This excellent, old-fashioned dessert is a specialty of the Low Country, meaning South Carolina in and around Charleston. I spend several weeks each year working in the area and have really grown to love some of the unique foods of the area — she-crab soup, benne wafers, Frogmore stew, shrimp and grits, steamed blue crabs, excellent barbecue with a mustardy sauce, duck purlieu. Good food in the area. And good people, I might add.
Huguenot Torte is an intriguing dish. Upon first making this dessert the recipe gave me pause — it seemed an unlikely combination of ingredients: green apple, walnuts, eggs, loads of sugar, baking powder. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, having never made it before. I got the recipe from a stained, well-thumbed regional cookbook, the indispensable Charleston Receipts, which was published by the Junior League of Charleston some sixty years ago. Among its other charms, the Charleston Receipts has tips for butchering opossum meat and a couple of squirrel recipes. For dishes and history of the area, this book is totally essential.
I’ve made it a few times and I’ve tweaked that recipe to suite my own more modern sensibilities. But not much. Every time I bake it I marvel at the way the torte puffs up, hardens and then collapses under it’s own magnificence. You’ll see what I mean. The end result is like a gooey, chewy, and almost unbearably sweet pecan pie on the inside with an exterior that is crisp like a fragile, air-pocked cookie. With a gentle adornment of whipped cream and a dusting of powdered sugar, the dessert is spectacular.
|You’ll need this stuff.|
You will need:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean (Spend decent money on vanilla beans. Don’t use the dried-out stuff.)
pinch of cinnamon powder
3 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup diced Granny Smith or Pippin apple
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
|A Huguenot Torte or…the surface of the moon?|
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Put the sugar into a food processor. Split the vanilla bean and scrap the seedy paste out of one half. Save the other half for another use. Add paste to the sugar and add the pinch of cinnamon. Pulse the sugar several times or until the vanilla bean paste breaks up and distributes throughout the sugar. Remove vanilla sugar from processor and reserve.
Now, using a stand-up mixer or hand-held mixer beat the eggs for about five minutes at high speed, until pale yellow and doubled in volume. Slowly add the vanilla sugar in batches and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, another three minutes or so. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and beat to combine, just about 15 seconds.
Using a large rubber spatula fold in apples and nuts until uniform. Generously butter a 9 X 13-inch Pyrex baking casserole and spoon in mixture. Place on a sheet pan.
Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Using a metal spatula cut squares and serve. Makes about 12 servings.