Torta Caprese for Valentine’s Day

I am back! I can’t believe this is my first blog in February. Time really flies! I have been busy preparing for the classes that I will be teaching at the end of the month, I have been away with my family for a weekend to celebrate my son’s 21st birthday and . . . I am back on a diet!

What a better occasion to get back on my blog than Valentine’s Day?

San Valentino, “la festa degli innamorati” (the holiday of lovers), this is how in Italy we refer to this holiday. So, forget the diet and let me share with you a decadent dessert that would make your Valentine’s Day even more special.

Not so fast though, first let me tell you something about my Valentine’s Day.

The festivity of San Valentino also coincides with the festivity of San Modestino, which is the Patron Saint of my hometown Avellino, so to me, for many years, february 14  just meant one thing: NO SCHOOL. Hey, I am not saying I didn’t like school, still, who doesn’t like a day off?

Then, I was in love. . . . my first date with my future husband was the second Sunday of February 1980. No specific date, it was simply the second Sunday. One thing I know, it was too soon to celebrate Valentine’s Day. And, it was too conventional for us.

It wasn’t until we moved to the United Sates that Valentine’s Day has taken a different meaning. In the United Sates, this holiday expands to include all your loved ones and I like that. Throughout this past 21 years, I had fun helping my little boys writing countless Valentine’s cards, baking heart shaped cookies, packing Valentine’s gift boxes to my son away in college, sharing chocolates with my coworkers and still. . . my husband and I had not celebrated Valentine’s Day. The second Sunday in February has been our day for the past 32 years.

Yet, something is different this year. My husband has been working out of town and any occasion is good for me to take the three hour trip to see him and so, this February 14, 2012, we will have our first Valentine’s night out!

But now enough with all the nonsense, time to share my recipe, the Torta Caprese (no, it is not the tomatoes-mozzarella salad!).

La Torta Caprese is a typical chocolate cake from the beautiful island of Capri.

It appears that this cake originated in the 1920s in a local bakery, where the pastry chef forgot to add the flour to the almond cake he was baking for three American gangsters that were on the island to buy bulk of gaiters for Al Capone.

The peculiarity of this rich cake is precisely the lack of flour and yeast (a perfect option for people suffering from celiac disease). The main ingredients are chocolate and almonds. The “segreto” (secret) is all in the process which must create as much air as possible, so not to have a dry and hard final product. To enhance the almond flavor I have added to the recipe some Amaretto liquor. The Caprese has a crunchy texture on the outside with a soft, moist heart.

The Torta Caprese is typically served simply dusted with powdered sugar but, for the occasion (My second Sunday in February!) I served mine with a raspberry sauce that I prepared cooking the raspberry in Amaretto liquor. Oh, and I baked my cake in a heart shaped pan!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Buona festa degli innamorati!

RICETTA DELLA TORTA CAPRESE 

My Torta Caprese with Raspberry Sauce

Ingredients 

1-3/4 cup  10.5 oz. almonds (not peeled)

1-3/4 cup 8.8 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

1-3/4 cup  8.8 oz. butter (softened)

1 cup granulated sugar

5 eggs (white and yolks separated)

1 pinch of salt

1 tablespoon Amaretto liquor (Optional – My personal touch)

Powdered sugar for decoration

Directions

Preheat the oven to 360 degree. Butter and dust with flour a baking pan or line with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or food processor combine the egg yolks and the sugar.

Process until the sugar is dissolved, the color is light yellow and the consistence is smooth and silky.

Add the softened butter and process until all is blended together.

In the mean while melt the chocolate chip in a water bath or on the microwave (I used the defrost setting of the microwave).

Grind the almonds. The almonds should be finely grounded, it is however preferable if some roughly chopped pieces are in the mix, this will give texture to the cake.

Add the melted chocolate to the eggs, sugar, butter mixture and process slowly to blend. Add the almonds and blend. Lastly add the Amaretto liquor.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt. With the electric mixer, whip until the egg whites are firm then incorporate few spoonful at the time into the chocolate mixture. It is important that you work slowly with a bottom to top motion, this will help to create air into the cake.

Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven let rest in the pan for few minutes. Flip the pan over a cooling rack and the cake should slide right out of the pan and on the rack.

It’s not a broken heart! The pan was just not tall enough.

Let it cool for 1 hour before dusting with powder sugar.

