Sunday, March 5, 2017

Cake of Leaves

It is natural of us to try to minimize things down to a "yes"  or a "no" because we want things to be simple. Remember the notes generated in elementary that were passed around? One of the typical ones was the "do you like me?" and it had two boxes to choose from. At that time, we could check yes or no, but now as we are older we would probably check one and list reasons or contingencies for the one we check, such as yes, only if you quit smoking or no because you still live with mom..

This dessert is much the same way. Is it a cake? Yes, only if you consider that it has filled layers like a cake or no because the layers are made up of a dough not batter.

This recipe originates from Chile and in their language is called "Torta de Hojas", which translates to the title of this post. When looking at the picture above, most get the impression that it is basically stacked cookie layers with caramel and walnuts. That would be only partly correct. The layers are made up of a buttery dough with no sugar. The no sugar idea is right on point. Slathered with Dulce de Leche and toasted walnuts, each layer gets transformed. One bite of this tower of deliciousness gives your palate a sensation of flaky, crunchy and slightly sticky textures with a trifecta of satisfying flavors.

This is a 9 layer dessert and the layers are the most time consuming. Here in Texas, Dulce de Leche is easily found at the grocers, so I did not opt for using cooked sweetened condensed milk. There are various methods for cooking the milk to make the caramelized filling and this process available on the internet. Use two 14 ounce cans of the milk for this recipe and let cool 10-15 minutes after cooking before coating the dough layers.

Cake of Leaves
adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients/Pastry Layers
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk
7/8 cup of butter or 1 3/4 stick of butter
4 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder

2-14 oz cans cooked sweetened condensed milk or
   2-13 oz cans Dulce De Leche
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup water

For baking, the oven temperature should be preheated to 350 degrees and you will be using plain cookie sheets, not parchment lined and not greased/floured. The cooked layers will slide off the pan easily when baked.

Cut the butter into cubes and place in bowl of stand mixer. Beat until smooth and silky, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add one egg yolk and beat into butter, running mixer on medium for about 30 seconds. Continue with this method for each egg yolk.

Using another bowl, sift together the flour and the baking powder. Fold 1/3 of the mixture into the butter using a wooden spoon. Then blend in 1/2 cup of milk, then half of the sifted ingredients and repeat, ending with the last amount of dry ingredients. Once a dough is formed, separate into 9 equal balls of dough. Roll out one ball into a flat mass a little over 9 inches. Using a 9 inch plate as a guide, trim the edges to a smooth circle. Transfer disc to a cookie sheet and prick the surface in several places with the tines of a fork.

Place in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edge is slightly golden. Let rest on sheet for 3 minutes then carefully transfer to rack to completely cool. Repeat the forming and baking process for the rest of the dough balls.

Once all the dough is baked and cooled, place the first pasty layer on a cake board. In a small bowl, mix together the water and brandy. Brush this mixture on top of the pastry layer. Then measure out about 1/4 cup of dulce de leche and place in a microwave bowl. Heat in microwave until pourable, about 20 seconds. Mix and then pour on top of the first layer, smooth out evenly and leave a 1/4 inch border. Repeat the same process, stacking each layer and filling.

Let the finished cake rest for 8 hours or overnight. The rest time helps the layers from shattering once the dessert is cut, the pastry becomes more pliable.

Tips and Notes:
1. I had to use more chopped nuts than stated.
2. You can cover the sides with the filling and nuts, just make sure to get extra ingredients for this.
3. The brandy does not add flavor due to the strong flavor of the filling, so it is more of a factor to help the texture rather than flavor.
                                     **LAST YEAR:Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies**