Happy Fri Yay, my friends!!
It’s getting to be the weekend, so it seems like the perfect time to talk about dessert…noms! When I started Whole30, I was really hoping to break my sugar addiction. What I realized instead, I think, is that I actually just really like desserts, without any addiction. I love coordinating different flavors to create something amazing, I love finishing a meal with an outrageous creation, and I love how happy people get when I make them dessert.
Also, let’s be real- cutting desserts entirely out of one’s life seems impractical, and certainly unpleasant. So instead of eliminating sweets entirely, I’m hoping to concentrate on eating sweets really intentionally- only when they’re really, really worth it. Fortunately, I seem to have a healthy amount of self control in determining when those times are 🙂
For me, I think desserts are really worth it when the recipe focusses closely on flavors and high quality ingredients. That means that I’m not trying to eat things that have tons of sugar merely for the sake of being sweet, or cream cheese merely for the sake of being rich. I’m trying to avoid excess in sugar and fat, when those things don’t do anything to enhance the flavors of the ingredients. If this seems like a lot of effort to put into a dessert- it is. But it all paid off this weekend, when I the most ridiculous recipe- a Cherry Almond Torte.
Now, the inspiration for this recipe came from Smitten Kitchen, because Deb is a culinary goddess to whom I bow down. In 2013, she posted a recipe for Hazelnut Macaroon Torte, which looked amazing. I finally got around to making it a few months ago and it was so. damn. good. The ‘cake’ layers are actually macaroons, which are made without butter or flour. When I was searching for a decadent, but lightened up, dessert to make over the weekend, I recalled this torte and knew it would be a great jumping off point.
Evan works a Sunday shift at the firehouse every three weeks, and I like to come visit on Sunday nights and bring dessert. I know that the firefighters love dessert, but particularly almond flavored things, and cherry cordial seemed like a perfect flavor profile. I followed Deb’s methods, with some ingredient adjustments, and my torte came out perfectly. It was definitely a hit at the station (Evan said guys were finishing the leftovers for breakfast) and I’m sure it will be a hit at your home, too!
***reading this recipe might make it seem complicated. There are, admittedly, a few steps, but none of them are challenging, I promise! I even eliminated the need to frost the outside of the case, because that’s not in my wheelhouse. For me, this came together in a little under an hour- really!
- Nonstick spray
- 1 cup sugar
- 12 ounces almonds
- Pinch of salt
- 6 egg whites
- 1 tsp almond extract or emulsion
Heat the oven to 325. Next, drawn 4 8 inch circles on parchment paper (wax paper is not a good substitute, sorry!) and cut them out, leaving some margin. Spray your cookie sheets, and smooth down the circles, 2 to a tray; set aside. In a blender or food processor, grind the almonds with the sugar and a pinch of salt until the texture resembles sand. In a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer and a clean, dry, glass bowl) beat the egg whites until they are stiff, pausing to add the almond extract when soft peaks form. Use a spatula to fold the almond mixture into the egg whites in three batches—you want to be a little gentle with this, to avoid extra deflation, but they also need to be well incorporated. When everything is mixed, divide the batter into four and spread evenly on the parchment circles. A warning- when you make these the batter shouldn’t move, so make sure that they are as smooth and even as you can get them. Bake for about 21 minutes, until the edges start to brown and the top is dry. (While these are baking, wash and dry your mixing bowl and beater, but no need to rinse the blender just yet.) Remove to the cooling rack, and peel off the parchment paper after about five minutes.
- 6 oz chocolate (I used dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt, because that sounded good to me. You can choose anything from chocolate chips to a nice, bittersweet bar- find your own path!)
- 2 tbsp milk (of heavy cream from the pint you’re about to whip)
Place the milk and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds, then stir until the chocolate melts into a satiny dream. If the chocolate doesn’t melt, microwave for another 15 seconds. If it seems too thick to spread, add another tablespoon of milk. Divide the chocolate evenly among the layers and spread over the surface of the macaroon- edge to edge, or as thin as possible.
- 1 jar maraschino cherries
- 1 pink heavy whipping cream (very, very cold)
- 1 tbsp almond extract or emulsion
Drain the cherries, but reserve ½ cup of the syrup. Place the cherries in your blender or food processor and pulse a few times- you want them chopped, but still chunky. Add the cream to the mixing bowl and beat until you get to a point past soft peaks (they fall over) but just before you get to stiffer peaks (standing up). At this point, slow down the mixer, add the almond extract and start drizzling in the cherry syrup. If the cream has been well whipped, it should retain its volume pretty well. Once the syrup has been incorporated, you can also add the shopped cherries and mix well.
Assembly: place one chocolate covered macaroon layer on a platter, and spread ¼ of the cherry whipped cream on top. Repeat with all of the other layers, and sprinkle on some chocolate shavings if you’re feeling festive. You can definitely serve this immediately, but I find that its really, really good if it sits in the fridge for a few hours- the macaroon layers start to absorb some of the cream and it gets a lovely texture. Either way, its delicious!