I used a heart shaped cookie cutter to make a paper template to make the heart in the center of the cake.  I then used the  cookie cutter to fill the center with cocoa.

RASPBERRY SAUCE

Ingredients

1 pint fresh raspberry

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/8 teaspoon cornstarch

½ cup Amaretto liquor

Directions

In a small pan add the raspberry, the butter, the sugar, and the Amaretto liquor .

Heat to boiling and cook slowly until the raspberry have come apart.

Remove from heat, strain to a fine sieve to discard the seeds. Use a little of the juice to dissolve the cornstarch. Transfer the strained juice back into the pan, add the dissolved cornstarch and cook slowly for few minutes until it thickens a little.

Remove from heat ad transfer to a gravy bowl.

Drizzle the cake with the warm sauce.

I hope you will enjoy it . . . we sure did!

What is your favorite Valentine’s day dessert? Let me know!

My Limoncello Biscotti . . . Perfect for tea!

Perfect for tea!

As promised, here it  is the  follow up on my previous post on Limoncello.

Last Saturday, during the bottling step of the Limoncello making, I kept thinking that I could surely find a good use for this flavorful liqueur infused lemon’s zest. So, rather than discarding it, I decided to save it in a Tupperware. Once my client was gone, I proceeded in decking up my bottles and then it finally hit me . . . ” I was going to make Limoncello Biscotti (cookies)!”

I used an old cookie’s recipe to which I added my wonderful zest and of course some Limoncello. Two hours later My Limoncello biscotti were already cooling on the wire racks! My son would not wait for them to completely cool and kept stealing them every time I would turn my eyes away. My husband after tasting few of them said they were buonissimi (very very good), my neighbor and  friend Lori, who later in the day was pet sitting my two dogs, said they were delicious. However, she was cornered by Luna and Vera (my 10 years old Golden Retriever and my 15 months old Golden Doodle) that didn’t agree with her eating our cookies!

What did I think about the cookies? I thought they were good, yet, I wanted the flavor to be a little more pronounced so I quickly jot down a note on my recipe jurnal to add more zest and Limoncello next time. Ok . . . they were not perfect this first time around, still, they were a perfect companion to my afternoon tea.

I am sure Santa would enjoy these cookies too!

Twenty four hours later my biscotti are gone . . . good thing I had frozen some of my precious zest!

I thought of other ways to use the Limoncello infused lemon’s zest and, although I have not experimented yet, I bet that a Limoncello Pound Cake with bits of zest would be just wonderful! So would be a Limoncello Sorbet or a Limoncello Custard to serve warm with sugar cookies . . . che delizia! (how deliciuos!)

Can you think of other ways to use the zest? Let me know.

Without further ado I give you My recipe.

My Limoncello Biscotti

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 – 1/4 cup granulated sugar

7 oz cold unsalted butter (My preference is European butter)

1 large whole egg

2 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 cup of Limoncello infused lemon’s zest

1/4 cup of Limoncello

Before you start, in a bowl sift together the flour, the salt and the baking powder.  Also, cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and keep it chill.

In a bowl of a food processor combine the sugar and the lemon zest, pulse until the zest is reduced into tiny bits.

Add the butter, the whole egg and the yolks and process until all the ingredients are combined.

Slowly add the Limoncello then the sifted flour.

Mix on low speed until the dough starts coming together.

Damp the dough on a surface dusted with flour and shape into  two balls.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

You now have two options to shape your  cookies. Work with one ball of dough at the time, keeping the other refrigerated.

Option 1:

Pinch off the dough to form 1 inch balls. Slightly flatten the balls between your hands and placed them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Use your floured index finger to create a slight depression in the center of each cookie.

Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes then, transfer on wire rack to cool completely. Now that I think about it, once the cookies are cool, you could  fill the little depression with a small dollop of Nutella!

Option 2:

On a surface well dusted with flour roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thick (make sure your rolling pin is also dusted with flour). Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. Also, work fast so the dough doesn’t get warm.  Cut into desired shape, place on baking sheet lined with parchment, or silicone baking mat.

Refrigerate the cookies for 10 minutes before baking.

Remove from refrigerator and bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until they are just beginning to turn brown around the edges (I accidentally cooked mine few extra minutes. Make sure you use a timer!). Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer on wire rack until completely cool.

Enjoy your biscotti with tea, or coffee.

Related Post: Limoncello