Brownies for a Princess


By legend, when an Austrian princess was staying at the Italian resort isle of Capri back in the 1800s, she started longing for the dense chocolate cake of her native Vienna, Sachertorte.  Not knowing how to make the Viennese delicacy, the resort’s Italian chefs prepared a more familiar local almond cake, added cocoa and hoped the combination would work.

An even more appealing version of the story has the chefs ready to triumphantly produce Sachertorte for an ecstatic princess, only to discover at the last minute they had no flour in the pantry.  Salvaging the situation, one of the chefs thought to substitute almond flour and still managed to surprise the happy princess.  Another delighted guest, no?

Either way, Torta Caprese (Italian for, “Capri Cake”) was born.  Cook’s Illustrated presented the recipe in its November/December 2018 issue and thus, it found its way here.   Not only does the almond flour make this gluten-free,  but it produces a dense, impossibly moist crumb that makes Torta Caprese most similar to a brownie.  Effectively, Victorian resort chefs catering to the royal palette produced, well, a tray of brownies.  Luscious, elegant brownies, but brownies all the same.

Of course, true to its nature, the kitchen added a couple Italian flourishes.  For one thing, confectioner’s sugar is dusted over the top, contributing an extra sweetness and creating a striking visual contrast with the dark cake beneath.  Also, a dollop of liqueur-infused whipped cream is served alongside the Torta, adding a rich creaminess.  The two possibilities are to use amaretto or orange liqueur.   As it’s been a while since the latter was chosen, orange liqueur it was.  A good decision.

These may be regular brownies done up in a “royal” fashion, but the charming backstories show that even cooks in an imperial kitchen occasionally hit roadblocks or run out of ingredients.  Still, they persisted and improvised, earning their designations as chefs de cuisine.

*****

Torta Caprese

(Italian Chocolate-Almond Cake)

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, optional

Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 325°.  Lightly spritz a round cake pan with cooking spray.

Put butter and bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl and, stopping to stir frequently, microwave at 50% power until melted, about 90 seconds total.  Stir in vanilla extract and set aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, about one minute.  Increase speed to medium-high and gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar.  After about four minutes, when the eggs form stiff peaks, transfer them to a separate bowl.  Wash the mixer bowl and whisk attachment.

Add the egg yolks and remaining sugar to the now-empty mixer bowl.  Whip on medium-high speed until thick and pale yellow, about three minutes.   Add the chocolate mixture you microwaved and mix at medium speed until incorporated, about 15 seconds.  Add the almond flour, cocoa and salt and mix until incorporated,  about 30 seconds.

Remove the mixer bowl from the stand and use a rubber spatula to mix in any chocolate residue that remains stuck to the bottom or the sides.  Add one-third of the whipped whites to the mixer bowl and attach it back to the stand.  Mix at medium speed for about 30 seconds, until no streaks of white remain.

Transfer mixer bowl contents to the bowl holding the remaining egg withes and gently fold together with the rubber spatula until combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing out the top if necessary with the spatula.

Bake for about 50 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.  Let the pan cool on a wire rack for twenty minutes, then carefully remove the cake from the pan and let cool by itself on the rack for anther two hours. Dust with confectioner sugar if desired, and serve alongside flavored whipped cream, recipe below.

*****

Orange Whipped  Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Cointreau (*1)
  • 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest

Place a stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Attach to the mixer stand and add the cream, confectioner’s sugar and liqueur.  Whisk at low speed until everything’s incorporated, then gradually increase the mixer speed to high.

Add orange zest while the mixer is at high speed.  Continue thusly for about four minutes, until mixture is light and fluffy.  Using a pastry bag, distribute whipped cream among serving plates, or use a soup spoon to create a dollop.

NOTES:

1 – I didn’t have any Cointreau, but 1/4 a bottle of Grand Marnier is still on the pantry shelf, and that filled in nicely.  They’re both orange-forward French liqueurs, after all.

 

 

46 thoughts on “Brownies for a Princess

  1. This looks amazing! Do you know how much oil you’d substitute for the butter? I’d love to try it (and we don’t bake or cook with milky in my house, people do, we just don’t).
    💕💕💕

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Why, thank you, Eliza!

      Good question about the butter substitute. It look some thought, and, well, how about olive oil?

