Friday, April 3, 2009
Toscatårta and Swedish Coffee
I'm always hesitant to reply when people ask me to name my favorite dessert. My tastes run to the barely sweet, but within that category I have a dozen favorites. This petite cake is one of them. I learned to bake a version of it as a child. A neighbor was my teacher. Armed only with a wooden spoon, her massive arms beat butter and sugar to submission and produced cakes and pastries that, to this day, astound me. Coffee was always simmering on her stove but a fresh pot, complete with a raw egg, was always made to accompany this lovely almond-topped cake. That, too, was watched with fascination. My first cup of coffee - a café au lait much heavier on au lait than café - came as a reward for making my first tårta. The cake is simple to do but make sure you use an 8-inch cake pan. I actually use a cheesecake pan with fixed sides to make mine. Make sure to spread the topping on a still warm cake. Keep a careful eye on the cake once it goes into the broiler as it takes only seconds for the topping to burn. This tårta does not keep well, so plan on serving it the day it's made - it's best eaten warm. I really, really like this cake. I think you will, too. As a curiosity, I'm including a recipe for Swedish egg coffee in this post. Why an egg? It helps the grounds settle to the bottom on a pot. It's not a bad technique to have at your disposal if your coffee pot breaks.
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
To make cake:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally coat bottom and sides of a high-sided 8-inch round pan with 2 teaspoons butter. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs or flour. Tap out excess.
2) Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat eggs until blended. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon when the beater is lifted out.
3) Using a spatula, fold flour mixture and milk alternately into egg mixture by first adding about 1/3 of the flour, then a little milk, then another 1/3 of flour, and remaining milk. Finally, add butter and fold in remaining flour. Be careful not to overfold. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bang pan on table to remove air pockets.
4) Bake cake in the center of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and is springy when touched lightly. A toothpick inserted into center of cake should come out dry and clean. Remove from oven. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.
To make almond topping:
5) Meanwhile, combine butter, sugar and flour in a small pan and stir together briefly with a wooden spoon. Add milk and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 or 3 minutes, until mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in almonds and vanilla. Set aside.
6) Preheat broiler. Run a knife around the edges of cake to loosen from pan. Invert onto a wire rack. Set another rack on top of cake and invert again. Spread topping over warm cake. Place cake, still on rack, under the broiler, about 3 inches from the heat. Broil 3 to 5 minutes, until top is golden brown and bubbling. Check constantly to be sure that topping does not burn. Serve while still warm. Yield: 1 8-inch cake.
Adapted from The Cooking of Scandinavia by Dale Brown
Swedish Egg Coffee
10-12 cups of water
1 cup regular-grind coffee
1 cup of ice cold water
Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix coffee and egg. Add a little hot water to coffee and egg mixture, then pour mixture into hot water. Stir and heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and pour in 1 cup of ice cold water. Let set for 10 minutes before serving. (The egg and grounds settle to the bottom, leaving the coffee a dark honey color.)