Whipping up your own almond paste adds just a few minutes, but smartly innovates on a classic recipe.
By Melissa Clark
A testament to a well-loved recipe is that, when you pull the cookbook it’s in off the shelf, it automatically falls open to that page. And that’s exactly what happens whenever I reach for “Chez Panisse Desserts” by Lindsey Shere. The sticky pages of the almond torte recipe fling themselves upward, willing me to bake it, even if I had another sweet in mind.
Usually, I give in. No matter what kind of dessert I’m looking for, this adaptable almond torte can fill the bill.
On its own, it’s a tender, golden cake that walks the line between dense and light, with a fine, plush crumb and heady marzipan flavor. Powdering it with confectioners’ sugar turns it into a minimalist dessert or afternoon snack. Topping it with seasonal fruit and whipped cream makes it colorful and fresh; lemon curd adds tang. And icing it with bittersweet ganache yields something rich and fudgy, satisfying any chocolate desires.
Although the recipe is perfect as is, I’ve recently started tweaking it. Instead of using a tube of almond paste, which I never seem to have on hand, I’ve been substituting a quick homemade version.
Do-it-yourself almond paste is almost too easy. Just whirl together some almond flour or sliced almonds, sugar, almond extract and an egg white in a food processor — in this case, in the same bowl used for the cake batter. The whole thing adds about two minutes to the prep time, and I think the cake tastes even richer and more almondy for it. Also, since brands of commercial almond paste vary in their sugar contents, making your own creates more consistent results.
Once you’ve gotten into the groove of preparing your own almond paste, try switching it up. I’ve baked this cake with roasted (unsalted) almonds to give it a toasted, earthy flavor. Pistachios lend a floral character that I like to heighten with a splash of orange blossom water. And hazelnuts turn everything woodsy and deep.
In this exuberantly summery version, the cake is topped with whipped crème fraîche and sliced ripe peaches. But feel free to use any other fresh juicy fruit or berries, or even poached pears if you’re saving the recipe for fall.
Then, when winter comes, you can slather on the chocolate ganache. For lovers of both almond and chocolate, cake doesn’t get much better than this.
Recipe: Almond Cake With Peaches and Cream
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