After a reflective Christmas Eve, Steve and I were looking forward to a festive Christmas Day spent with family – and some great food & wine, of course! The day started off with exchanging a few gifts, breakfast and a relaxed morning at home. I have to say one of my favorite gifts was the life size, Edward Cullen figure (from the Twilight series) Steve had positioned right outside the front door. Thanks, Honey!
Later in the day, we would be having Christmas dinner at my sister's house. I host Thanksgiving and she has Christmas – that’s the deal. I was in charge of bringing dessert and a side dish – I selected the Black and White Torta (pg. 24) and Green Beans and Friends (pg. 216) both, of course, from “Savor the Moment.” I have actually made The Green Beans and Friends before - with shallots, mushrooms and bacon they are so delicious my sister specifically requested them and what’s not to love about the name?
The Black & White Torta was a different story. I had never made it before and, after reviewing the recipe, found it slightly daunting. There are three distinct steps to making it; a veritable triathlon in and of itself. The picture in the Cookbook looked so beautiful though, I just knew it would be the perfect choice for Christmas dessert. Feeling convicted, I tackled the crust: a mixture of graham cracker crumbs, baking cocoa powder (I used unsweetened), sugar and melted butter. Once blended, I pressed the mixture along the bottom and sides of a 10” springform pan and baked it for 5 minutes.
While the crust was baking, I assembled the chocolate ganache mixture with the semi-sweet chocolate and cream in the double boiler (a heatproof glass bowl positioned over a saucepan of hot water – NOT boiling). It was actually fairly easy and, when fully melted in its chocolatey, delicious state, I poured it into the cooled graham cracker crust and popped it in the refrigerator. At this point I was feeling pretty confident – 2 steps down, one to go and not a glitch to speak of. Then the assemblage of the white chocolate portion of the “torta” began. This is the longest step because it involves three actual steps of its own. Too late to reconsider now!
First, I melted the white chocolate and cream in the double-boiler (I was getting really good at this by now!) making a white chocolate ganache. Then, on to the secret ingredient: the gelatin which helps the white chocolate mixture keep its shape and gives it texture. I’ve had mixed results with gelatin in the past – you have to make sure it dissolves really well otherwise you might end up with chewy bits of it in the finished product - NOT good! Take the time to be sure it is totally dissolved.
Then it was on to the "triple lindy" of the white chocolate layer which requires (1) making the whipped cream and (2) beating in the white chocolate mixture then (3) the gelatin. It was actually not too difficult and once this gorgeous, heavenly layer was assembled, I spread it over the chilled, decadent, dark chocolate layer (not without sampling a spoonful or so, you know, just to be sure it didn’t need anything - dee-licious!). With all steps complete, the torta was assembled in a snap, and into the fridge it went for a long winter’s nap (overnight).
Needless to say, Christmas dinner was a big hit – my sister Jen & her husband Rick served their delicious Deep-Fried Turkey, a Honey-Baked Ham and some fantastic side dishes along with a tasty 2006 Etude Pinot Noir. The black cherry and spice flavors of this delicious, medium-bodied wine from the Carneros region of California complemented the meal beautifully. The Green Beans and Friends were also a big hit and held up remarkably well with the travel time to our destination. I re-warmed them in the oven and then added the crumbled, cooked bacon right before serving.
Finally the moment of truth – the unveiling of the torta! With an unsteady hand, I ran a knife between the crust and the pan to loosen it. I had my niece, Lily, unfasten the springform pan and I gently lifted it off the torta – two words immediately came to mind: WO and OW. It was just beautiful! There were oohs and ahhs from everyone around. Lily helped me grate some chocolate over the top and dessert was served! Those who didn't know better assumed I had bought it somewhere else.
Thankfully it tasted as good as it looked - the crust was perfectly crunchy with a nice sweetness and the decadent dark chocolate layer was the perfect contrast to the creamy, heavenly white chocolate layer. The only thing I would have done differently would be to make sure the crust doesn’t come up higher than the filling of the torta in the springform pan. It’s hard to remove the excess crust once you remove the pan. Whatever! Just be sure to make this delicious, gorgeous dessert the next time you really want to WOW your guests! We worked off the calories from our holiday meal with a family marathon on the kids' Wii playing Band Hero (see the "kids" below) singing songs including Taylor Swift's "Love Story, Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved" and "American Pie" by Don McLean.
With Christmas 2009 behind us, I look forward to savoring many more fabulous recipes from “Savor the Moment” in 2010. To those of you who weren’t lucky enough to find a copy in your Christmas stocking this year, please visit www.jlbr.org to purchase your copy today and get cooking! Wishing you all the best in 2010, thanks again for your support!