Sunday, November 23, 2014


As promised last week, here is the recipe for the luscious almond torte—Torta de Santiago—that we made on the cooking course for Hanna’s birthday.

For me, this cake is special for the harvest season, when I pick basketsful of almonds. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving or other holiday meals.

Santiago de la Compostela is a town in Galicia in northwest, green Spain, where the pilgrimage site of the shrine of St. James is located. (Curiously, almonds do not grow in this region of Spain.) The torte usually is decorated with the cross of St. James picked out in powdered sugar, as pictured on the cover of the cookbook in the photo. If you are thinking that's an odd way to spell cocina, you're right--the book is in the Galician language, not castellano Spanish. After I bought the book, I had to order a Spanish-Galician dictionary in order to translate the recipes. For our version, we used a fig leaf for the template instead of the pilgrims' cross.

Hanna pegs a fig leaf to the top of the baked torte, then dusts the top with powdered sugar. When the leaf is carefully removed, it leaves a pattern on the torte.

For the holidays, I accompany the torte with quince sorbet that’s easy to prepare from dulce de membrillo, ready-made quince paste or quince jelly. It’s also delicious with fruit puree or compote. Nothing wrong with a dollop of whipped cream either.

Almond torte.

Almond Torte from Santiago de la Compostela
Torta de Almendras de Santiago

Buy ground almonds—unsweetened almond meal. Spread them in a baking sheet and toast them in a preheated 375º oven, stirring frequently, until they are lightly colored.
The recipe calls for a 10- or 11-inch springform mold. If you use a smaller pan, the torte will require longer baking time.

My tastes have changed since I tested this recipe for a cookbook some 10 years ago. This time, I reduced the sugar, from 2 3/4 cups to 2 cups, and liked the torte every bit as much.

Serves 10-12, cut in thin wedges.

500 g / 1 lb almonds, blanched, skinned and finely ground (or about 6 cups ground almonds)
150 g / 5 ¼ oz (2/3 cup) butter
500 g / 1 lb 2 oz (2 ¾ cups) sugar
7 eggs
150 g / 5 ¼ oz (1 ¼ cups) plain flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
icing (confectioners’) sugar

Spread the ground almonds in an oven tin and toast them in a moderate oven, stirring frequently, until they are lightly golden. Take care they do not brown. Cool.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the flour, ground almonds and grated lemon zest. Pour into a 10-inch buttered spring-form mold and bake in a preheated moderate oven (180º C / 350ºF) until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool the torte 10 minutes, then remove from the mold and cool on a rack. Before serving dust the top with icing sugar. If desired, place a template of the Santiago pilgrim’s cross on the torte, sprinkle with sugar, brush sugar off the template and remove it.

Almond torte and quince sorbet, a lovely combination.
Quince sorbet

Quince Sorbet
Sorbete de Membrillo

Quince is a full-flavored, old-fashioned fruit that looks like an over-sized, knobbly apple. Somewhere between apple and pear in flavor and texture, the quince has a leathery skin rich in pectin. Cooked with sugar, the fruit sets up as a stiff jelly (also called quince paste) that can be cut into slices.

Quince paste
Quince paste (look for it in the cheese section of your grocery store or gourmet shop) is an easy starting point for this sorbet. Although the fruit has a pleasing graininess, the pectin makes a creamy ice without any fat.

Serves 8.

1 ½ cups quince paste (14 ounces/400 grams)
2 ½ cups water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of ground cloves

Allow the quince jelly to come to room temperature.

In a saucepan combine the water with the sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer 2 minutes. Add the quince jelly to the water and stir over low heat until it is dissolved. Stir in the orange zest, lemon juice, and cloves.

Cool the quince mixture, stirring occasionally, then puree it in a blender. Chill the quince mixture. Place in an ice-cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s directions. Or, freeze the quince mixture, then beat it until smooth and return to the freezer.

Place the frozen quince sorbet in a container with a tight seal and freeze at least 2 hours.

Soften the sorbet before serving.


  1. Ooh! That sorbet sounds divine. I've served Tarta de Santiago with oranges in a Cointreau syrup before which was great, but this sounds even better!!!

    1. Christine: Mmm, oranges in liqueur syrup sounds wonderful too. Very Christmasy, as oranges are in season.

  2. this looks like a lovely torte!

    1. Dina: Hope you enjoy the torte. You can buy ground almonds (almond flour) at good stores.

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