The torta is really a big cookie whose texture is a cross between a perfect shortbread and the best crumb topping you can imagine. The addition of almond flour and cornmeal is partially responsible for the cookie’s wonderful texture; the technique claims the rest of the credit. The dough is quickly mixed in a food processor — whir just until you’ve got a bowl full of morsels; you don’t want a smooth dough — and then you pinch off nuggets of the dough and press them lightly into the pan. It’s as if you were baking a pan full of streusel. You can cut the big cookie into individual pieces or put it out whole and let everyone break off chunks — messy, but fun.
- Serves: 16 persons
- ¾cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
- ½cup (50 grams) almond flour
- ⅓cup (57 grams) yellow cornmeal
- ⅓cup (67 grams) sugar
- ¼teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 5 ½tablespoons (77 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1large egg yolk, lightly beaten
- ⅓cup (50 grams) unblanched whole almonds, very coarsely chopped
Step 1Center a rack in the oven, and heat it to 325 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.
Step 2Put both flours, cornmeal, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a food processor, and pulse to blend. Drop in the chunks of butter, and pulse, scraping the bottom of the bowl a couple of times, until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Pulsing, pour in the yolk. Using long pulses, process until the mixture is moist and grainy, like wet sand — it should hold together when pinched.
Step 3Transfer to a bowl, stir in the almonds and use your fingers to squeeze the dough into small streusel-like morsels; drop the pieces into the buttered pan as you go. When all the dough is in, pat it down gently, just enough to start the morsels on the road to sticking together.
Step 4Bake for 34 to 38 minutes, until the top is deeply golden brown. Transfer to a rack, wait 3 minutes, then run a table knife around the torta and invert it onto the rack. If you want to cut it into pieces, turn it right-side-up onto a cutting board, and use a chef’s knife to cut into cookies; return the pieces to the rack to cool to room temperature. If you want to serve the torta as a break-apart sweet, simply let it cool on the rack.