What does it mean, dear readers, when a black cat avoids YOUR path? Because that is what happened to me the other day as I was walking down the street, minding my own bidness. There are only a few ways to interpret this reaction from His Unluckiness. 1) My luck is so bad that if a black cat crossed MY path, the combined unluckiness that it would create would cause the world to implode; 2) My luck is so GOOD that a black cat doesn’t want to cross my path and negate all his bad luck and cause the world’s magnetic fields to switch and we’d all turn inside out and fire and brimstone would rain down from the skies; or 3) Black cats are scared of blonde chicks with forceful walking styles.
My instinct is to say, easy, it’s clearly reason #1. It certainly isn’t #2. And come on, I have a LITTLE bit of hip-swagger, right? But then, the other day, I made this torte. No, like, I MADE IT. I didn’t even follow a recipe. I just threw a whole bunch of shit together and hoped for the best. And this is the strange part, friends. The best happened.
I’m one of those people. The best NEVER happens to me. I’m the girl who falls asleep with a mosquito in her room and a juicy foot dangling outside the covers. I’m the girl who shows up to her senior thesis critique an hour late even though it was held at the exact same time her class had been held ALL SEMESTER LONG. I’m the girl who cuts herself, or gets food poisoning, or trips on that tiny root, or pulls her hamstring 8 times, or spills oil on, then accidentally bleaches, then shrinks, and then rips a hole in her favorite shirt. I am her. She is me.
At least until the other day. When I made this torte. And my life changed.
Because….it worked. And I did it. It came from me and it wasn’t a complete disaster! Maybe the magnetic poles of the earth ARE changing. Maybe black cats are noticing this change in me. Maybe they can tell. Maybe, just maybe….everything is going to start coming up Milhouse.
Before we get carried away, let’s talk about the torte (or many wee tortes, as it were). First of all, I guess I need to retract my previous statement about this being “the best.” Don’t get me wrong (whenever I write that I sing that Pretenders song in my head as I type the words), it’s a very good torte, but it’s not the best I’ve ever had. It’s based loosely on something I ate last week at my new favorite bakery in the world, Tartine. Theirs was much more buttery and sugary, and a ton moister. I went hearty with mine, using whole wheat flour and sprinkling it with oats and nuts. But that’s just the kind of baker I tend to be…earthier and less sweet.
So, yeah, it’s good, probably could use more butter and maybe some sour cream or something for the cake part. But hey, it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to just bake something with no real direction. So let’s take it easy on me here. Hopefully as I get more comfortable with the basics, these kinds of things can happen more often. Oh, right, and I put some plum jam on 2 of the tortes (to make the heart-shaped ones red, natch). A little bit of that jam definitely tarted them up a ton, so feel free to experiment with this kind of ingredient shenanigan, although there is something so pleasantly mild and wonderful about an apricot that has been baked in the oven for a while that maybe you might feel the need to let well enough alone.
Whatever you do, go forth and experiment! It’s fun and sometimes it makes you feel like good old Milhouse when he grudgingly wore those floodpants for no real good reason, but then Homer flooded the streets of Springfield in the name of art, and, well, you know the rest.
Apricot Torte with Crumbly Topping
adapted from my life experience, my recent torte at Tartine, and some general research online
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter (8 tbsp), softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
8-10 apricots, pitted and sliced into wedges
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 11″ tart pan or several smaller pans.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the extracts, beating well. On low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, beating until combined. Press into the tart pan with wet fingers.
Press the apricot wedges on top (don’t skimp, you’ll always want more).
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, flour, oats, and sugars. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the nuts. With your hands, sprinkle the topping on top of the apricots, pressing down lightly.
Bake for 30-45 minutes (I have no idea how hot your oven is), or until a knife inserted into the center of the torte comes out clean (well, maybe there’s some apricot juice on it…but clean enough).