Friday, February 24, 2012

Sacher Torte

recipe adapted slightly from Epicurious

One of my favorite Austrian foods is the Sacher Torte. Invented in Vienna in the 1800's, it's one of the most famous specialities of the country and is a delicious chocolate cake with tangy apricot preserves.

I have tried making Sacher Torte four times with four different recipes and this was the first one that got it close to the real thing. Mine still wasn't as pristine as the ones you buy at the bakeries (how do they get the glaze so smooth? I MUST KNOW!) but it was just as tasty, and even better the next day.

Totally worth the effort. So have at it. Go make and enjoy a little piece of Austria for yourself.

Chocolate Cake
4 1/2 oz couverture chocolate (140 g) *Any high quality bitter chocolate would do!
1/2 cup butter (125 g)
1 cup powdered sugar
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour

Apricot Glaze
1 1/2 cup apricot jam
2 Tbsp water (or golden rum, if you want to be authentic!)

Chocolate Glaze
1  cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 oz chocolate (113 g)

Preheat oven to 400 (200 C)

Prepare a 9" springform cake pan

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave (careful not to burn it!).

Beat butter until smooth and creamy. Then add powdered sugar and beat again until smooth (about two minutes). Next, add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and making sure to scrape down the sides. Mix in warm (not hot!) melted chocolate and vanilla.

In another bowl, whip together egg whites and 1/2 cup regular white sugar. Whip vigorously until soft peaks form, then add about half to the chocolate mix, folding in gently. Then alternate folding in the flour, then the rest of the egg whites, and finally the rest of the flour. Be gentle! Pour in pan and bake about 40 minutes, or whenever the cake is done in the center.

Let cool completely.
While cooling, prepare the apricot glaze:
Bring the apricot preserves to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Cook until the last drops that cling to the spoon are very sticky and reluctant to leave the spoon (2-3 minutes).

With a serrated knife, trim the top of the cake to make it flat. Then cut the cake in half lengthwise  to make two equal layers. Place one cake layer on an 8 inch round. Brush the top with the apricot glaze. Then place the second half on top and brush the entire thing, sides and all with apricot glaze. Be generous with the apricot, allowing it so sink into the cake. Place on wax paper and let cool until the glaze is set (30 minutes).

Start to make the chocolate glaze. In a medium saucepan over high heat, mix the sugar, water and chocolate to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and cook uncovered, stirring, until the mixture reaches 234 F (112 C) about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir to cool and thicken slightly, about a minute. Use immediately and when pouring, do not scrape the pan.

Take the chocolate glaze (so it is fresh and warm) and pour all over the cake. Using a metal spatula, smooth the chocolate over the cake so there are no bare spots and it looks smooth and even. Put in the fridge until the glaze is set (about 1 hour).

Serve with whipped cream. This cake is even better the next day, but store it in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Halloumi and Pancetta Rolls

From my friend Michelle

A couple of years ago on Christmas Eve, I looked at the Christmas dinner that I had worked at all day and decided that it just wasn't worth it. It was beautiful and the food was nice, but I was completely exhausted from preparing everything that by the time dinner started I just wanted a bowl of cereal and to curl up on the couch. SO this last year I focused on recipes that were really simple, but still special and decadent. Hopefully over time I will have a collection of great standbys that I can whip up for parties without wearing myself out over details.

ANYWAY, this is one of those recipes. It's simple and you can put it together in ten minutes before just popping it in the oven. It's not particularly diet friendly, but for a special occasion it is perfect.

Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus and used often in Greek and Turkish food. It looks like mozzarella but is soaked in brine, which makes it fairly salty. What makes Halloumi special is it's higher-than-normal melting point, which makes it ideal for grilling and frying without melting all over the place.

Pancetta is basically the Italian version of American bacon. It isn't smoked and often has different spices, but behaves the same way and can usually be substituted with regular bacon without any problems.

Serves 5-6
9 oz Halloumi cheese (250 grams)
12 slices of bacon
1 Tbsp chopped chives
Black Pepper

Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C)

Cut the Halloumi into 12 strips, and roll the pancetta around the cheese.
Lightly season the rolls with chives and pepper. DO NOT SALT. The cheese is already quite salty and any more could push it over the edge. Put on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the pancetta is starting to crisp and turn brown.

You can cut them in half if they are too big, or skewer with toothpicks to help keep them together. Best served warm.