The Flip Side of Simplicity

Occasionally, I like to immerse myself in a single cooking event.  Event is the keyword.

My interest in cooking was seeded 35+ years ago when I discovered European desserts… rich, labor-intensive, voluptuous buttercream tortes.  The results were spectacular if one was willing to devote patience, precision and, often, a large block of time to the creative process.

In those days, I was willing to devote an entire afternoon to a single Doberge torte, where eight super-thin layers of batter were spread and baked on the back of a square cake pan, then painstakingly stacked with layers of chocolate custard, chocolate buttercream and chocolate icing.  You can see where I’m going with this.  Few people see this as recreation.  I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do.

Fast-forward to today or, perhaps more accurately, last Sat when the memory of the required effort had sufficiently faded, and the bug hit again.  This time, it was the desire to make a Hazelnut Torten, a restaurant recipe I discovered and last made 20 years ago.  It was so memorable as to have residue in friends’ memories all these years later.

So, I jumped.  There are four ground hazelnut and almond meringue layers, piped onto 4×12 sheets of parchment paper and baked.  There are three flavors of buttercream… chocolate, Grand Marnier and almond… that meld together to create the glorious result.

Took me four hours to toast, process, pipe, bake, whip, make a simple sugar syrup, beat, refrigerate, blend, refrigerate, ice, refrigerate.  Desserts of this nature are gifts of detail and energy and passion for the recipients.  Worth every minute in my book.

So, while buttercream tortes would not be considered au courant in a lightning-fast society, they are desserts of elegance and care and love.

It’s unlikely that it will take 20 years to decide to tackle another of these labors of love; however, a life of simplicity can have a flip side.  It’s great to just devote oneself to a single, memorable project, particularly if it feeds you and those you love.

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