No fruit! (Although I hear that almonds are closely related to peaches, but still …)
I thought I was going to have to pass on this week’s TWD recipe. It’s Passover, and it’s a Passover tradition that you’re not allowed to eat anything that tastes good. Well, that’s not completely fair. There are two main groups of Jews in the world, the Ashkenazim (whose ancestral or current homeland is in Northern and Eastern Europe) and the Sephardim (from Southern Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East). Ashkenazic Jews have insane strict rules about what’s kosher for Passover and what’s not; what’s not includes not just wheat and any form of leavening, but just about every other grain and legumes. Legumes? Sephardic Jews are much more mellow and have a much smaller verboten list.
My people are from Russia.
We are not a religious family, but both boys have attended a secular Jewish Sunday school (and #1 Son works there now) and we celebrate the major holidays in our own quirky ways. On Passover, we don’t eat grains. Or legumes. (Generally.)
But Holly of Phe/MOM/enon, whether accidentally or on purpose, chose what may be the only recipe in the entire book that I could make during Passover: no flour, no leavening, no legumes.
And it was good.
First of all, it calls for amaretti or amarettini. I had no idea what these were; I was picturing (for no real reason, actually) something like biscotti. So I deployed my formidable research skills (and Google) and found a few recipes, some of which used almonds and some of which used almond paste. That was a no-brainer; I didn’t have almond paste.
I went with this recipe from Allrecipes; I’ve had pretty good luck with several different Allrecipes recipes in the past few weeks. It calls for almonds, ground fine in a food processor. I had almonds, but I also had almond meal, and several of the commenters had used the latter successfully.
I conveniently had six egg whites left over from a dinner #1 Son had made earlier in the week (post to come, if I can get him to write it). What’s a girl to do? I made two batches of amaretti, exactly the same except that one used 3 cups of raw slivered almonds and the other used 2Â½ cups of almond meal. The almond meal was made from unblanched almonds, so it had brown specks in it, but you know what? There was a huge difference between the two batches. The almond batch was much harder, the same consistency throughout. The almond meal batch was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, just as they should have been.
And you know what else? I’ve been looking for these cookies for 20 years, but I didn’t know what they were.
My first job after college was working at Philadelphia magazine. Restaurants and bakeries often sent us samples, in the hopes of a good write-up. Shortly before Christmas one year we got a big cookie tray from Termini Bros. Bakery, an Italian bakery with a long history in the city. On that tray were these little almond cookies, crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and the most marvelous things I’d ever tasted. I ate an unforgivable number of those adorable little things (and because I was 20 years old my body forgave me). Ever since then I’ve been trying to find a recipe, but I didn’t know what they were called.
They’re amaretti. (Or maybe amarettini; I’m not sure where the size division is.) And now I can have them whenever I want.
I love Holly.
Oh, yeah â€” we made some sort of a cake thingie this week too, right? Sorry. Got distracted by the amaretti.
It looked like nothing more than a giant brownie when I took it out of the oven, and it wasn’t domed at all (as the recipe said it would be); it had an edge like a Reese’s peanut butter cup. And the glaze was very runny when I put it on; I made a horrific mess trying to get it into the refrigerator. #1 Son saved the day there. Yay #1 Son!
The glaze did thicken up nicely, though the half-hour specified in the recipe was not really enough. I took it to Easter dinner at the home of friends, and I put it back in the fridge when I got there to harden some more. I also made the almond whipped cream there, figuring it wouldn’t travel well.
The torte was good. It was very dark, very rich, very sweet. I am not in general a big fan of whipped cream, but it really made this cake. Without the whipped cream it was too much, but with it was delicious. In very thin slices.
We have some extra opinions this week:
Friend #1: Stupendous.
Friend #2: The torte with the whipped cream was sublime.
Friend #3 (age 13): Fantastically amazing.
Then my three:
Husband: Great cocoa burst at the outset, with a rich mouthfeel. Hints of almond in the whipped cream made for a deliciously complex dessert.
#2 Son: It was super! It was amazing!! It was better than Cats!!!
#1 Son, always the contrarian: Too dense. Too sweet. No depth or dimension of flavor.
So there you have it. Ignore my charming first-born; this was a delicious cake. Just cut the slices thin.
If you want to try it yourself, Holly will have the recipe for you (or buy the book!). And if you want to see what all the other TWD bakers did with it, check out the blogroll.
Next week, chocolate bread pudding!