Friday, January 11, 2008

The Mandeltorte Peace Accord of 2007

We joked over Christmas that if a person starts showing too much emotion in my family, he's probably hungry. Or, in any case: you shed tears, we'll feed you.

It works another way, too. When my daddy's girls get mad, get stubborn, get blue or get bored we work it out with some dough. I was mean to my little sister Gena on Christmas Day (I know, what a scrooge) and we were temporarily not speaking. Meanwhile, after a morning spent fiddling with a computer, my Dad had fixed a network or something and was starting to look like he needed a new project (anything to keep that man out of trouble). So I told him, "You're going to make this torte thing for my blog. It's MANDELtorte, Dad." (He's such an Austrophile. Tell him the dessert's from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and he's all over it. As he likes to remind us, the Austrians are the brilliant spin doctors who managed to convince the world that Hitler was German.)

This particular Mandel --- or Almond --- Torte is from the third edition of The Joy of Cooking published in 1952 by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. (The first was written by just Irma, a newly widowed single mom, and published in 1936 and a second "post-war" was published in the 40s. Then Irma's daughter, Marion, joined the fun in the early 50s.) TJC is THE cookbook, as everyone knows. It's Molly O'Neill's "desert island" cookbook, an essential primer AND reference for beginners, experts, anyone in between. But the recipes are far from foolproof, as you shall see.

We had plenty of lemons picked fresh from the neighbor's tree (don't worry --- they asked my aunt & uncle to do this while they were away), some almonds in the pantry, breadcrumbs in the fridge and dark chocolate galore (it was Christmas, after all), so I put my dad & sister to work on Irma's German Mandeltorte (shh! don't tell Dad!). I had high hopes for both the reparation of my sisterly relationship, and the torte itself. Irma writes that the recipe should "be starred as 'the' nut cake my friends frequently ask for."

At first Gena continued to more or less ignore me (except for the dagger looks: exhibit A at right), but by the time she was folding the egg whites into the batter, she was grudgingly accepting advice from me --- in limited quantities, but then I am very bossy.

The batter came together nicely and tasted divine. But taking it out of the cake pan -- uh-oh. Irma instructs us to line that pan with greased wax paper. And, uh, she wasn't kidding. The cake is incredibly moist & crumbly --- it was a bit of a mess. Dad called Gena and I to the dining room table to asses the situation. We told him we were behind him, 110%. Let's go in there with a thin knife, do our damndest to get that cake out, leave no man, woman or child behind. Nothing like a minor kitchen catastrophe to bring bickering sisters back together.

We spread the bottom layer with a lemon curd filling (my only contribution to the finished torte, except, of course, the totally crucial producer credit) and covered the rather sorry looking thing with a dark chocolate butter icing. Not the comeliest cake but it fulfilled its purpose as both a sugar fix at the end of a legendary meal, and as a Camp David peace summit in miniature. Except, you know, a successful one.


Dave, 'LunaPierCook' said...

One of the things I really enjoy about your blog, Nora, is these recent images and stories of family togetherness. Thanks for sharing!

srhcb said...

Remember that your sister reads your blog. Perhaps she'll provide us with "the rest of the story"?

Maybe we'll even hear from Dad?

Anonymous said...

We Austro-Hungarian-philes are fully aware of what's german and what's from the first European dynasty that gave full citizenship to people of different nationalities - well, two nationalities for sure. The czechs, slovaks, serbians, croats, bosnians, galician jews, etc had to wait a while, but many made it in the end.

Mandeltort is a fine cake, even if it's made with california lemons.
Who could argue with cooking foods from different cultures?

danny said...

your sister has a menacing look there, a woman scored with an electric egg beater! good thing you two made up!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
srhcb said...

Gee, I hope the comment deleted wasn't from your sister!

SB (has a "feisty" little sister himself)

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