Monday, October 15, 2007

Crazy Thrifty

One of my favorite Reader's Digest jokes goes something like this:

A woman was helping her friend with some cleaning. She volunteered to sort through the freezer and pitch whatever was old, freezer-burned, or would never get eaten. She was about to throw out a plastic container filled with an oozing, dubious, dark, chunky liquid. Her friend shrieked, "No, don't throw that out! That's my Going Out to Dinner Stew." Answering her friend's puzzled look she explained that whenever she wanted to go out to dinner, she pulled that out of the freezer to thaw on the counter. When her husband came home from work and saw it sitting there he invariably said, "Hey, let's go out for dinner tonight."

I don't have that particular stew in my freezer, but I do have an amazing assortment of stuff stashed in drawers, crammed in cupboards, and accumulating on the counters. I have a hard time throwing anything away. It just might maybe, someday, be just what I need and it would be so annoying to have to go out and buy it when I'd just thrown it away. After all, who knows when you'll need a 4" strip of Velcro, a scrap of gold lame, or empty yogurt tubs? I've saved them and I've used them.

As any student of Psych 101 knows, it's the intermittent reward that reinforces a behaviour. So for every 10 widgets, thingymabobs, or dwingles that I put in a drawer because you just never know, 1 gets used. The rest fill up the drawer. But because I did use one, I keep saving them never know.

What I like best is when you get to use a leftover end bit right away. Then you can be thrifty and tidy, too. I did this recently because I had cream to use up before its' expiration date. Of course I turned to The Perfect Scoop. The Gianduja Gelato, one of my top 5 favorites from that book, called to me. I love making this ice cream. The aroma is heavenly when the ground hazelnuts are imparting their flavor to the cream. And it is no harsh punishment to lick the spatula, either. Yummm.

But after pouring the cream through the seive, I have a bowlful of ground hazelnuts sitting on the counter. David Lebovitz says to toss them. What? Toss them?? Perfectly good only slightly used nuts? Last time around I used them in the streusel topping for a coffee cake. But this time I had a new cookbook from the library that happened to have a recipe for Hazelnut Mocha Torte that calls for......ground hazelnuts! Now I'm sure no self-respecting bakery would make this torte from used nuts, but mine still had plenty of flavor and it made me happy to get another dessert out of them.

This torte looks elegant but is so easy to make. You mix in a blender, pour into cake pans, and bake. My torte layers puffed up alarmingly then deflated to look like a postpartem belly. Spread with the heavenly mocha filling and frosted with whipped cream, it's lovely and a wonderful way to avoid throwing those nuts away. Or, you could really splurge, and use brand-new, never before used, fresh out of the package hazelnuts. That works, too.

Hazelnut Mocha Torte
- adapted from The Best Places Northwest Dessert Cookbook
from Beddis House Bed and Breakfast, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

4 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup toasted skinned hazelnuts
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp baking powder

Mocha Filling:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 Tbsp espresso or very strong coffee, at room temperature
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line them with parchment paper.

Combine the eggs and granulated sugar in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the hazelnuts, flour, and baking powder and blend at high speed until the hazelnuts are finely ground and the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Unmold and peel away the paper.

For the mocha filling, cream together the powdered sugar and butter in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the espresso, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Chill briefly to thicken. Set a layer of the cake on a serving plate, spread the filling over, and top with the second cake layer.

For the frosting, whip the cream to medium peaks, add the powdered sugar, and continue whipping to stiff peaks. Spread the whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake. You can garnish with extra hazelnuts or chocolate-covered espresso beans. Serve right away.

Serves 8.


WokandSpoon said...

Hehe - I like the joke! You know, I love hoarding stuff as well - you never know when some little bit of string will come in handy! The torte looks amazing and it's beautifully presented! MMMMMMM!

Cheryl said...

I don't need a stew to get my hubby to always want to go out to dinner. He's a mess. But he would definitely stay home for that gorgeous cake.

Belinda said...

That is a good joke...the best ones always have that slight ring of truth to them, right?! Your posts are always such fun to read, Lynn...the delicious recipes and enticing photos are the icing on the cake to your witty essays. :-)

Slightly used!

Big Boys Oven said...

Looks so divine.... as my eye was glued to the monitor!

gigi said...

They are not "used" nuts, they're "previously owned". And the Cake looks beautiful and DELICIOUS!

Melinda said...

I do love the description of a cake deflated as a postpartum belly! Exactly what it looks like!
The desserts look scrummy.

Kelly-Jane said...

Great plated dessert. I don't have that stew in my freezer either, but I think I should get some =)

eatme_delicious said...

Looks beautiful! I have some hazelnut loving family members so I'll have to save this. :) I find it really hard to throw away things too, because as you said one day I might want it!

Peabody said...

I am like that usually...until I had to pack it up and move it. It is amazing how quickly your stuff can become trash when you have to pack it up and have it paid to be moved. :)
Your torte looks fabulous!

VeggieGirl said...

haha, I LOVE that joke from Reader's Digest!! so cute!! :0)

Wow, I'm SO glad that you did NOT toss those hazelnuts - look at the delectable torte that you created with them!! spectacular!!

Gabe said...

Mmmm yum! Sounds delicious! I've had a lot of time for baking lately but I really should. I miss it. :(

**doffs her cap and vanishes**

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Elegant, well yes it certainly does look elegant. It also sounds like it would be fairly easy to put together. What a picture you paint with "deflated to look like a postpartem belly." Holy Moly Lynn those are incredibly funny words.

Rose&Thorn said...

I have little jars of left overs stuffed in all my cupboards! Love the cake, will definitely give it a try.

Aimée said...

Great Joke! My hubby would never fall for it, though. Superb looking cake.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Wok and Spoon - Good to hear from you. Thanks!

Cheryl - He wants to go out when you make such wonderful food???

Belinda - so glad you enjoyed. It's all about the smiles. And the chocolate.

Big Boys Oven - High praise indeed from such an inventive and artistic baker!

Gigi - LOL!

Melinda - I knew the mothers out there would relate.

Kelly-Jane - A very useful staple for the freezer, I think.

Eatme Delicious - Treat them with Hazelnut Torte and they'll love you forever.

Peabody- So true how easily you can live without your twist tie collection if you have to pack and move it.

VeggieGirl - Thanks!

Gabe - No baking? No baking dates? What's up with that?

My Kitchen in Half Cups - It is quite easy and yummy, too.

Rose & Thorn - At least you put the leftovers into the cupboard. They usually end up squatting on my counter driving my husband crazy.

Aimee - Ah, well, you can't help it that you married a smart man. And why would he want to go out to eat when he married such a good cook?

Emily said...

Looks like something you would find in Paris! mmmmmmmm..............

Amy said...

Lol I like that joke. :D This torte looks delicious, I'll have to make it!

Anonymous said...

Yummy! Is it just me, or is the amount of espresso for the filling still a mystery?



Cookie baker Lynn said...

Sara - Rats! I can't believe I left that out. I'll track down the cookbook and update the recipe when I figure out the espresso amount. Thanks for picking up on that!