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How to Feed a Mob

December 15, 1991|MINNIE BERNARDINO

In ample space under the broadest shade, A table richly spread in regal mode, With dishes piled and meats of noblest sort And savour--beasts of chase, or fowl of game, In pastry built, or from the spit, or boiled . . . And at a stately sideboard, by the wine That fragrant smell diffused . . . --John Milton, Paradise Regained

People may be what makes a great party, but it's the food that sparks the crowd.

What follows are party recipes for good eating: finger food for nibbling during those first nervous moments; a salad to refresh and keep the mood light; chicken, crisp and flavorful, to get the juices flowing; a soup kept warm on the fire; and a sweet ending.

Adapted from a dessert served at Michael's in Santa Monica, this rich layered torte easily serves about 24. What seems to be a long, involved process consists of several easy subrecipes, and everything can be simplified by advanced preparation. The white - chocolate cake can be baked in advance and kept at room temperature, tightly covered, for two days (or frozen up to one month). The hazelnut praline will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 1 month. The butter cream may be prepared the day before serving, covered and refrigerated and then re-beaten until light and creamy again just before using. The whole cake may also be assembled and refrigerated a day in advance.

Michael's original recipe called for a sheet of white chocolate that was wrapped around each cake. In this case, the chocolate needs tempering, which could be very tricky, particularly when it's done the day of the party. Whipped cream, spiked with a little liqueur and piped into rosettes, tastes good--and is much easier.\f7

HAZELNUT-PRALINE-BERRY CAKE

Flourless White Chocolate Cake

Butter Cream

Raspberries or sliced strawberries

Praline

Brandy Whipped Cream

Cut Flourless White Chocolate Cake into 6 even rectangles by cutting in half crosswise then into thirds lengthwise. Use 3 rectangle layers and 1/2 recipe Butter Cream for each cake.

For each cake place 1 rectangle on serving tray and spread with 1/6 Butter Cream. Cover with some raspberries and sprinkle with some Praline.

Top with second layer, spread with more Butter Cream, cover with berries and praline. Top with third layer cake and repeat. Pipe whipped cream rosettes all over sides and top border. Repeat process with second cake. Chill until serving time. Makes 2 cakes, 12 servings each.

Each serving contains about:

568 calories; 331 mg sodium; 340 mg cholesterol; 47 grams fat; 32 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.64 grams fiber; 75% calories from fat.

Flourless White-Chocolate Cake

Softened butter

Flour

5 ounces white chocolate

3/4 cup butter

6 eggs, separated

1 cup finely ground or pulverized almonds

3/4 cup sugar

Line 17x12-inch baking tray with parchment paper, brush with soft butter and sprinkle with flour. Melt white chocolate with 3/4 cup butter in top of double boiler over simmering water. Cool slightly.

Beat egg yolks in small mixer bowl until light. Stir in almonds. Whisk in chocolate-butter mixture.

Beat egg whites in separate bowl until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Whisk 1/3 portion whites into chocolate mixture. Fold mixture into remaining egg whites.

Turn batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake at 325 degrees about 30 minutes or until top is dark brown and wood pick inserted in center of cake comes out dry. Cool slightly then loosen from pan. Cover pan with parchment paper and flip cake onto working surface. Remove parchment paper and trim off hard edges from cake. Cool.

Butter Cream

16 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup cold water

1 1/2 pounds butter, cut in pieces, softened

Beat egg yolks in large mixer bowl until pale and creamy, about 10 minutes. Bring sugar and water to boil in saucepan and boil until thickened (hard-crack stage on candy thermometer). Pour immediately into egg mixture while beating at medium speed. Beat until smooth and thickened. Cool.

Beat in butter bits, few pieces at time. Beat until shiny and well blended. Cover and refrigerate if not using same day (to use, re-beat until creamy).

Praline

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 cup hazelnuts, roasted and peeled

Combine sugar and water in saucepan and heat to light caramel stage. Add hazelnuts and remove from heat. Stir with wooden spoon constantly until crystallized, about 1 minute. Return to high heat, stirring until sugar becomes liquidy and caramelized. Pour into baking sheet and cool. Pulverize in food processor. Makes about 1 cup.

Brandy Whipped Cream

2 cups whipping cream

3 to 4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons brandy, Grand Marnier or Frangelico liqueur

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and continue to whip until stiff. Whip in brandy until blended. Makes about 4 cups.

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