Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chocolate Ginger Pear Torte

Yesterday was a friend’s birthday, which, in my book, is just a good excuse to bake. I used to hate baking (well, that’s not true–I liked it, I just wasn’t very good at it). Where cooking moves organically and free flowing: you can add a smattering of this, a dash of that, balance X flavor with Y all during the process. Not so much with baking. In baking, ingredients must be precisely measured, the correct temperature, and mixed in just the right way. There is little room for error. Not to mention, when you first start replacing eggs with other ingredients, it can take some time to wrap your head around what works best for what, or even learning to combine different substitutes to end up with the best end product you can. But the PPK can help you with those building blocks.

It wasn’t until I moved in with my friend Dee, who is a great vegan baker, that I began to reign myself in and get down with the chemistry of baking. Now I treat it as some sort of science experiment, which makes the precise nature of baking enjoyable. So, it was my friend's birthday, and I attempted to procure 35 helium balloons “like a big bunch- the kind a little kid would have at a park in France!” at the bequest of her partner who is out of the country (this did not work out as planned, only 22 would fit in the car and one popped on the way home. but 21 is still a big bunch of balloons). In order to complete this Parisian themed birthday evening, I decided to attempt to make a torte, and although it looked a little homely, it was fucking delicious. We shared a few pieces over a bottle of pinot noir (red wine + chocolate = perfect equation) and I probably would have sat there and stuffed the remaining half of the torte in my face and ended up looking like a chocolate driven zombie had my wife not gracefully prodded me out the door back to our apartment.

Chocolate Ginger Pear Torte

(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) earth balance or other vegan margarine, room temperature, plus more for pan

1 cup blanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra firm silken tofu
Mixed egg replacer equivalent to 1 egg (I use bob’s red mill)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 firm, ripe Bosc pears
1/2 lemon
2 Tbs crystallized ginger baking chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan with margarine (or, if you’re like me, and only have a pie pan, just go ahead and use that. Tart pan, schmart pan!) and set aside.

In a food processor, combine almonds and sugar; process until very finely ground. Blend tofu in a blender until smooth and add to almond sugar mixture and continue processing. Add margarine, mixed egg replacer, coco, vanilla and salt and process until combined. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan. Halve, and core pears; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rubbing them with lemon as you work. Arrange slices on chocolate mixture, slightly overlapping, without pressing in. Sprinkle with ginger baking chips. Place pan on a baking sheet if you are using a tart pan; bake until top is puffed and a toothpick inserted in center of chocolate mixture comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool completely in pan, and serve on a pretty cake-serving platter and enjoy with a glass of pinot noir.

Serves: 12-16
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 60 min
Soundtrack: Regina Spektor- Begin to Hope