These days, most of my stories rest in the tuck and folds of a quiet morning. A slow yellow stitch between the squint of dreams.
Crows patrol the near empty street. Inside his small bungalow, a man makes candles in the middle of the night. He wears a perpetual thin veil of wax over his fingertips as he pours the milky liquid into short cylinders. Once he needed to use our telephone and in return he left a candle on our doorstep.
After a long night of candle making, he suits up and jogs around the neighborhood, his legs in a slow motion bounce. He returns home to find sleep.
Another stitch of light. Dawn, a stretch cotton, unravels. Dusty pink, red plum, and lemon yellow.
The crows land in a cacophony of shrill language while teetering on the pavement.
I open the back door.
Black wings flutter over a bowl of pocked lemons. They peck and shove until the last lemon is carried away. The street empties and is quiet once again.
A small trace of lemon peel sews into the sky.
I follow the crows and scavenge four lemons hidden behind a maple tree. I cut and squeeze their juices and grate their skins.
“A torte,” I said, ” I’ll make him a torte with ground up macadamia nuts, corn flour, and maple syrup. Light tartness.”
I leave it on the candle maker’s porch with a note, “I made this for you.”
The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
Lemon Macadamia Nut Torte
Yield 2 small 4 layer tortes (4 1/2 inch rounds), serves 8
3/4 cup pure maple syrup (divided)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon ground macadamia nuts (grind in a food processor, VitaMix, or coffee grinder)
1/2 cup corn flour (this is different from cornmeal, a finer grind)
4 large eggs (yolks and whites divided)
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup organic coconut oil (melted)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Place the racks in the top and center thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F. Get out two baking sheets.
Cut four pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Use a 4 1/2 inch circle (I use the lid of a 32 ounce yogurt container) as a template and a sharpie or pencil, trace two circles on each sheet of paper for a total of eight, and turn over (you will see the circle through the parchment paper but you do not want it to touch the cake batter…).
Combine 1/4 cup maple syrup, ground macadamia nuts, and corn flour. Whip 1/4 cup maple syrup and egg yolks in a separate bowl with an electric mixer about 5 minutes. Beat in lemon zest, coconut oil, and lemon juice. Fold in dry ingredients. Beat egg whites and salt in a separate bowl with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup to egg whites a little at a time until stiff, shiny peaks form. Fold egg-white mixture into batter about 1/3 cup at a time, mix well.
Use an offset spatula to spread an even layer of batter into of the traced circles on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until two trays and four circles are filled. Bake one sheet on the top rack and the second sheet on the middle rack for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, move the baking sheet from the top rack to the center and the center rack to the top. Bake until the edges are lightly browned and the cake center springs back when pressed gently in the center.
Cool the layers completely. Turn one sheet of parchment paper with 2 cakes over onto a flat surface and slowly peel off the top layer of paper from both cakes. Use the same sheet of paper to rest the cakes on to cool. Repeat with the second sheet. Continue with the two remaining papers and batter to make a second cake with four layers. Cool the layers completely. Use the 4 1/2″ template (yogurt lid) and a small serrated knife to trim each layer of cake for even stacking and decorating.
Assemble the torte one layer at a time. Spread each layer with lemon buttercream frosting and white chocolate chips or with alternating layers of lemon curd and raspberry preserves and top with fresh raspberries and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.
(This recipe is inspired by Chef Akasha Richmond’s Lemon-Nut Torte With Summer Berries found on www.epicurious.com and originally published in the July 2009 issue of SELF)