Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beethoven and Nutella

Yes, the two things are related, or at least they are related in my house for today. Maybe not tomorrow. We'll see.

I split up my days by morning and afternoon, with morning activities including things like writing a newspaper column or tutoring at the ESL class or doing laundry and sweeping the floor. And afternoons are spent doing other things like planning dinner, having lunch with friends or working on newspaper stories that involve interviews. This week, however, the afternoons are devoted to Beethoven, specifically Beethoven's 9th symphony.

My orchestra is in its 75th year, and as a special birthday present, we'll be performing this symphony this coming Saturday evening. It may seem as though this is a gift for the public, but I actually think it's a gift to ourselves. It's great to play—exhilarating, fun, challenging, dreamy. And for the fourth horn player, it has a solo. Who the ham sandwich writes a solo for the fourth horn player? Beethoven, that's who, and it's not a measure or two. The thing goes on for at least ten minutes, weaving in and out with what the strings and woodwinds are doing so it isn't always the feature, but it's damned noticeable.

We performed this symphony five years ago when I was the fourth horn player, and I was stunned to discover this solo in the third movement. I was taking lessons at the time, and my teacher walked me through the thing measure by measure. It's not a crazy-hard solo, but if you have nerves of cellophane, it's a big wall to climb. Well, this year I'm the second horn player, but I have been moved to fourth to cover this solo. We only have a few rehearsals to get this whole thing presentable, so let's go with what we know, you might say, and not ask another play to learn such a thing on short notice.

So, every afternoon, I sit down with my spit-empty horn and play through the music, sometimes playing along with a recording and sometimes playing along with a metronome. I pace myself by taking a break long enough to walk out to the mailbox or to check email or to pet the cat. Today, I took a break long enough to make a tart because it seemed like the thing to do.

I chose the chocolate-hazelnut tart I found in the March edition of Food Network Magazine, which I found in line at the grocery store. The printed recipe for the crust seemed too involved for my purposes today, so I made a simple crumb version—it cut down on the time, and it tastes just fine. I had a piece of the tart after dinner this evening and was glad I took a cooking break between pages of Beethoven—think of it as an intermission—and tomorrow, I just might take a break by having another piece.

Here is the recipe followed by a video snippet of this solo. Make the tart, sit down with a big piece of it, and love Beethoven for a few minutes.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Tart

Crust (my shortcut version):
2 cups graham crackers
1/3 cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter melted

Mix all three ingredients and press evenly into 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Bake in a 350˚ oven for ten minutes and cool completely.

2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup Nutella
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup cream. In a saucepan, whisk together the remaining cream, Nutella, vanilla and salt. Stir over medium heat and add the cornstarch mixture. Whisk thoroughly and stir until mixture boils. Cook and stir two minutes more or until filling thickens. Pour into cooled crust and chill for at least one hour. For a garnish, toast chopped hazelnuts and sprinkle over tart.


dive said...

Woah, Robyn! I wish I were there to hear you play Beethoven's Ninth. How awesome that must feel.
Good luck with that big ol' elephant-fart of a low F!

I really hope someone records the concert - especially your playing - and posts it on-line. Those of us stuck on this side of the pond miss out on so much.

By the way: Nutella? Eww! Hee hee.

Madame DeFarge said...

I'd love to hear your orchestra play Beethoven's Ninth. It's one off my favourite pieces and always makes me dissolve into floods in the final movement. Hope it goes well.