Monday night, I had two pounds of walnuts and a hammer. Blame it on latent OCD, but to me there's little more satisfying than tapping a fracture into a walnut husk and prying out an entire nutmeat intact. What emerges is an odd and prehistoric orb, containing enough protein and fat calories to sustain our nomadic ancestors, helping to make civilization possible. Now, smash it!
This fresh, walnuts taste sweet and clean, without a hint of the bitterness they'll eventually acquire. One of my favorite ways to showcase them is in this torte- short, rich, and deeply flavored. "Just a sliver" is very satisfying... trust me! If you enjoy a piece with your breakfast coffee, you'll feel full until your b.l.t. and soda at noon.
Walnut Torte adapted from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
Mountain Bakers: add a splash more rum, a pinch less baking powder, and raise the oven temperature to 375 degree. Shorten baking time to 25 minutes.
2 c shelled walnuts, toasted for 8 minutes (or until fragrant) at 350 degrees
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
2/3 c sugar
7 tbl butter, room temp.
1 lg egg, room temp.
2 tbl rum (or Nocino, if you're lucky!)
grated zest of one orange
powdered sugar or cocoa powder for sprinkling on finished cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour an 8" round cake pan, or a 9" pan for a crunchy, squat, almost cookie-like cake that you shave pieces off throughout the week (this is how I like it).
Sift the flour with the b.powder and salt. Set aside.
In a food processor, combine the toasted and cooled walnuts with 1 tbl sugar and pulse until ground fine, but not a powder (or chop very fine with the sugar by hand). Remove from bowl and set aside.
Into the processor (or mixing bowl), combine butter with the remaining sugar and process until creamy. Add the egg, rum, and orange zest and process briefly until ingredients are combined. Remove to a mixing bowl, add ground walnuts, and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients and stir just to combine (the batter will be dense).
Pour batter into baking pan, level with spatula, and bake 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out dry.
Cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar or cocoa powder. The flavor of the cake will improve as it sits and will keep at at room temperature for several days.