy it within the week, but the whipped cream won’t be fresh-tasting.) Serves 8-10, or more if you cut small slices. You might have to — it’s very rich!

Amarett Cookie-Chocolate Fudge Cake

Fennel: It’s What’s for Lunch

Fennel

I’m sad so much time has lapsed between posts, but perhaps I can make it up to you. With fennel.

As one who used to nearly convulse from even getting too close to a waft of licorice, the thought of eating fennel kept this plant at bay. But last year at school we braised some, and, well, I’ve been missing out all these years.

Fennel as a plant is extremely versatile in cooking. Its base can be used as a vegetable while the fronds can be used as herbs. The seeds are often used in pickle brine. It has a strong anise or licorice-like taste. When the base is cooked slowly in the oven, it develops a complex taste with sweet tones. Often you will see different varieties of seeds for fennel the vegetable and fennel the herb.

Fennel is pretty easy to grow. I mean, I had some from last spring and left it alone to see what would happen. Shut off the sprinklers and forgot about it. And, well…viola! Two fennel heads per root a week into February.

Fennel

I was again inspired to use what I had in the pantry, so decided on a Grapefruit Fennel Salad for lunch. It took about 8 minutes to put together, and could have fed 2. (What can I say, I was hungry…)

SaladGrapefruit Fennel Salad
Yield: Serves 1 as entrée or 2 as appetizer salads

Ingredients:
Salad:
1 grapefruit, pink or red
1 small head of fennel, bulb only (reserve fronds for another use)
6-10 leaves of fresh mint
1/2 avocado, in 1/4″ chunks (optional)

Dressing:
grapefruit juice, reserved from preparing grapefruit
1 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp good quality olive oil
pinch Kosher salt

Directions:
1. Prepare grapefruit: Using a large (“chef” or Santoku) knife, cut the skin off the grapefruit in pieces. Start with the bottom so the fruit won’t roll on you, then cut off the sides, followed by the top. Using a paring knife, then clean up any of the remaining pith. It’s bitter. You probably don’t want to eat it.

Peeled Grapefruit2. Supreme the grapefruit. Sure, it sounds fancy, but it’s pretty simple. Using your paring knife, slice into the fruit staying as close to a membrane as possible. Slice all the way down. Then, on the other side of that section of fruit, slice all the way down, freeing that segment from the membrane. Alternately, after cutting down the first side, in the center of the section along the seeds slip your thumbs underneath, run them in opposite directions from the center outward, and pop out the segment. Try to keep the segments whole, or at least in large pieces. Be sure to remove all seeds. Reserve segments in a medium bowl, and remaining juice in a small bowl.

Grapefruit Supremes

See how pretty the supremes are? Pink sparkling jewels!


3. Once you have removed all the fruit from the membranes, squeeze the membranes over the juice bowl to extract remaining liquid. Set aside for the dressing.

Fennel4. Slice the fennel crosswise in 1/4″ strips up the bulb, stopping where the fronds begin to branch off from the bulb. Place fennel in with the grapefruit, and reserve fronds for another use.

5. Optional: Add avocado pieces.

6. Chop mint into thin strips. Add to salad.

Salad

6. Finish the dressing: To the grapefruit juice, add balsamic, olive oil, and salt. Mix well, beating with a fork. Pour atop salad and toss through.
DressingServe your salad in a bowl. Alternately, instead of mixing the ingredients together, on a rectangular platter spread out the grapefruit supremes (and avocado, cut in slices) in a row down the center of the plate. Sprinkle the fennel pieces over grapefruit/avocados, then pour the dressing over the grapefruit and avocados in a line down the center of the platter.

Plated SaladI find the sweetness from the balsamic balances out the acid from the citrus, and the oil provides additional flavor and good mouthfeel. The avocado provides contrast with its creamy texture, and the acid from the citrus will prevent browning.

I hope you enjoy!!

Now, to figure out what to do with all those beautiful leftover fronds…