      Start with a quantity a little less than that of the butter you would’ve used. Stir the chocolate-olive oil mixture well, as it likely won’t combine quite as readily (at first) as would the butter, but be patient. Eventually it too should produce satiny chocolate silk.

      The idea behind starting with a slightly less generous amount of olive oil is that you always can drizzle in a little more if the ganache isn’t as smooth as you’d like it to be.

      If you do decide to try olive oil, let me know how good a substitute it was, OK?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Will do. Remind me next Thursday – I’d love to try it then, make it for shabbat. I’m going to save this post and hopefully I’ll remember…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Will do, Eliza!

        Thing is, the first five hours of your Thursday will still be Wednesday here. Wait, say that again. I’m so confused!

        I’ll make it a point to mention it when I’m commenting on your blog (my) Wednesday evening, or if you do the same here.

        Like

      3. Nope, Eastern Zone (US). As I recall from interacting with colleagues at work, the UK is five hours ahead of us,

        Why do you think all my comments on you blog are so late? It may be 1:30AM your time, but it’s only 8:30PM here!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Quite agree, Kate. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, or a beer at an office happy hour. Lord knows, I use the stuff enough in recipes. Still, I really can’t tolerate the taste of alcohol. To me, it’s too reminiscent of the Robitussin our mothers gave us when we were sick.

        Going to university, I had high hopes (as it were) of what experimentation would yield. Maybe scotch tastes like butterscotch. It doesn’t.

        Vodka is clear like water. Likewise, is is mild? No.

        Learned much about the world those first few months…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. lol my siblings all have drinking problems so I did get drunk once just to see what the attraction was … couldn’t see any attraction and as I always rode motorbikes then I wasn’t going to go there!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t know you were preparing Brownies with Orange Icing! Had I known, I would’ve come by sooooo much sooner. You must know, by now, that I can’t resist your decadent, homemade sweet treats, especially these! I am growing weaker with their absence…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Greatly obliged, Tamara!

      Help us Orange-y Whip (ped Cream), you’re our only hope.

      Actually, you may want to try the whipped cream unadorned. With the liquor, it’s more authentic to the original creation, but, in my opinion, the alcohol adds little more than that. Plus, I doubt you have a bottle of Grand Marnier on your pantry shelf, and it’ll be a shame to spend $40 for just a teaspoon or so.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Actually, lol, I do have a bottle of Grand Marnier on my shelf. I’ve been afraid to drink it because I’ve heard some bottles are going for $500 each.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Really, Tamara? $500 you say? I’ve only used about 20%, so maybe I can get in on some of the $. Ka-Ching!

        Nah, it’s far too worthy an addition to recipes for me to part with it now. I’m much too sentimental to say goodbye to a friend anyway. Plus, it’s one of the few liquors I can tolerate.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The orange whipped cream was a really nice touch. I’ve always found it difficult to bake with gluten-free flours. From the looks of the pictures, you’ve had tremendous success!

    The gluten-free flours seem the easiest to get in the stores at the moment. Yeast and white flour not so much. This is one that most will be able to make!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely, Summer! Having a good friend who’s GF inspired me to experiment. Once I discovered almond flour, it became quite impossible to continue without it. That led to buckwheat, which begat rice flour… No question, almond is a true gateway flour. Bless you, Bob’s Red Mill!

      Oh, I still use AP and cake flour mostly, certainly more often than I should, but I do keep the others in rotation too. I was fortunate to buy a 25-pound bag about a month before the virus hit, meaning I’m set, flour-wise for the rest of the year

      How about you, Summer?. Do you have a special source that supplies almond flour in 500-pound bales, or do you make your own entirely?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, almond flour is a great GF flour! I was buying almond meal at Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately they do not do home deliveries and they are probably one of the smallest and most crowded food stores around here. I’ve been avoiding them entirely since the quarantine (much to the dismay of my son, who misses having some of their products in the house).

        Have you tried Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 baking flour? I’ve heard that was a really good GF blend to work with but have yet to give it a whirl.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Not yet, Summer, no. I still am very much the Junior Alternate Flour Adventurer. Mostly almond flour and a smattering of others. All in all, covering maybe only 10% of my flour needs.

        Even so, that’s 10% more than it was a few years ago.

