Friday, December 21, 2007

Hack, cough... and Sachertorte

Ever tried to sleep reclining up? I woke up at 1 a.m., feeling as if sixteen gorillas were sitting on my chest, playing handball with my tonsils. After a cup of tea and some chips, they left...but I realized I was going to be spending the night on the couch, sitting up, if I didn't want the gorillas to come back.

Ah well. I'm in good company. People from the 19th century and before slept sitting up...and often more than one to the bed, anyways. (The Great Bed of Ware, mentioned in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, is said to have held dozens of people! Whew. See it here: http://www.pbase.com/seebee/image/25006312

Some years ago, a Brit got drunk and bet a friend that he could kiss Queen Elizabeth. He actually managed to get through security and into her bedroom, where, he said, he found her sound asleep in bed -- sitting up. (He never did get his kiss, although she said, "Philip? Is that you?") I found that curious, until my research kept pointing out that people tended to sleep this way in the 'olden days.' Some experts say it was because so many struggled from respiratory diseases.

Which, as I proved so well last night, means you sleep partly upright -- or you choke to death. Your choice.

Here's the SACHERTORTE recipe I mentioned before. It's a European tradition to use breadcrumbs as a basis for cake. Sounds weird to us Americans, but the resulting torte is quite wonderful. Not to mention a great way for using up leftover bread.

SACHERTORTE (makes one cake - can easily be doubled)

1 6-oz pkg chocolate chips (or equivalent fine chocolate bar - the darker, the better)
1/2 cup butter
8 eggs (separate into yolks and whites)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
3/4 cup flour

Melt chocolate chips and butter in the microwave (approx. 1 1/2 min.) In the meantime, get out your commercial mixer and start beating the egg WHITES until they're stiff. (Make a peak when you stop the mixer and lift the blade up.)

By hand, mix the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl #2, add the melted chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the vanilla, breadcrumbs and flour.

Add the stiffened egg whites (gently) to bowl #2, then pour mixture into one greased tube pan, springform pan, or two 9" layer cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min. (9" pans) to 60 min. (tube or springform) -- cake will be done when firm to the touch, and an inserted toothpick comes out dry. Let cool, then gently release from the pan.

FILLING & GLAZE

1/2 cup raspberry jam (the traditional -- strawberry or any red berry works, too)

1 6-oz. pkg chocolate chips (or equivalent bar)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or sour cream

Set the jam aside. Microwave everything else until melted (about 1 1/2 min.)

If your cake was baked in a tube or springform pan, slice it in half horizontally. (This is easier to do if it's chilled, or even frozen.) Spread jam between layers and-resandwich.

Spread the melted chocolate mixture on top of the cake, taking care to frost around the sides, as well. Keep the top as glossy as possible. (Easiest way to do this is to take a knife dipped in hot water and smooth the top after the chocolate has been iced.)

The traditional finishing was to write 'Sacher' on top in chocolate icing -- but I generally spread chopped nuts on top or the sides. (Filberts are the traditional choice, but who cares.)

Makes 12 slices of incredibly decadent cake. Serve with strong coffee or espresso mit schlag (whipped cream).

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