Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Torte

The best part of being invited to dinner parties is having an excuse to bake something I wouldn't normally make. Some cakes are too extravagant for a house of two and are difficult to share. Loafs, cookies or bars are easier to cut up and give away to friends. But when an occasion comes around and I have the opportunity to make something fancy, I jump to it.  

This chocolate cake from Alice Medrich is sure to please any crowd. It’s a humble looking cake with a collapsed center, and sprinkled with icing sugar, the crackly top looks even more beautiful in its imperfect way. All through dinner, I eyed the cake, counting down the minutes till we could dive into it. In fact, I saved some stomach space so I could have two pieces of cake, a very good skill to develop for dinner parties.

The torte is even better if it’s made in advance, so I’d recommend making it a day before a craving for chocolate strikes. Basically, butter and sugar are creamed together, eggs are added and beaten until you get a thick, frothy mixture to near pudding consistency. Then, ground nuts and flour are stirred in. Before pouring the batter into the pan, remember to lick the spatula just a little, taste testing is crucial and so very delicious. The torte puffs up in the oven and deflates as it cools on the rack. It’s cakey and crumbly, the middle still dense and moist. The toasted pecans lend a nutty, tender crumb, making it hard to resist having a third slice. It makes a beautiful cake for the holidays and the icing sugar makes up for the snow that has yet to arrive here in Toronto.

Chocolate Pecan Torte
From Alice Medrich's Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts
Serves 10-12

Alice notes that you can use other nuts in this torte, like walnuts or hazelnuts for a different nut based torte. Also, to make this torte flourless, you can omit the flour. 

1 cup pecan halves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 ounces dark chocolate (66% to 72% cocoa), coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into chunks
¾ cup granulated sugar
generous 1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large cold eggs

icing sugar for garnish


Position rack on lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom  and sides of the springform pan with butter.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice until they are fragrant and toasty. Remove pecans and allow to cool completely. Turn oven temperature up to 375°F.

Pulse pecans with the flour in a food processor until finely ground. 

Put chocolate in a large heatproof bowl, preferably stainless steel, set it over a pot of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove the bowl. Add butter, sugar, salt and beat with the electric mixer at medium speed until butter is completed melted and mixture is thickened and lighter in color. Beat in the eggs one by one, then beat at high speed (medium speed in a heavy-duty stand mixer) for a minute or two, or until the batter is fluffy and lightened in colour. Stir in the pecan mixture. 

Pour the batter into the springform pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted 1½ inches from side of the pan comes out clean, the centre will still be gooey. 

Put the pan over a rack to cool. Glide a thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, allow to cool completely. Remove the springform pan sides. The torte can be kept at room temperature, covered for 3 days. Sift a tablespoon or so of icing sugar over the top to flourish the crackly top. 

Recipe here!

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