Anybody up for dessert? You know, more often than not, I am. It doesn't matter whether we've just been served the lean cuisine that is customary in the first few weeks of the year when we still keep (and remember) our New Year's resolutions or whether we've indulged in a multi-course meal like the one I enjoyed at Chinese extraordinaire Hunan the other day (of course, in true foodblogger fashion, Jeanne and I went overboard yet again on our first meeting of the year and were eating like it was going out of fashion...) I really think that I can count the occasions where I refused dessert on the fingers of one hand!
Why, you ask? Although I am far from being a size 0 (and have no desires whatsoever even to become one), I have never struggled with my weight (ok, ok, I have: gaining 25 kg in the first few months of my exchange year in Mexico was a big shock to the system, but the pounds dropped as soon as I was back in my natural habitat) so therefore, you can't put my appetite for dessert (or a generous second helping of whatever I enjoy) down to an exuberant physique. But I'll let you into a secret: one of the biggest advantages of being Austrian is a rather amazing anatomical peculiarity: we are born with two stomachs.
Yes, you read that right. Two stomachs. (And before you ask: no, we are not direct descendants from cows). One stomach is for general food and the other is for desserts. It's as simple as that. I bet you would agree that that's a great advantage. But even though I am blessed to always be able to enjoy dessert, even I, on occasions, don't fancy a dessert laden with chocolate and caramel (which under normal circumstances would have me in raptures). Sometimes, I need something lighter. Not necessarily something fat- and sugar-free, diet-friendly and healthy. Just a little lighter.
Like this fabulous tart I discovered in a cookbook a little while ago. I never followed the Great British Menu series on television, but when I got the cookbook, I was thoroughly impressed with the quality of recipes in it. This one was created by Sat Bains, who I believe ended up winning the starter with his 60-minute egg and frozen pea sorbet. A lovely prepare-ahead dessert that is easy to make and dressed to impress. The original recipe calls for home-made yoghurt sorbet which I was too lazy to make, but you can serve it with any icecream you like - even a spoonful of clotted cream would do nicely. I've made three desserts from the book so far and have earmarked tons of other recipes, they're not necessarily what you'd whip up on a weeknight as most require some advance preparation, but they're all impressive recipes that will challenge you to go out of your comfort zone a bit... which is exactly what we need every once in a while, don't we?
(Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Henrik - I doubt you'll read it, seeing that you're just turning one year, but it deserves a mention anyway ;-))
Roast hazelnut & muscovado torte with vanilla icecream*
(serves 6 - 8)
150 g muscovado (or dark brown) sugar
120 g flour
50 g salted butter (softened)
100 g whole hazelnuts (shelled, but skin on)
2 medium eggs
½ tsp baking powder
170 g soured cream
For the topping:
50 g toasted hazelnuts
50 g muscovado sugar
3-4 strawberries (halved), to decorate
icecream, to serve
Pre-heat the oven to 200 C.
Toast the hazelnuts for the base in a pan until browning and fragrant. Place in a food processor and add the flour, muscovado sugar and salted butter. Blitz until the mixture ressembles coarse crumbs.
Take out 150 g of the mix and pour onto the bottom of a buttered 20 cm springform tin or tart dish. Flatten and compress as much as possible.
Use the remaining mix and beat with the eggs, baking powder and soured cream. Pour over the base and bake for 20 minutes.
For the topping, blitz muscovado sugar and toasted hazelnuts, then spread evenly over the cooled torte.
Decorate with the strawberry halves and serve with icecream.
(If preparing much in advance, keep the tart and the topping separate until a few hours before serving to avoid the tart seeping and the topping going wet.)
* Based on a recipe by Sat Bains in the Great British Menu Cookbook (second series)