High Country Baking: Blueberry Torte
July 31, 2013
Editor's note: Living in the Colorado High Country is pure joy. Baking in it isn't. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Four stars — that's how one of my good friends, a self-proclaimed foodie, rates this blueberry torte. I share her opinion; the contrast between the rich, tender crust, sweet fruit filling and creamy topping earns it high marks on my list of summer desserts. Add to that the fact that it's made a day before serving and is pretty enough for company guarantees it a place on our table at least a couple of times a year.
The torte comes together in three distinct, but easy, steps: First, the crust is quickly made in a food processor. Next, the filling is precooked on the stovetop (a step I often include at high altitudes, for it assures that it won't be underbaked) and, lastly, the ingredients for a sour-cream topping are combined. I often spread the process over two days, making the crust one day and the filling and topping the next. Once complete, the torte must spend one night in the refrigerator and can remain there for as long as two days.
(Make in a 9-inch spring-form pan.)
1¾ cups bleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 cup superfine sugar, preferably Baker's
Pinch of salt
12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
¾ cup superfine sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 cups fresh blueberries
2 egg yolks
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups sour cream (regular or light)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Lightly grease the pan with a flour-vegetable oil spray.
Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until well mixed. Cut the cold butter into small pieces, add them to the bowl, and pulse until crumbs the size of oatmeal are formed. Add the egg yolks, and pulse until the dough is uniformly moist and starts to form a ball. Remove and divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap the smaller piece, and place it in the refrigerator. Scatter the larger one over the pan bottom, and press it to create a level and smooth bottom crust. Bake until set and golden (start checking after about 10 minutes). Remove and cool. Reduce oven to 350 degrees and leave on.
Make the filling: Combine all of the filling ingredients except the berries in a large saucepan, and whisk to combine. Add the berries and gently toss until they have a thick covering of dry ingredients. Set this aside for about 20 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally, until the berries have moistened most of the dry ingredients. Meanwhile, remove dough from the refrigerator and form into four ropes, each approximately 7 inches long. Press these about 1 3/4 inches up the sides of the pan, making the crust sides a uniform thickness and leveling the top.
Place the saucepan of filling over low heat, and cook, stirring, until the berries release their juices and the dry ingredients dissolve. Increase the heat to medium, continue to stir, until the mixture boils and thickens like a jam. Taste, and add more sugar if desired. Remove from the heat, and let cool for about 5 minutes. While the filling cools, make the topping: Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, and stir gently to combine. Add the vanilla and sour cream, and stir until blended.
Fill the crust with the cooked blueberries, using a slotted spoon to drain them as you do so (too much liquid will make the filling runny). Save the liquid, cover, and refrigerate it. Spoon the topping over the blueberry filling, covering it completely. Place the pan on a cookie sheet, and bake until the topping puffs up slightly and is set around the edges but still jiggles a little in the middle. This takes from 35 to 45 minutes in my oven. Remove to a rack, and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight and up to two days before serving.
Optional: To make a sauce to decorate the plates when serving, strain the reserved liquid, add sugar to taste and, if necessary, thin with water, creme de cassis or rum. Drizzle each plate prettily with some sauce, place a piece of the torte on top, and serve.
This is a variation of a Marilene Sorosky recipe.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC's Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.