I am occasionally accused, wrongly so, I might add, of not listening. Or, worse, of being “têtue comme une mule”, headstrong and going my own way, not adapting to the necessities of the situation, of refusing to understand the needs and requirements of those around me. This usually, under normal circumstances, has to do with our sons. Yes, he has told me time and again that I speak to our sons as if they were daughters, explaining where no explanation is required, using too many words where one sharp No! would suffice. Of appealing to their better judgment, their feelings as sons, reasoning with them when all that I should be doing is setting down the law, our law, and giving them the iron eye if they attempt to argue. I negotiate, plead, understand, and, according to others, cave in. Instead of listening to him.
I have been scolded for joking where jokes fall flat, teasing those who have no sense of humor whatsoever, but yet I can’t help myself. On and on I go, making light of a situation or trying to coax out a smile only to be stared at blankly or downright ignored. Or of opening my mouth when I should just keep quiet, letting off steam, which only makes the room hotter instead of listening to the unstated “just let it pass!” I have been accused of throwing money out the window by continuing to buy certain foodstuffs, cheeses or cookies or flavors of this or that because I haven’t listened when I was sternly informed that no one liked them. But how many times can they tell me how much they love something, how delicious it is, before I am to understand that what is really being said is “I don’t like this so please don’t ever buy it again”? I listen but I obviously don’t hear! I am admonished for letting my mind wander during discussions of money or politics or films or agendas, of claiming at some later date that it was never said, plans or appointments never spoken of. Or denounced for thinking of other things while an argument rages around me or a powwow is in full force demanding my participation.
But they are wrong, for I do listen. I am sensitive to the wants of others. Their desires and requests are always uppermost in my thoughts, driving me to purchase this food or that, or fighting against my own personal beliefs or, worse, those automatic reflexes of the woman that I am, that I have become. I suffer from neither stubbornness nor self-will, from inflexibility or disregard. I neither misinterpret nor do I purposefully make decisions based on idle supposition. I listen and I try, yes I do.
I admit that my head is often in the clouds, full of fluff. I am quite often oblivious to the world at large. My work, my writing is all consuming and if spoken to while in the middle of a thought, a paragraph, a sentence I simply will not hear. Nose and brain deep inside a book and everything else just disappears. I cannot focus on two things at once and when I put my mind to something the rest simply floats lazily around my head like butterflies on a warm day, gently tapping against my skull, like a dull, monotonous buzz, a fuzzy background noise lulling me to sleep. Sometimes I just ignore what is said as something superfluous to my own beliefs or to whatever it is I must focus on in the here and now. Food trends or famous people, a must-read article or touted event, the happenings of some far away place that simply have no interest for me must make way for what is nearer and dearer. Idle blather or teen ramblings don’t grab my attention nor do statements that I just find, well, useless. But as for all the rest, well, I know for a fact that sometimes they claim to have told me something that was just never uttered or enlightened me of certain facts that just rubbed against the grain, asked me to behave in a way that was just impossible for me. Or simply my lack of reaction fed their belief that I didn’t hear, that I was somewhere else.
Yet some things said and repeated definitely do make an impression even if it takes me some time to sit up and notice, a few jostlings of the old noggin to arouse me to action. It may just take time for the idea to be absorbed before popping up to the surface or it may be hidden somewhere, nestled deep inside the mysterious folds of gray matter before stimulation causes sparks to fly, igniting the nerveways, finally registering and causing me to respond. But when I notice that my traffic jumps, that my popularity soars whenever I post something rich, decadent and chocolatey I do eventually acknowledge it. I must! When you raise the hue and cry about what turns you on, what flavors drive you so wild that you drop to your knees and beg for more, yes indeed I listen. And as my one desire is to make you happy, I do everything in my power to indulge your every whim, satisfy your pleasure, fulfill your wants. Cherry, orange, almond, blueberry may excite and send us into a passionate state of ecstasy, but nothing inspires, nothing thrills like the addition of a mere spoonful or two of deep, dark, bitter, earthy espresso. It turns a simple chocolate cake into something elegant, adult, heady with flavor and mystery. Or lighten it into a creamy, smooth, delicate mocha and watch eyes light up, heads turn, smiles of utmost satisfaction steal across and lighten even the most hardened expression.
Well, dear readers, I have listened.
Another Passover dessert. I couldn’t resist. The others, the Berry Mascarpone Cheesecake on a Chocolate Sponge Base and the Chocolate Almond Torte with Cherries, disappeared in record time! But let us push all the berries of spring aside for a moment, those light, feminine accessories, and satisfy our deeper appetite, our craving, our predilection, nay, weakness for that most adult of flavor combinations, that earthy bite of espresso and dark just-bitter chocolate. Oh so very adult, we feel as if we are delving into a world of sin or wicked pleasure, pampering ourselves as the children look on enviously from afar. Well, go ahead and share if you dare, for this cake is much too good to keep all to yourself. Or shall I say it is too good to share? But, then again, maybe you aren’t listening….
This is truly a stunning cake! Perfect for Passover, it is fabulous all year round for any occasion. Not at all like other Passover cakes, this is both moist yet cakey and feather light. The pecans are less aggressive in flavor than almonds, less bitter than walnuts and the dash of espresso gives the cake just a warm hint of coffee. This must be my absolute favorite Passover treat, one that I continue to make all year round. Go on, try it. Listen to Mama…
CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO PECAN TORTE
A recipe adapted, twisted, tweaked and personalized from Jayne Cohen’s marvelous cookbook The Gefilte Variations.
¾ cup (150 g) sugar, divided
½ cup (125 ml) water
6 oz (175 g) fine-quality, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or a combination of the two *
6 large eggs, separated
1 ½ - 1 ¾ cups (150 – 180 g) pecan halves
3 Tbs matzoh cake meal
1 ½ tsps fine instant espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla
* I used Lindt 70% dark chocolate, 100 grams Doux or mild semisweet and 75 grams dark bittersweet
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Set rack to lower third of the oven. Line a 9-inch (23 cm) cake pan with parchment paper.
In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine and heat ½ cup (100 g) of the sugar and the ½ cup (125 ml) water over medium heat just until it comes to a boil and the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.
Separate the eggs very carefully. Place the whites in a large, very clean, grease-free mixing bowl, preferably plastic or metal if possible, with a pinch of salt. Place the yolks in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Grind the pecans with the remaining sugar and the matzoh meal in a food processor; do this in 2 batches if using a small processor. Stir the ground ingredients and the espresso powder in with the beaten egg yolks. Stir in the cooled chocolate and the vanilla until the batter is smooth and well blended.
Using very clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt on low speed for 30 seconds then increase speed to high and beat the whites until stiff peaks form and hold and the whites feel thick like marshmallow cream when touched. Using a spatula, fold about a quarter of the whites into the chocolate batter to lighten, then fold in the rest of the whites in two additions, incorporating them gently but firmly, scooping up from the bottom and around the sides, folding over as you turn the bowl with your other hand. Fold only until no more white lumps are visible; do not overfold.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, smooth the surface then bake for about 30 minutes or until set yet still slightly gooey in the center. The top should have a pale, matte appearance. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. When completely cool, carefully slide a knife blade around the sides to loosen the cake and turn out onto a cake platter. Be very careful as the surface may crack and crumble a bit around the edges. The center will have sunk slightly in the center.
This cake is perfect eaten as is or serve with whipped cream, ice cream or fruit.