Today concludes the collaboration between myself and Julia Lucia over on The Farmer’s Daughter. The last post saw us foraging fresh berries from a local farm for our torte. This week rejoins us at home ready to bake and you can find the full recipe at the end of this post.
The rich fragrance of coffee fills the air once more as we start to thaw and gather our ingredients. Julia begins making the pastry by hand while we chat about what sparked this collaboration in the first place – the emotional resonance of food and the hold it can have on your memories.
The first time I tasted this torte was a day I’ll never forget for the simplest of reasons. The summer in question was the most glorious in recent memory. Plans for al fresco dinners could be made and kept, gauzy dresses usually set aside for holidays in more charming climates were on daily rotation. Mark and I had been married for a year and our little Lucas Hunter was but a hope and a dream. We spent all our days off work that summer in the open air – walking, hiking, swimming. This particular day was no exception; the sky was a vast, cobalt expanse and the air had that sweet, balmy scent of summer. We drove a few hours along the coast and spent the afternoon exploring a bouldered river at the foot of the mountains, drinking in breath-taking panoramas from the cool, spring water pools.
On the journey home we stopped at Julia Lucia’s farm where she had prepared a feast of extraordinary proportions set up in the leafy orchard. As dusk fell we drank Kir Royals and ate this torte under the dappled light and gentle sway of the trees. The entire evening was like an exquisite dream. And now, even as a memory, it never fails to conjure that same ethereal magic. To me this simple dessert evokes not just reminiscences of that summer but a deep-rooted sensation of warmth and gratitude; for friendship, for the world we inhabit and for life itself.
It seemed apt then that, as we began to bake, the heaviness of the morning lifted, the thick clouds that had followed us on our foraging mission cleared and sunshine began to pour through every window filling the kitchen with an approving glow.
While the pastry casing bakes in the oven, the ingredients for the filling are whisked together with vanilla-infused cream and the glossy ganache emerges. It is a delectable sight to behold. Julia explains why she chooses a premium paste over the more readily available extract:
‘Vanilla is such a delicate flavour. The essence never captures the intensity, instead it just tastes soapy and sweet. The only way you can achieve the taste is to go back to the source; use a vanilla pod or, in my case, paste which is just blended pods in syrup. Both are great.’
The now golden pastry is removed from the oven, its crust trimmed before being spread evenly with our plump raspberries. There is an incredible sense of satisfaction in using the fruit we picked only a few hours before. You can almost taste the cocoa-rich ganache as it pours into the pastry, enveloping the raspberries until they have all but disappeared. Julia takes a broad spoon and smoothes the surface of the torte to a glassy finish.
I could have eaten it then and there but with anticipation comes appreciation so under duress I resisted and it was placed in the refrigerator for around two hours. While we wait, I ask about Julia’s penchant for traditional tools:
‘In France they only use marble rolling pins. The marble is cool so it doesn’t heat the pastry and smooth so it doesn’t stick. They also feel beautiful to use, comfortingly heavy and reliable. They are expensive so people don’t buy them anymore, but they are the absolute best. I will give it to my daughter and she will give it to hers. So it’s worth it really.’
She advised that if time is tight you can use a food processor to make your pastry, but I think that rolling up your sleeves and getting involved is a much more mindful way of cooking. You feel the changes between your fingers, respond more sensitively and begin to listen to your heart. That’s when food really begins to have soul.
A couple of hours later the torte is retrieved from the refrigerator. Julia slides a warmed knife through the velvety chocolate and as the first slice begins to separate the secreted raspberries are revealed, glistening like rubies, their juice oozing in slow motion on to the plate. It’s like an advertisement and I am buying.
There is always a brief moment of wondering if I have perhaps oversold it to myself, but all doubt dissipates in one savoured mouthful. The rich ganache tastes like the sunshine I so vividly remember and the raspberries, signalling the end of summer, bring depth to every bite.
It is a sumptuous finish to a sublime day. Taking the time to share these slow moments was quite special and I think we are in agreement that this won’t be our last collaboration. Be sure to let us know how your own tortes turn out!
CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY TORTE
Cooking time: 1 hr 30 mins
Chilling time: 2 hrs
Total time: 3 hrs 30 mins
3 free-range egg yolks
125g cold butter
250g plain flour
125g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
100g caster sugar
400g dark chocolate [ 70% cocoa minimum ]
400ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
Pinch of sea salt
- Mix the pastry. Using your hands blend together the flour, butter and salt until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Separate the eggs yolks and add them one at a time. Continue blending with your fingers until the mixture begins to resemble dough. Have a glass of iced water on hand so you can add a splash if your pastry is too dry. Roll into a ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes in a cling film covered bowl. Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6.
2. Roll the pastry. Lightly flour a clean surface and place your pastry ball in the centre. Roll out until it would comfortably fit a 10” tart tin. Rub a little butter across the inside of your tin to prevent sticking. Carefully peel the flattened pastry from the floured surface and line your tin. Don’t worry if it sits over the edges at this point, they’ll get trimmed later. Fill your casing with dried lentils or beans and place in the oven to blind bake. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes but every oven is different so keep an eye on this as you make your ganache. You want the pastry to be a light, golden brown and firm to touch.
3. Make the ganache. Mix the cream and sugar in a pan and slowly bring to the boil, dropping in your vanilla paste. As this heats up break your chocolate into shards and place in a large bowl, adding the butter also cut into chunks. Pour over the vanilla-infused cream, add a pinch of sea salt and whisk until the chocolate has fully melted and you have a smooth, glossy ganache.
4. Fill your torte. Take a sharp knife and run it along the top of the tart tin to trim the crust. Evenly distribute your raspberries across the entire base. Give the ganache a final whisk before pouring it into the casing and smooth to the edges with a broad spoon.
5. Refrigerate. Place the torte on a level refrigerator shelf for around two hours or until the ganache feels firm to touch. If you’re in a pinch for time you can always put it in the freezer to speed up the process. Just don’t forget about it!
6. Devour. A sliver of torte dressed simply with a few extra raspberries is all it really needs, but a quenelle of Madagascan Vanilla ice cream would compliment it beautifully. And if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, or you’re making this for guests, add a little Cassis into a glass of Champagne and you have your own Kir Royale.