A Lacy Brownie Torte and a Butterfly

img_6675When all is said and done, I love chocolate, and every now and then want–no, need–to make something deeply, unabashedly chocolate. This Lacy Brownie Torte fills the bill. I found the recipe in an old copy of “Victoria at Table with Family & Friends.” The torte’s lacy presentation also drew my eye–it’s so easy to do, but is pretty and impressive. Adding the red zinnia at the last moment was my idea!

The torte inflates as it bakes and settles down as it cools to only about an inch in height. The texture is light and moist, but the flavor is rich with butter and chocolate, and with a hint of the nuttiness of the ground almonds. So it tastes like a particularly delicious brownie, but is much lighter. Serve this with a swirl of whipped cream, for a dessert of perfection! Here is the recipe:

Lacy Brownie Torte

1 tablespoon fine, dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (divided)
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds
6 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1-1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar and doily for decoration

Ahead of time: Melt chocolate and set aside to cool. Butter a 9″-inch round springform pan; mix the dry bread crumbs with one tablespoon cocoa. Coat the bottom and sides of the pan with the cocoa mixture. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

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Use 12 squares of the unsweetened chocolate.

Combine the ground almonds, flour, the remaining one tablespoon of cocoa, and salt. Mix until blended and set aside.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one by one, beating well after each addition. Beat in the cooled, melted chocolate and the vanilla. Gradually fold in the almond/flour mixture. The mixture will be fairly firm in texture.

Wash and dry the beaters, and beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Thoroughly stir a dollop of beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it up. Fold in the remainder of the beaten egg whites. Spread into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for about five minutes, and then loosen the sides of the cake pan. Allow to cool completely.

Place the cake on the cake plate, and set a round doily on top. Sift powdered sugar over the doily/cake. Lift the doily straight up and off. Voila!

Baking notes: Yes, you could use a brownie mix instead of going to all of the above trouble, and get the same effect with the doily, but this tastes so much better!

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Shishito Peppers

I’m just putting in a word for the shishito pepper. I grew a shishito pepper plant this summer, and then wondered what to do with all the peppers. It turns out that while these peppers may look hot and dangerous, they are actually sweet and flavorful.

Just trim the stems, then wash and dry the peppers. Sauté in some extra virgin olive oil until the peppers are browned and soft (about fifteen minutes). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. I also drizzled with a bit of sesame chile oil, and sprinkled with some sesame seeds. To eat, just pick up a pepper by the stem, and chomp! These are so, so good. I’ve heard these peppers are showing up at Trader Joe’s, a sure sign of growing popularity.

On the butterfly front, a cabbage white butterfly fluttered into the garden yesterday, and I begged it to land on a zinnia. Please, little butterfly, please, please, please–it would make such a nice picture! I think I heard a tiny voice say, “You talkin’ to me?” and to my surprise, it did land on a leaf and then a flower and I was able to take a number of pictures. Sometimes you just have to ask.

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Attacked by marauding goldfinches, this is all that’s left of a once-beautiful zinnia. Notice the incoming bee!

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Peace to you. Fran

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