My introduction to this magnificent chocolate creation known as Sacher torte came not in Vienna, where it originated, but if memory serves me, in San Francisco — at Alice Medrich’s legendary Cocolat bakery.
Sitting down to a dark, dense, chocolately slice with a glass in which equally dark filtered coffee was slowly dripping into it was the epitome of elegant adulthood. I almost felt as if I had to hold my pinkies aloft to enjoy each and every bite.
One of the most famed European cakes around, it was first created in 1832 by 16-year-old Franz Sacher, then later gained an outsized following at the Hotel Sacher, established by his son Eduard.
It looks so fancy. And it tastes so fancy. But at its heart, it’s really just a double-layer chocolate cake that’s covered entirely in a dark chocolate glaze and hiding a filling of apricot preserves.
First, this cake uses hardly any all-purpose flour, for those who are running low on it like me. In fact, it calls for just over 1 tablespoon of the stuff. It’s such a small amount, though, that you could probably get away with substituting any other kind of flour for it.
Yes, this is the way this chocolate and olive oil cake is supposed to look.
I think of this as the Frank Gehry of cakes.
It’s all angular pieces that jut this way and that. It seems to not make sense or be of this world. But the longer you gaze at it, the more you appreciate its quirky distinctiveness.
Just wait until you taste it, too.
“Chocolate & Olive Oil Cake” is a recipe by the incomparable Diana Henry, the London-based columnist, broadcaster and author who has a true gift when it comes to food writing, making you see, smell and taste an ingredient or dish in its totality just from the words she pens on a page.
The recipe is from her newest cookbook, “How To Eat A Peach” (Hatchette), of which I received a review copy.
It’s a compilation of her favorite dishes in her menu notebook that she’s jotted down entries in since she was 16. These are the dishes she most wants to cook for friends, family and herself. They include such scrumptious fare as “Sea Bass Crudo with Radishes & Nasturtiums,” “Autumn Vegetables with Hazlenut, Roast Bell Pepper & Anchovy Relish” and “Arroz Nego with Romesco Sauce.”
Not quite tall, but definitely dark and handsome, this cake is the perfect companion for Valentine’s Day.
“Double Chocolate Espresso Wake-Up Bread” is from the new “The Everyday Baker” (Taunton Press), of which I received a review copy.
It’s by Abigail Johnson Dodge, a baking expert and contributing editor to Fine Cookingmagazine. It’s filled with 176 recipes for sweet and savory treats, as well as plenty of technique tips, including how to judge the best ripe banana for making banana bread, assembling and filling pastry bags, shaping baguettes like a pro, and fastest way to pick leaves off thyme stems.
The recipes are perfect for the home-cook who wants to make something pleasing but doesn’t want to spend three days doing so. Enjoy everything from “Make-Ahead Chocolate French Toast” and “Salted Caramel-Toffee Icebox Cake” to “Goat Cheese Olive Spirals” and “Black Pepper Cream Crackers.” Each recipe also includes “Twists” — recommendations for changing-out the flavor of each or re-sizing it.
This particular recipe may be called a bread, but it’s really full-on cake.