Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shared Histories

Yesterday the cab driver and I began talking about the recent increase of muggings in Buenos Aires. Last year, a couple of kids on a very empty street tried to steal Felipe's double bass. They didn't have any weapons on them, so although they did a good job punching the crap out of his face, they weren't able to pry the bass out of his arms. He (and I would venture to say, many Colombians) is not about to hand over his livelihood because someone tells him to in a threatening voice, or because two kids from the slums take a couple of swings at his face. "He´s used to another reality," I said to the cab driver.

"I know what he means," he said very calmly. "My father was a desaparecido (someone who disappeared during the dictatorship during the 70's). I was at the house when they took him away, and robbed us of everything of value in the house. My life completely changed after that. It takes a lot to scare me."

I was floored. "How old were you?" "10. No one wanted to take us in, because everyone was afraid they would return, and then whoever helped us would be implicated as well. In the end, a German-Jewish family ended up helping us. They had gone through something similar, you know. They gave my mother work and helped us get settled again. I started working when I was 13, I had to, so I never got advanced schooling. And I never learned English because of that."

Tomorrow night Passover begins. I'm going to a seder of the children of German Jewish immigrants. Happy Pesach. How lucky we have been to be find ourselves where we are. How lucky I am to (up to this point, knock on wood) learn of these horrors second hand.

Initially I made this without any thought to pesach or anything else other than the fact that there was no flour to adulterate the chocolate. It turned out great, and very pretty, and the perfect kind of chocolatey rich but not sweet to have with a cup of strong coffee. And then having just returned from visiting my sister in Los Angeles, I realized that it would be perfect for her roommate Allegra who has celiac. And then, as my brain sometimes works, uh, a bit slowly, I realized, no flour=passover. So this is getting made tomorrow. Next year in Jerusalem.

Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake

For the ganache:
8 oz. (225 g.) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped finely
2 c. (475 ml.) heavy cream

Place the chopped chocolate into a medium-size mixing bowl. Heat the cream until it reaches a gentle boil, then immediately pour it over the chocolate. Let the chocolate and cream sit 20 minutes without mixing, then stir well, making sure the chocolate is completely incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it cool for at least 6 hours (or overnight) in the fridge. 

For the cake layers:
6 oz. (170 g.) bittersweet chocolate (70 %)
1/3 c. (75 ml.) espresso or strong coffee (or water)
1 tsp. vanilla
6 large eggs, separated
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
¾ c. (150 g.) sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 ºF. Line a 11 in. by 7 in. rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a double boiler (or in the microwave) melt the chocolate and coffee together, taking it off the heat just when the chocolate is melted. Stir well, and stir in the vanilla.
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until you have soft peaks. Add sugar gradually, beat on high speed until stiff but not dry. Whisk yolks into chocolate. Fold ¼ of the egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it. Make sure they are completely incorporated-- otherwise it will be hard to fold the rest of the egg whites in without deflating them, as the mixture will be too heavy. Fold in remainly egg whites gently but completely.
Bake 8-10 min., rotating baking sheet after 4 min. to ensure even baking.
Let cool completely on a rack. Portion your sheet into 6 even squares with a sharp knife.
When you are ready to assemble the cake, whip the ganache until fluffy and spreadable. Don´t overwhip it or it will turn grainy. You want to use it soon after whipping so it doesn´t firm up too much.
Move your first square carefully to your serving plate. Spread it evenly with ganache. Cover with your next square, spreading it with ganache, and continue building up your cake in the same way until you have used up all your squares. Trim the cake edges so it looks even, and then frost with the remaining ganache on the top and sides.

Como no lleva harina, esta torta deliciosa es muy útil durante la Pascua Judía.

Torta en Capas de Chocolate Sin Harina

Para el ganache (el relleno de crema de chocolate):
8 oz. (225 g.) de chocolate semi-amargo, picado chiquitico
2 tazas (475 ml.) de crema de leche

Coloca el chocolate picado en un bol mediano. Calienta la crema de leche hasta que hierva despacito, después échala al chocolate. Deja la mezcla durante 20 minutos sin revolver, después revuélvela bien con un batidor (no eléctrico) asegurándote que el chocolate este completamente incorporado y que no haya grumos.
Tapa el bol con plástico y déjalo enfriar durante por lo menos 6 horas (o por la noche) en la heladera.

Para la masa de las capas:
6 oz. (170g.) de chocolate semi-amargo (70% de cacao)
1/3 taza (75 ml.) de expreso o de cafe bien fuerte
una cucharita de extracto de vainilla
6 huevos grandes, las claras separadas de las yemas
¼ cucharita de crema tartarica
¾ taza (150 g.) de azúcar

Precalienta el horno a 190 ºF. En una bandeja rectangular de 23 cm. por 15 cm. que se puede meter al horno pon papel de hornear. En baño maria (o en el microondas) derrita el chocolate y el cafe juntos, quitando esta mezcla del fuego justo cuando se derrita el chocolate. Revuélvelo bien (la mezcla debería estar completamente suave), y échale la vanilla.
Bate las claras y la crema tartarica (en velocidad mediana si usas batidora- como no la tengo lo hago a mano) hasta antes de alcanzar el punto de nieve, es decir, cuando todavía no está consistente. Écha el azúcar gradualmente, batiendo en velocidad alta hasta alcanzar el punto de nieve, pero antes de que empiece a secar (si bates las claras por mucho tiempo, empiezan a secarse). Echa las yemas al chocolate y batelas inmediatamente para que no se cuajen. Incorpora bien ¼ de las claras a la mezcla de chocolate para hacerla más liviana. Asegúrate que estén completamente incorporadas antes de echar el resto de las claras. Sino, va a ser difícil incorporar el resto de las claras porque la mezcla estará demasiado densa, y perderás el aire que has ganado en el batido de las claras. Incorpora el resto de las claras ligeramente pero completamente. Echa la masa a la bandeja, distribuyéndola suavemente con una espatula para que cubra todo el fondo de la bandeja.
Hornéala durante 8-10 minutos, volteando la bandeja 180º después de 4 minutos, para que hornee uniformamente (casi todos los hornos tienen un lado mas caliente que el otro.)
Déjala enfriar. Parte la torta en 6 cuadros iguales.
Cuando estes listo para armar la torta, bate el ganache hasta que este liviano y untable. No lo batas demasiado o se desarrollarán grumos. Debes usarlo inmediatamente para que no se endurezca.
Con cuidado, coloca el primer cuadro de torta en el plato donde la vas a servir. Úntale el ganache. Pon encima otro cuadro de torta, y de nuevo untale ganache, y así sucesivamente hasta que gastes todo los cuadros. Con un cuchillo, empareja los lados para que se vea uniforme toda la torta. Después termina con el ganache que te sobró, esparciendolo por encima y los lados de la torta.

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