Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TWD Brownie-Cherry Torte and DB's Macarons, oh my

It has finally happened...the perfect storm of blog posting. Two of the baking groups I belong to, Tuesdays with Dorie and The Daring Bakers, have challenges that have to be posted today. As George Costanza would say, "worlds are colliding!" So rather than make 2 separate posts, today's blog will be a super-duper-mega-big post about two delicious things I've made recently: a brownie-cherry torte and (pumpkin spice and nutella) macarons.

It's kind of a shame these guys have to share the limelight, because I thought they were both worthy of their own entry. First up, TWD's brownie-cherry torte.

As you can imagine, my husband, being married to a pastry chef and candy writer/recipe developer, eats a lot of sweets. A LOT. I wouldn't say his enthusiasm for sugar has waned, but it takes more to really impress him these days. And friends, he was blown away by this torte. We're talking head rolled back, tongue sticking out of the mouth, making guttural moaning sounds. I think it's true love.

For the most part, I loved it too. I made a half batch in a 6" pan and it was still super deep-dish and dense. The brownie part was rich and fudgy, and the mascarpone mousse was a surprisingly nice topping. I wasn't sure about the combo as I was making it, but the mousse was so light and creamy, it was the perfect foil to the dark, fudgy brownie. I also loved the cherry flavor, but I wasn't sold on the texture of chewy dried fruit in my brownie. Next time I'd either use fresh cherries or morello cherries instead of dried.But there will be a next time, because this? Was amazing!

Now on to the DB's macarons. I know this is blasphemy, but I don't really like macarons. Shhhh, don't say it so loudly! I've had some that I've thought are pretty good, but for the most part, I think they're just not my ideal cookie. They're often too sweet, and I don't usually love the texture. I guess I'll always be a warm chocolate chip cookie girl at heart. And also, I think they're annoying to make, but that may just be because we have to make jumbo 3" ones at work and let me tell you, the good lord did not intend for macarons to be made so large. They're constantly causing problems and I think I have developed a big macaron-shaped chip on my shoulder because of it.

Aaaaanyways, I sucked it up and made two variations of macarons this time around: pumpkin spice, with a spiced cookie and pumpkin-flavored buttercream, and nutella, with a cocoa-hazelnut cookie and homemade nutella in the middle.

Did y'all know it's possible to make homemade Nutella? And if you did, why didn't you send me any?? This stuff is awesome! It's just ground hazelnuts, with some cocoa, sugar, and a bit of hazelnut oil and vanilla. The texture is closer to natural peanut butter than Nutella, but the hazelnut taste is much more intense, plus it doesn't have any nasty trans fats. Yes please! Subbing hazelnuts for the almonds in the cookie also worked like a dream and gave them a nice subtle hazelnut flavor.

The nutella cookies might have been my favorite because they were less sweet, but the pumpkin spice were a surprising dark horse contender! I added big pinches of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to the cookie batter, and then used some pumpkin flavoring oil (used to make candies, like Lor-Ann brand) to make a pumpkin buttercream. It was like a delicious mouthful of autumn. I would also consider using pumpkin butter as a filling, to give it a pumpkin flavor and maybe cut down on the sweetness.

Making the decorations on top is the simplest thing in the world. Just mix a little liquid orange food coloring with water, and use a (clean) paintbrush or pastry brush to lightly stroke it across the top. You might need to experiment with several brushes to get the effect you want. Allow it to dry for about 10 minutes, and you're all set.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe. It can be found on just about any blog by googling, so I'll skip that for now, but I have put the homemade nutella recipe after the cut...

Homemade Nutella

from the Los Angeles Times

Servings: Makes about 1 1/2 cups
Note: Use good-quality cocoa powder, such as Scharffen Berger.

2 cups raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil, more as needed

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts evenly over a cookie sheet and roast until they darken and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a damp towel and rub to remove the skins.

2. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter, scraping the sides as needed so they process evenly, about 5 minutes.

It was awesome to watch the hazelnuts go from this...

...to this!

3. Add the cocoa, sugar, vanilla, salt and oil to the food processor and continue to process until well blended, about 1 minute. The finished spread should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter; if it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil until the desired consistency is achieved. Remove to a container, cover and refrigerate until needed. Allow the spread to come to room temperature before using, as it thickens considerably when refrigerated. It will keep for at least a week.

