Sunday, July 3, 2011

torta di grigna

I hate moving. Not that I get particularly attached to any one location, so the issue isn't the fact that I'm leaving a house I've lived in for 11 years. I will miss the familiarity, of course, but as for the house itself. Well, when you're moving about 2 miles away, it's not going to be much of a loss.

The problem with moving is the moving. The boxes, the cleaning, the stress, discovering old things you thought you had thrown away, and regret not having thrown away because they bring back awkward memories of your childhood idiocy and embarrassing old hobbies [though, mountains upon mountains of Barbie dolls and miniature toy cars make quite an interesting dichotomy].

It's Sunday afternoon, and between absorbing the defense's closing arguments in the Casey Anthony trial [yes, I have been following this trial since my return home, and find it highly interesting, if not very sad] and listening to my father steam-clean the carpet for pending potential buyers coming to visit the house, I imagine how hectic the next month or so is going to be. Full of stress, cleaning, and boxes.

After all, there are 11 years of memories in this house. That's quite a lot to fit into cardboard and ship off.

Nonetheless, today I go back to the apartment, and I'll be there for the next two weeks. [Note that my return home aligns perfectly with the release of Deathly Hallows Part II. This is not a coincidence.] And by then, I assume I will spend my weekend home folding clothes and squeezing trinkets into small compartments, trying my best not to break anything [and probably failing anyway].

So it was only fitting that when I baked a chocolate and almond cake this morning, mom solemnly told me, in no uncertain terms,

"Sabeen, this is the last cake you are ever going to bake in this house. Ever."

I responded with a raise of my eyebrow and look of deadpan indifference. And then we both laughed, sliced the cake, and took a break from the chaos.

Since the start of the summer, I am pleased and mortified to say that I have ordered 5 new cookbooks. This brings my total collection up to...a number which is far too disconcerting to share. [Also, I'm not exactly sure how many. But it is a lot.] One, which I am currently enjoying immensely, is Jessica Theroux's Cooking with Italian Grandmothers. Jessica shares colorful stories of her year spent in Italy, traveling from Tuscany to Sicily, staying with twelve or so different nonne, tasting and cooking her way through the country's diverse, regional cuisine.

Basically, what I wish my life was always.

This torta di Grigna, or cocoa and almond cake, comes from the mountains of Lombardia. It's a dense cake, though not terribly sweet, so would be perfect with afternoon tea or coffee.

Or, if you're me, some sweetened cream or vanilla ice cream on the side to make it decadent.

Torta di Grigna
Adapted from Cooking with Italian Grandmothers

You'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups [2 1/2 sticks] unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream [substitute with whole milk if cream is unavailable]
  • 1 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9-inch springform pan.

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and cream and mix on medium-high speed until fully incorporated, 3-4 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in half of the chopped almonds [reserve the other 1/2 cup], flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir until blended. The batter is thick and stiff, so it may take a fair amount of effort to mix the batter well.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, stirring with the wooden spoon. Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining chopped almonds.

Bake for 60-70 minutes, until the center of the cake is springy, but not jiggly, and the edges of the cake begin pulling away from the sides of the pan. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before transferring to a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

It's a pretty good cake. Airy and light, despite the denseness, and the flavor of the almonds is warmly nutty without being too overpowering.

It was also a nice centerpiece for the downstairs table for our potential buyers, so a win-win situation all around.

On an unrelated note, I have never had more television shows on my list than I do currently. I did have an entire week to get to it, but I honestly think I watched a grand total of maybe 3 hours of TV since my return. [The trial doesn't count. That's current events. And anything relevant to life never counts as a waste of time.] But, really, when did television actually get good again? Sherlock, Camelot, Rome, Battlestar Galactica, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, the list goes on.

Good thing I've got nothing else to do for the next six weeks.


  1. Beautiful cake, as you said it really is a great centerpiece! The crumb looks delicious, just what I would enjoy. Lovely post :)

  2. 1) camelot is CRAPADOODLE. you need to watch the borgias and game of thrones, homez. rome is AMAZEBALLS though.


    guess who


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