Serves: 8 to 10
- 1 pound puff pastry, chilled – homemade or store bought. If using store bought, roll both sheets together to make 1 lb, then cut off ¼ lb for the top of the torte. Use any scraps to cut out designs for the top, if desired.
For the Eggs
- 10 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Rest of Filling
- 6 large red bell peppers
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1½ pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- 8 ounces Swiss cheese or Gruyere, thinly sliced
- 8 ounces smoked or honey ham, thinly sliced
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt
- Prepare the pastry: Generously butter an 8½-inch spring form pan. Cut off one quarter of the pastry, cover, and set aside. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a ¼-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, leave a 1-inch overhang. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is ¼ inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the torte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the crust and the lid with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. If using scraps for cut-out designs, like leaves, place the cut-outs on a separate plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge along with top and lined spring form pan.
- Make the Eggs: Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Gently but constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set into the center of the pan. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap. You want a loose, soft scramble since the eggs will be baking for a little over an hour.
- Roast the peppers: Place whole and untrimmed, directly over the flame of a gas burner. As soon as one portion of a peppers skin is charred, turn the pepper. When black and blistered all over, drop into a bowl…cover with plastic wrap and let steam (I throw them all in a paper or large zip lock bag and seal it shut) for about 20 minutes. Use your fingers to rub off skin – DO NOT rinse under water, you lose flavor. Cut each pepper once from top to bottom, cut away the stem, open the peppers, and lay them flat. Trim away the inside veins and discard the seeds; season peppers with salt and pepper and set aside, covered, until needed.
Alternatively, lay the peppers on a baking sheet and place them under the broiler, turning them as each side chars, then continue as instructed above.
Note – The peppers release a lot of liquid once roasted. Make sure the peppers are dry (blot with paper towels) before adding them to the tourte. I cut up the roasted peppers because sometimes you end up with big or whole pieces pulling out with each forkful.
- Cook the Spinach: in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture. Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add a little heavy cream. Bring quickly to the boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted and set aside. Once it’s cooled, squeeze as much liquid out before adding it to the tourte.
- Assemble the Torte: Remove the pastry-lined spring form pan from the refrigerator and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: (quick tip: Sprinkle a little dry bread crumbs or grated Italian hard cheese on the bottom of the raw crust before adding first layer of scrambled eggs to protect against a soggy bottom crust).
-half the eggs
-half the spinach
-half the ham
-half the cheese
-all the roasted peppers, laid flat
Continue layering in reverse order
-remaining half of cheese
-remaining half of ham
-remaining half of spinach
-remaining half of eggs
With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan.
- Fold the excess crust in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust you’ve created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over the torte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.
- Twenty minutes prior to baking; position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
- Bake the Tourte: Place the torte on a jelly-roll pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan and release the sides. Let cool for 20 – 30 minutes before cutting. I let it cool for 1 hour before cutting because it still felt like it would fall apart upon cutting after 30 minutes.