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Recently finished reading The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas. It’s a very, very good read. It tells the story of an older married woman who lives in a small mining town in the Colorado rockies (this is the mid-1800’s), and is well known by all because she’s the only midwife in the area. Often people can’t pay her anything, or very little for her days of service with little or no rest or food. Suddenly, a couple accuse her of strangling their infant. Hence the story is about how this small town rallies or rails for or against Gracy. She didn’t commit the crime, but not everyone can be convinced since the angry father is a wealthy and influential man in the area. There’s plenty of relationship issues here, which make really great fodder for a novel. And there are plenty of characters in the book that you’ll love or hate. Some secrets get dredged up too. Oh, such a good read.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on January 8th, 2018.

hazelnut_choc_torte_sliice

So wonderfully rich with chocolate and textured with hazelnuts. Altogether a great dessert for chocolate lovers everywhere.

My mouth is watering. That happens sometimes as I’m writing up a blog post. The picture is added into my writing/editing window first (after I’ve already sized it and added text to the photographs) and I get to stare at it while I write. I’m a sucker for chocolate and try so very hard not to have much. That recommendation that we not have more than an ounce a day . . . hmmm. I haven’t ever measured – my chocolate sin of choice is Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips. I have a container in my pantry and when I’m craving, I go grab a small handful – hopefully no more than about 8-10 of them. If I’m being good, I don’t go back to the container later in the day to have more. Right now – I’m writing this up about a week before Christmas – I’ve got Christmas cookies on hand, plus a plate full of new Christmas cookies given to me by friends, and I’ve got my favorite Bishop’s Bread that I made over Thanksgiving weekend. I’ve had a slice today, in lieu of a little mound of chocolate chips. As I write this, I’ve just made myself a second coffee latte and enjoyed the slice with it.

hazelnut_choc_torte_nuts_sidesSo, this cake. Oh my. I wish it was a purely flourless cake so I could make it for my cousin Gary, who must eat gluten-free. I suppose I could use a different cake batter to accommodate that. He loves-loves chocolate, so maybe I’ll do that for him. The cake is very light and fluffy, mostly because you separate the eggs and beat the whites and fold them into the cocoa-laden batter. The batter also has a lot of finely ground toasted hazelnut “flour” in it to give it a boost of hazelnut flavor. It’s baked in a higher-sided 8” cake pan (that you’ve buttered and dusted with cocoa powder). Once baked you allow it to cool before upending it and right side upping it again, then pouring a chocolate ganache over the top and down the sides. Meanwhile, you have slightly more chunky hazelnuts at-the-ready to gently pat onto the sides of the cake. Let it set for awhile so the ganache firms up, then slice and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter. You may not want to read the calorie count on this one – just know it’s a treat, and you’ll hopefully have only one slice. Make it to share with others. Then you’ll feel virtuous. Maybe.

What’s GOOD: the chocolate flavor is intense in this cake. Not for the faint of heart when it comes to the cocoa bean, for sure! It’s rich. Very filling, but oh-so-good.

What’s NOT: just the calorie and fat content, I’m afraid!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Hazelnut Chocolate Torte (Cake)

Recipe By: from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, 2017
Serving Size: 8

CAKE:
2 3/4 cups hazelnuts — toasted, skins removed (divided use)
3/4 cup unsalted butter — melted and cooled
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder — plus more for dusting the pan
1/3 cup all purpose flour
6 large eggs — separated
1/2 cup light brown sugar — packed
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
GANACHE:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate — chopped
3 ounces heavy cream
WHIPPED CREAM:
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

NOTE: the hazelnuts are used in the batter and also to press onto the sides, so note there are 2 quantities needed.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch cake pan (with 2″ sides), dust with cocoa powder and tap out the excess.
2. Grind 1-3/4 cups of the hazelnuts in a food processor with the flour. Pour out into a bowl and set aside. Process remaining hazelnuts to a medium texture and set aside (for patting onto the sides of the cake).
3. Mix together cocoa powder and hazelnut/flour mixture. Beat egg yolks and brown sugar until very thick.
4. In another bowl whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt added until it reaches soft peaks. Add the white sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff.
5. Fold egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture in THREE additions. Pour the reserved cocoa mixture over the egg mixture; gently fold in with rubber spatula until just combined (some streaks may show). Fold in the melted and cooled butter.
6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top. Bake until the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer cake to a wire rack to cool completely. Run a knife around the outside edge and invert cake onto the wire rack, then turn over, right side up. Allow cake to cool 15-20 minutes at least.
7. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment underneath the wire rack (to catch drips).
8. GANACHE: Place chocolate in a small bowl. Bring cream to a boil and pour over the chocolate pieces and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside until thickened to the consistency of thick cake batter, about 10-15 minutes.
9. Pour chocolate ganache over the top of the cake and use an offset spatula to gently coax the ganache barely over the edges, using spatula to spread on the sides as much as possible. If there is enough ganache make a second coat of frosting on the cake. Press the reserved hazelnuts on the sides of the cake, pressing in so the nuts will hold. Dust top of cake with a bit of cocoa powder. Serve with whipped cream.
10. WHIPPED CREAM: In a bowl combine heavy cream and sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and serve on top or alongside the cake slice.
Per Serving: 1002 Calories; 91g Fat (74.9% calories from fat); 18g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 261mg Cholesterol; 103mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on January 8th, 2018:

    Goodness–even more than the apricot chocolate torte! Wouldn’t you think there’s be a limit to how many calories they can cram into one little cake?
    I’m with you on the Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate chips. They’ve got just the right chocolate intensity and just the right texture to satisfy my cravings.
    Meanwhile, I’ll have to look for an excuse to make this torte! Next up is my son’s birthday, but I’ve already promised him a chocolate pie.

    I was slightly astounded when I entered the recipe into MasterCook to discover the calorie count. I’m certain Tarla, the instructor, had no idea. She doesn’t use a program for recipes, and she’s as thin as a toothpick. And she does eat – obviously she has a very high metabolism. At the most recent class with her, she laughed and said she decided to make something other than chocolate. We all laughed with her because 9 times out of 10, she makes a chocolate dessert of some kind. But this one was really, really good, and something I’d make only if I had guests so they’d eat up most of it!! . . .carolyn t

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