Each tablespoon: 109 calories; 2 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 9 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 13 mg. sodium.


  1. Your torte looks perfect. And those cookies are very beautiful. But I have to try making my own nutella. What an inspiration!

  2. Your torte is so high! It was a big hit in our house, too!

  3. I'm right there with you on not knowing its possible to make your own Nutella. I think this will make my husband's day!

  4. Everything is gorgeous!

  5. I think you have the best job(s) in the world. Seriously.

    I wish I had followed my dream of going to pastry school.

    But nooooo - I had to get married and have kids.

  6. Homemade Nutella? Licking the screen now...*drool*. The Cherry Torte looks so beautiful, such perfect feathering! Then again, you're a pro :).

  7. Anonymous4:38 PM

    Wow! Everything looks fabulous. Love the macarons and the homemade Nutella. Your torte looks killer.

  8. Your torte is gorgeous. I adore the decorating you did. I need some decorating lessons. Everything looks yummy and wonderful.

  9. you should not have told me about the homemade nutella...i'm going to have to send you the bill for my new *bigger* pants

  10. Your torte is stunning!! Great job! Love the homemade nutella--sounds wonderful! The macarons look amazing also--busy baking week!

  11. Of course everything looks phenomenal! I bet your hubby is harder to impress, hadn't really thought about that LOL I loved this too, had to give half away though - love your chevron pattern!

  12. Anonymous5:38 AM

    I love how you decorated the torte and the plate! I divided mine between two pans, so it wasn't so deep-dish, but it was tasty.

    I'm not a big macaron person, but your flavor combinations sound delicious. I need to get something pumpkin flavored going in my kitchen.

  13. Your torte is gorgeous - and the cutaway shot makes me want to make it (I skipped this week). Beautiful macarons, too.

  14. Wow, what a great, perfect looking torte! Makes me wish I'd made it that way, No, you're the expert, makes me wish I had a piece of yours!
    I've only had two macarons in my life, both within the last month. Love the hazelnut one I had, well, and the chocolate one. Got it from a little French bakery and it was HUGE, like the ones you mentioned. Rich, too.
    I just made my own Nutella a few weeks ago. Delish!
    Great post, Liz!

  15. I just made it yesterday. everybody like it so much. I just want to say thank you for this recipe! Even I like it very much. You just increase my confident that I can make good food also!

  16. Shikishmack shmack! The torte looks superb! I love it! Yummmmmmy! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Sorry so late... I was sick.

    I'm floored! What a magnificent presentation on that tort... wow.

    And the macarons! Pfff... don't try to hide it, I know you have some French genes! LOL Those are simply beautiful! Love the peach painting! Love, love, love!

  18. Homemade nutella!!!??? I wish you never told me that, because now I have to try it! And then I'll have to eat it! Over and over again! Both desserts look phenomenal!

  19. Anonymous1:28 PM

    Wow, that's the most stunning brownie torte I've seen! It's absolutely beautiful! I'd make guttural sounds too if I had a bite! =)
    The pumpkin spice macarons look soo pretty - I love the orange coloring on top! Sounds like my kind of cookie - pumpkin with spices! =)

  20. Your torte is a work of art. I loved it also and I'm usually not a huge fan of chocolate + cherries. I made macarons once and they were way too sweet for me, although I love the way they look and I respect the art of baking them. I might try again on a less sweet recipe. Yours look amazing!

  21. great job on both - they are truly stunning! I didn't mind the dried cherries in the torte so much.

  22. A brownie torte, macarons and homemade nutella... Are you trying to kill us all here? But I'm totally sold...

  23. Both your desserts are absolutely stunning!! I'm always waiting for your posts!

  24. P.S - Where can I contact you? I couldn't find an e-mail addy! I'm contemplating entering the culinary world to become a pastry chef, would love your thoughts!

  25. is there anywhere i can get the recip for the torte? it looks amazing and i'd love to make it for my friends birthday

  26. Your blog is very informative.This is obviously one great post.i keep on reading articles from here.thanks for sharing..