Pistachio Torta

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Sicilian Torta di Pistacchio


Adapted from recipe by Carol Walter

Ingredients:

For cake:

1 1/2 cups pistachios, shelled, skinned and finely ground
2/3 cup cake flour, sifted
2 tablespoons cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided into 1/4 and 3/4 cups
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
5 large egg whites
1/4 cup warm, clarified butter

For pastry cream:
6 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup sugar
Vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1 pint whole milk
Pinch of salt
1 cup of whipped cream (from instructions below)
2 tablespoons finely ground pistachios

For whipped cream:
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

To finish:
Brandy or other aromatic liquer
Ground pistachios for sides and top of cake
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Instructions:

Make cake:
-Position rack in the lower 3rdof the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9″ X 2″ round cake pans.
-Put cake flour, cornstarch and nuts in a food processor and grind until a fine powdery mixture develops – about 30 to 45  seconds.  Try to ensure that there are no large pieces of pistachios but also be careful to not over-process. 
-Place the egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the egg yolks until thick and light in color – about 3 or 4 minutes at medium high speed. Slowly add 3/4 cup of sugar.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time to the yolks. TAKE YOUR TIME!!  Carol’s recipe indicates that this should take about 3 minutes to incorporate the sugar. When finished, the yolks should be ribbony.
-Add in the vanilla and the grated lemon rind.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.
-Place egg whites in bowl of the electric mixer and beat at medium speed until soft peaks have formed. Increase speed to medium high and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds. Beat for another 1/2 minute. 
-Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk together for 1 minute.
-Measure the warm butter.
-Working quickly, add a few tablespoons at a time of the pistachio/flour mixture to the egg white/yolk mixture. Work quickly and fold in CAREFULLY so as to not deflate the mixture.  When all but about 2 tablespoons of the nut/flour mixture remain, fold the butter into the batter and then the remainder of the nut/flour mixture.
-Transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with a spatula or back of a spoon. Tap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles.
-Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes if using a 9-inch round cake pan.  The cake will be done when it springs back if touched and separates itself from the sides of the pan. Watch carefully so it does not over cook!
-Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating spray.

Make pastry cream:
Place all but 1/2 cup of the milk with the vanilla bean over low heat.
-Lightly whisk the yolks in a bowl. Sift the flour into the bowl, whisk gently ensuring that there are no lumps.  Add in the sugar and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, watching closely for lumps as you whisk.
-Remove the milk from the heat. Remove the vanilla bean.
-Slowly whisk the milk into the egg/milk mixture.  Re turn the mixture to the pan and place back on the low heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. You want the mixture to be thick.
-Transfer to a bowl and let it cool. Stir it ofter while cooling to keep a skin from forming across the top.
-Once cool, fold in 1 cup of whipped cream and ground pistachios.

Make the whipped cream:
-Mix the heavy cream and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overbeat.

Assemble cake:
-Cut each cake round into two layers. Place first layer on cake plate. Note that it is easier to use cardboard rounds to lift the layers as they are quite delicate.  If you don’t have cardboard rounds, use the side of a cardboard box and slide it under each layer to transport to your serving dish.  Brush surface with brandy.  Place about 1/3 of the pastry cream on top being careful to not go all the way to the edges (or the cream will seep out).  Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with pastry cream.
-Put fourth and final cake layer on top. Brush with brandy.  Frost entire cake with remaining whipped cream.
-Finish sides of cake with ground pistachios and sprinkle top with ground pistachios.
-Allow to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours to firm up!!!!  Enjoy!

Salted Chicken ala Food and Wine

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You’ve undoubtedly heard of brining turkey.  Well in last month’s Food and Wine, the technique was to salt the turkey and leave it in a roasting bag overnight in the fridge.  Well I did it.  And I liked it. The turkey was moist and perfectly seasoneed.  But I also thought why not apply it to a chicken as well.  I took the above chicken, rinsed it, did NOT pat it dry and placed it in a roasting bag.  To that I added one tablespoons of kosher salt and a healthy portion (1 tablespoon) of poultry seasoning. 

I mixed the salt and seasoning, which by now I realized that I could add any seasoning to this, and then seasoned the bird so that the salt and the seasoning would get everywhere.

I seasoned the inside and outside of the bird and left if overnight in the fridge, in the bag.  The next day, I rinsed and patted it dry and placed it in my roaster.  I did not salt the bird before roasting at this point.  But I did pepper it well.

The result, a very moist bird. It seems that the salting of the bird draws out the moisture in the chicken and redistributes it with the seasonings.  Really no need to brine anymore!  Delicious!