Friday, February 14, 2014
Torta Caprese--Rich Chocolate Almond Torte
I almost forgot about this delightful cake until my recent visit to Rome. And there I found it displayed in pastry shops and on the menu of restaurants, next to such classic desserts as tiramisu or semifreddo. I also had a chance to try a wonderful home-made torta caprese at a dinner I was invited to by my friend's family.
So today, for Valentine's Day which is all about chocolate treats, I share a recipe for torta caprese, which in essence is a very simple cake but its secret is that it must be made of best quality delicious ingredients.
Most often I make a traditional, most neutral, version of it with ground almonds. However, my favorite torta caprese is made with hazelnuts, especially those from Oregon, which give the cake that special gianduja flavor. Almonds can also be replaced by walnuts. And I recently bought ground cashews to experiment with them next time.
Torta caprese is made without flour (as the ground nuts make up for it entirely) so it is a gluten-free dessert. It is quite rich and moist but I add also some liqueur which gave it an extra flavor and moisture.
Torta caprese can be served with a scoop of good gelato or topped with a dollop of crème fraîche or whipped cream. Anyway, in whatever variation it is served, there is no one, and particularly no true chocolate lover, who will resist a piece of torta caprese.
6 eggs, separated, preferably organic,
6 oz bittersweet good quality (preferably, Belgian) chocolate, broken in small pieces,
1 stick ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, plus extra tsp for the form,
3/4 cup sugar,
1 and 1/2 cup blanched and ground almonds (hazelnuts or walnuts),
2 tbsp Amaretto Liqueur, Frangelico, or Grand Marnier,
1 tbsp vanilla,
pinch of salt,
confectioners sugar for dusting.
1. Preheat oven to 350F. prepare a baking 9.5-inch baking form with high, removable walls. Cut out a round piece of waxed paper to the size of the form and place it at the bottom of the form. Grease it with a tsp of butter.
2. Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Add butter cut into small pieces and melt either on top of a pot with steaming water or in a microwave oven. If you use a microwave oven, first run it for 30 seconds, then mix chocolate. Repeat again 3-4 times running the microwave oven for no longer than 15-20 seconds at a time, stirring in between with a spatula, until chocolate and butter make a smooth cream. Add vanilla and liqueur to the chocolate cream.
3. In a standing mixer, beat egg yolks with sugar until pale. Add melted chocolate and mix. Sift in ground almonds and mix gently again.
4. In a separate bowl, beat whites of eggs with salt until stiff. Fold the whites into the chocolate batter gently using a spatula. Transfer the batter to the baking form. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is set. Cool, dust the top with confectioners sugar, and serve with crème fraîche or vanilla gelato.