Food memories are amazing things.
A whiff of cinnamon transports you to a childhood cookie-baking session with grandma. Salty, crunchy corn dogs remind you of hot summer days at the state fair, while frying garlic stimulates memories of Dad’s homemade spaghetti sauce.
When my friend asked me to make a cranberry chocolate torte that I’ve whipped up many times around the holidays, I could almost taste sweet-tart cranberries merged with deep, rich chocolate.
But would I be able to find cranberry sauce with whole cranberries as August temperatures soared? It turned out this key ingredient never leaves my grocery store shelves.
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Next, my GPS led me to a tiny shop in an equally tiny Overland Park strip center. The intoxicating aroma of premium chocolate spilled onto the sidewalk when I opened the front door at The Chocolate Store. In mid-afternoon on a weekday I was the only customer.
Billed as “retail gourmet chocolate for the home chef,” the little shop stocked white, milk and dark chocolate chips, large, thick chocolate blocks and even fruit-flavored couverture (coating chocolate). I recognized Valrhona and Callebaut brands, purchased some dark chocolate Guittard chips and received a handwritten receipt.
In early evening, I assembled ingredients and five bowls of different sizes to make the multi-step recipe; it’s one of those dishes that dirties “everything but the kitchen sink,” yet is so worth the effort. Two hours later dark chocolate and cranberry aromas mingled enticingly, creating the aroma of Thanksgiving.
Despite the constant hum of our air conditioner, I was suddenly primed for sweatshirts, crunching leaves and roaring fires. Fall couldn’t arrive fast enough and there was no doubt what dessert I’d be making again within a few short months.
Here’s the torte recipe, which has become a very yellow slip of newspaper amid my massive dessert repertoire:
Cranberry Chocolate Torte
Makes 10 servings
16-ounce can of cranberry sauce with whole cranberries
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup sifted flour
7 ounces dark sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Place cranberries in small bowl and stir gently until slightly liquid. In another small bowl, combine almonds and flour. Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally to blend. Remove from heat and set aside.
In large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and light. With mixer on low speed, add flour and nut mixture to egg yolks, beating until just mixed. Add chocolate-butter mixture and blend gently. Stir in cranberries and almond extract by hand.
Beat egg whites until they hold their shape but are not dry. Fold egg whites into cranberry batter. Pour into a greased and floured 9-inch springform pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 55 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely while still in pan. Place in refrigerator until chilled (about 1 hour). When ready to serve, remove from springform pan and add glaze.
1/2 cup currant jelly (if you have trouble finding this, feel free to substitute a fruit jelly without seeds)
2 tablespoons cranberry juice cocktail (or red wine)
Ground almonds, optional
Combine jelly and cranberry juice in small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Brush chilled torte with warm glaze and allow to set. Give top of torte a second coating. Sprinkle with ground almonds if desired.
Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer based in Overland Park. She specializes in food and travel writing.