This recipe is perfect for a special occasion, say, for your friends’ Twenty Second Anniversary. It’s fancy looking, but really just layers of savory vegetable goodness in a shell of puff pastry. The original is from my Gourmet cookbook, but I’ve changed some of the process and the ingredients to get the kids to eat it. Use the veggies your family likes as long as they’re not too soggy. Try pickled carrots, cooked bell peppers (patted dry), grilled corn, blackeyed peas, mashed butternut squash or sweet potatoes.
Add a hearty potato-leek-thyme soup, some wine, and a pear-pecan-feta salad, and you have a three course supper that would be delish three seasons of the year. The torte is not as labor intensive as it seems, especially if you divide the steps over a few days. Depending on how you slice it, it will serve 8-16.
You’ll need: a 9″ springform pan, rolling pin, paper towels, and a ruler.
- 1 1/2 lbs. boiling potatoes, like Yukon Golds
- 1 lbs. mushrooms, try shitake, baby bellas or criminis
- 1 shallot
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 stick of butter
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2+ large garlic cloves, minced
- 15-oz frozen peas, thawed
- 1 big eggplant
- 1/2 cup evoo
- small jar of sundried tomatoes
- 3 frozen puff pastry sheets (from two packages), thawed
- flour for the counter and rolling pin
- 3 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
- 2 cups shredded smoked Gouda
- 1 egg
The plan is to layer in a batch of stiff garlic mashed potatoes and peas, shredded gouda, then a mixture of mushrooms, shallots and thyme cooked in wine, then cooked eggplant, sundried tomatoes, and finally more cheese. It has to chill for 45 minutes because the dough needs to be cold when it goes onto the oven. It bakes for 45 minutes and then cools for an hour, so this isn’t the quickest recipe, but well worth the time. All of the layers can be done a day or two in advance, thereby lightening your workload on party day! Also, so that an entire bottle of white wine isn’t wasted, you may want to open it and make the mushroom mixture the same day that you’ll be serving the torte. I’m just sayin.
1. Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Thaw the peas under hot water or in the microwave and drain well. Meanwhile,
Sauté the mixture in 2 tablespoons butter with salt and pepper to taste, until mushroom liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until wine is evaporated. Set aside to cool
3. Drain potatoes (I just use a cookie cooling rack because none of my colanders fit into my dishwasher-without a fight. Use tongs to get them from the boiling water to rack). Peel when cool enough to handle. Dispose of potato water and put milk, minced garlic, and 4 T. butter into the pot and heat. Put skinless potatoes back in and mash up. Fold in peas, add salt and pepper to taste.
Now, either cool to room temperature before chilling if you’re building the torte another day (to keep them from sweating and creating moisture), but bring back up to room temperature the day that you assemble it. OR, cool to room temperature if you’re assembling today. The point is that they go into the oven no cooler than room temp because 45 minutes would not be enough time to heat a thick layer of chilled potatoes. You’d need more time, but then the pastry would burn. Make sense?
4. Pat the tomatoes dry and roll up in paper towels for later.
5. Cut lengthwise slices from opposite sides of each eggplant and discard. Cut eggplants lengthwise into thin slices, oil and season well with salt and pepper. Either grill or broil until tender and golden brown on both sides. Set aside to cool.
You can build the torte a day ahead. If you wait until party day, start at least 3 1/2 hours before the serve time.
6. Oil a springform pan. Roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, flipping once or twice, into a 16.5 x 10.5 inch rectangle. Trim half an inch from all the edges and halve the 16 x 10″ rectangle lengthwise.
7. Line half of side of pan with 1 pastry half, leaving about an inch overhang at top and into bottom of pan. Repeat so that side of pan is completely lined. Press together edges of pastry where they meet.
8. Roll out a second pastry sheet into a square and cut a circle using bottom of pan as a guide, adding an inch all around for added strength when you cut and serve it up . Put dough circle in bottom of pan and press edges to seal. Chill until you’re ready for step 9.
9. The layers: The drier every layer is, the cleaner the wedges will be when you cut and serve it. Pat dry with paper towels as you go if there is excess moisture. First, sprinkle in 3 T. bread crumbs. The first layer is the mashed potatoes that should fill the springform pan a little more than half way (you may have extra). Press in firmly. Layer on 1 cup shredded gouda, then the eggplant that has been cut up into one inch pieces, then press in the mushroom mixture, then the sundried tomatoes that have been sliced up, and finally another cup of shredded gouda.
10. Roll out a third pastry sheet on lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin to 10 x 12-inches. Cut 16 strips starting at the 12″ side. Try cutting in half, then cut each half in half, and so on until you have 16 strips.
Lay out 8 strips this way,
and then weave in 8 strips that way starting in the center and working outward.
Trim the dangling strips. Gently press ends of strips into pastry on sides of pans, then roll overhang up and onto inside edge of pan. Make it purdy or leave it rustic. Brush lattice and rolled edges with egg wash. Chill torte at least 45 minutes.
11. Lower oven rack to bottom third of oven and put foil on rack in case the pan leaks. Preheat oven to 425°F. Prepare foil tent for crust edges in advance.
Bake torte 45 to 50 minutes, but you’ll probably need to tent the edges with foil after the first 15 or 20 minutes.
Run a sharp knife around inside of pan before removing the side, then cool on rack for at least an hour.
Next time, I’m going to make it in a 9” pie pan with two frozen, prepared pie crusts or just one box of puff pastry.
spicy olives, homemade rosemary bread, parmesan crackers, hummus, wine, tea, salad, soup, vegetable torte, roses, candlelight, and great friends!