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