        You mentioned Trader Joe’s, which piqued my curiosity. Are there any Whole Foods nearby? I wonder how their assortment of GF compares. We have one downtown (much too crowded, parking’s a nightmare) or in distant suburbs all the way on the other side of town. Which means I never have stepped foot in a WF. Heck, I’ve been to Wegman’s more often than I’ve been to Whole Foods.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, the next town over is home to two Whole Foods and word is they will be opening one in my town very soon. Since the quarantine, I’ve been making use of Whole Foods for home grocery deliveries. They are getting more of my business lately, since Trader Joe’s does not do deliveries in my area.

        Whole Foods is probably best in my area for GF foods. However, I’m willing to bet the offerings at Wegman’s are just as good. Wegman’s prices tend to be better as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. That’s what I suspected, Summer.

        Another question (my, don’t I have many of them?), what are your “regular” grocery stores like? In other words, with so many gourmet options,, do general-purpose grocers suffer neglect?

        That’s exactly the situation in which my friends in Boston find themselves. Yes, Boston has a well-earned reputation for being a “foodie” mecca, and it seems you can’t go a block without coming across another Wegmans-caliber emporium, but the town’s general grocers? Meh.

        The last time I was up there, I was fairly disappointed at how lame plain-old grocery stores are. Really, just inflated convenience stores, was my impression.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. That’s exactly how it is here. With the Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Markets. etc. the regular grocery stores here are not like your typical Wegman’s. However, I have been noticing that some of the “regular” stores have been trying to cater to the Whole Foods crowd more and more recently. (Adding bigger and bigger health food sections, more dietitian-run classes, and so on.)

        It kind of forces the situation where I have to shop at multiple stores if I want the specialty foods but I don’t want to spend $$$ buying all of my groceries at Whole Foods. If Trader Joe’s were larger I’d happily do all of my shopping there but they never have everything I need.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Sounds like quite the situation, Summer. So many going after the upscale shopper, the space is overly saturated. Not an issue if you think nothing of spending $600 a week on groceries, but everyone else has to search, and search, and search…

        Having an educated, discriminating public most certainly is an advantage, in terms of the options it encourages, but there are drawbacks too.

        The main grocers down here made a conscious decision years ago to pursue “refined” shoppers, leaving the bargain-hunters to Wal-Mart and to the other, lesser, chains. Really cool stuff at the upscale place, especially if I’m looking for something special, but people started going to Super Wal-Mart for the staples, forcing the grocer to pare back its prices, at least on basic meat and potatoes.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That certainly qualifies as clever, Rachel. When confronted with chocolate’s awesome power, you still manage a thoughtful response.

      Darn, we’re going to have to come up with some other way to knock Rachel off her intellectual pedestal. Of course, maybe if we keep throwing various forms of chocolate at her…

      (Thanks much, by the way!)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hah! Well, cleverness begets cleverness, and I happen to be acquainted with someone who rather excels at that. That, and delighting with recipes both savoury and sweet, chocolatey and… oooh… chocolate… Yes, that might work; please, do try!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, sincere gratitude for your kind words, Crystal!

      By the way, WordPress has returned the “Like” feature to us, allowing me to affirm your last two A-Z expeditions and perhaps, even, to comment on one of them. Dang,, can you write!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Pat. It is a nice combination, which actually surprised me a little.

      Another complimentary flavor is almond whipped cream, i.e. flavored with extract or even Disaronno.

      In fact, come to think of it, even mint whipped cream would be nice, don’t you think?

      Like

    1. Thanks so much, Antonia! Apologies for the delayed reply; WordPress informed me of your comment a mere hour ago. More than two weeks after you wrote it!

      Easy enough to make it without the almonds. Substitute another nut, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips…or…nothing. That’s the beauty of cooking, every person makes improvements, giving the recipe her own unique touch. On the recipe travels through the ages, edging closer to perfection with every twist and turn.

      Like

    1. A worthy aspiration, JoAnn, one rich with promise yet to be fulfilled.

      Even if you’re not cooking for a pastry shop, a restaurant, or a bakery (not yet at least), you still have a household to pamper and friends to delight, correct? Clearly, you have the motivation, the passion. Maybe it’s time they create more than just dreams.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They do, which is why they’re princesses.

      It’s also why the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed early in the next century. From Mozart to dissolution within a hundred years or so.

      So go ahead and smash, if the Emperor Franz Josef means nothing to you. He doesn’t? Then go ahead, Tamara, and crush that cream!

      I think you’ll like it too, as this is the real stuff, fresh cream, frosted mixing bowl and all!

      Liked by 1 person

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