Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fruit Torte

I admit, I'm a bit obsessed with this torte. Someone in the dessert-sharing group to which I belong posted a photo of her strawberry version and I filed it away for Seattle strawberry season. It's a BBC Good Food recipe ( and I liked both how easy it was and also how suited I imagined it would be for making gluten-free. While I usually use American volume-based recipes, I have a good digital scale and am not intimidated by baking by weight.

The first time I made this, I made it exactly as written.... except that I used whole wheat pastry flour (since I always do this, I don't even consider it a tweak to a recipe) and forgot the leavening. Self-raising flour just isn't common here and I will never manage to keep track of yet another type of flour. My plan was to add baking powder and salt, but the girls were cooking with me, I got flustered and left it out. Oops! I was worried that one pound (450ish grams) of the most gorgeous farmers' market strawberries would be wasted. Thankfully, the "torte" just turned into a "tarte", with a shortbread-like crust and top that were delicious. I think the texture was related to the lack of leavening and the fact that my butter wasn't very soft. I rather like making mistakes like this in the kitchen, because it's an opportunity to model a good attitude for the children. How wonderful for them to see that even most baking mistakes turn out edible and if we do have to throw the whole lot away, we talk about what we've learned and try not to make a crisis into a drama, as they say.

The second time I was determined to use softer butter and remember the leavening, which I did. But I also used gluten-free flour and swapped in raspberries for strawberries and vanilla for cinnamon. It was as if I'd made an entirely different, but equally delicious, dessert! This time the torte was a light and fluffy cake with the same jammy berry filling. This made me determined to try a third time with the softer butter and whole wheat pastry flour to see what texture I'd end up with. I knew the GF flour  would yield a softer texture no matter what so I wanted to reduce my variables. Also, this torte is damn good and we certainly don't mind eating it often.

The third time I used some frozen (but thawed) cherry halves, whole wheat pastry flour, soft butter and the proper leavening. I've permanently abandoned the cinnamon, I think. I like almond and vanilla better with berries. The texture was almost identical to the GF raspberry version, which goes to show what a difference the temperature of the butter can make. Next weekend, I will be making it a fourth time for family dinner with GF flour and blueberries. I think I will add some lemon zest to that one. This is truly a versatile, easy and tasty torte!

My go-to gluten-free flour mix is 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca starch

175 g almond meal or ground almonds
175 g whole wheat pastry flour, gluten-free flour mix or self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder (omit if using SR flour)
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using SR flour)
175 g sugar (I use evaporated cane juice)
175 g (about 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp almond extract (or to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or to taste)
2 eggs (original recipe called for 1 egg plus 1 yolk but I cannot be bothered with that)
450 g (about 1lb or 2 c.) fruit, sliced if necessary

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch Springform pan and line the bottom with parchment
  2. Put all ingredients up to but not including butter in a food processor and pulse until there are no clumps and it's combined
  3. Add butter and pulse until combined
  4. In a small bowl or measuring cup, lightly whisk eggs and extracts together just to break up the yolks
  5. Add egg mixture to food processor and blend until combined. It should look like a cross between batter and dough
  6. Do your best to spread half the mix in the bottom of the pan you prepared. The batter/dough is very sticky if you've used soft butter, so I've had the best luck taking clumps of it and flattening it in my hands before laying it in the pan
  7. Scatter (or heap, as the case may be) your fruit evenly across the torte base, trying not to do too much fruit right at the edges
  8. Cover fruit as best you can with remaining dough/batter using same technique as above. Expect to see fruit peeking out
  9. Bake one hour but start checking around 40 minutes. If the top is too brown cover loosely with foil. The torte is done when a knife comes out batter-free when inserted (expect to see some fruit just no batter)
  10. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream as desired. We have always eaten it plain but will serve with homemade vanilla ice cream next week at the request of the birthday boy 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Super Simple Coconut Cake

I'm part of a dessert photo-sharing group, one of whose members recently posted a recipe for a four ingredient cake, using one cup of each. It's referred to as 1,1,1,1 cake. A little research yielded the source as I was very skeptical that this cake would be any good, but I needed a little something after a dental appointment and the ease of this recipe inspired me to try it. I was delighted with the results. The cake is perfect alongside a cup of tea--very moist and flavorful. It may not be the most sophisticated cake in the world, but given that you can make it in half the time it takes the oven to preheat, I'm sold. In addition, I thought this would be a great recipe for my 6 3/4 year old to try making all by herself. We've made it together twice now, each time with me talking and helping less. By the end of the summer, I feel confident that she will only need help pouring the milk from the heavy glass bottles we get and getting it into and out of the oven (being on the petite side, it's too far a reach for her to get the baking tray in and out). The cake needs no icing, but was splendid with some mashed, very ripe, unsweetened strawberries on top. I foresee this as a regular in our repertoire.

At the recommendation of the fellow baker who posted the recipe, we used only 1/2 cup of sugar rather than 1 cup. We used whole wheat pastry flour and, since we never have self-raising flour on hand, added baking powder and salt. We also whizzed up the shredded coconut in our coffee grinder (that's never used for coffee) the second time we tried it. This made the texture less chewy and if you've got the time and equipment it's a worthwhile trick. Finally, we added the zest and juice of one lemon. I love the combination of the lemon and coconut. Someday when I have an orange on hand, I will use the zest of one whole orange--I would think that the juice of a whole orange would be too much but you might be able to use half the juice and then just top with milk to make 1 cup. Orange cake is one of my favorites and I think this would make a satisfying one.

1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 c.  whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 TBSP (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. sugar (I use evaporated cane juice)
1 c. milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 180 degrees C)
  2. Line a loaf tin with parchment (I'm going to try just greasing sometime to see if appear is really necessary, especially as I have a silicone bread pan)
  3. If desired, grind up shredded coconut a bit so it's a flour-like consistency
  4. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well mixed
  5. Pour into loaf tin and bake 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  6. Cool on a wire rack and serve at any temperature, topping with berries if desired. Keeps quite well since it's so moist