November 30, 2013
Dark Chocolate Walnut Torte
Varietal: Dessert Wines (Port)
Fran Bigelow, founder and owner of Fran’s Chocolates, was named “one of the top ten artisan chocolatiers in the United States” by Chocolatier Magazine. With her recipe for a rich, yet airy chocolate torte, redolent with tannic, earthy walnuts and semisweet chocolate (it reminds me of a brownie on steroids!), Fran suggests pairing Port (either Tawny or Red works fine—go with your preference or what you have on hand). “Red wine is hard to pair, unless it’s aged and has very low tannins, usually an expensive one. But good if you’re just finishing a great bottle of wine after dinner.” My kind of woman!
8 ounces walnut pieces (about 1 3/4 cups)
7 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 recipe Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze (Recipe follows)
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped until soft peaks form, for serving
1. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
2. Grease or coat a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
3. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and lightly toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they begin to give off their aroma. Allow the nuts to cool completely before proceeding.
4. Transfer half of the nuts to a food processor and pulse until finely ground, with pieces no larger than 1/16th inch. Repeat with the remaining nuts. (This should yield approximately 2 cups.)
5. Stir the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Remove when nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth. Return the bowl to the double boiler only briefly if the chocolate begins to set up.
6. In an electric mixer bowl (use a whisk attachment if available), combine the egg yolks and 7 tablespoons of the sugar. Beat on medium-high speed to combine, then scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to high. Continue beating until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow in color and the sugar has dissolved, 5 to 6 minutes more. Gently fold the walnuts into the yolk mixture.
7. In a separate clean mixing bowl, and with a clean and dry whisk or beaters, begin whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed. Increase the speed to high and allow the whites to become quite frothy, slowly adding the remaining 7 tablespoons of the sugar. Continue whipping until the peaks are stiff but not dry; they should appear glossy and smooth.
8. Gently fold the melted chocolate into the yolk mixture until well blended.
9. Lighten the yolk mixture by quickly folding in one-quarter of the whites. Then gently fold in the remaining whites in three parts. Do not overmix or the egg whites will deflate.
10. Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
11. Transfer to a wire rack and allow the cake layer to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes. To remove from the pan, go around the edge of the cake with a thin-bladed knife, then release the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled. (Once cooled, the layer can be wrapped airtight in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week prior to assembly.)
12. To assemble the cake, using a large offset spatula, thinly cover the top and sides of the cake with 1/4 cup of the glaze.
13. To finish glazing the cake, place it on a wire cooling rack positioned over a rimmed baking sheet. If the glaze becomes too firm to pour over the cake, stir gently in a double boiler over hot water until it softens enough to pour (about 90°F). Beginning 1 1/2 inches from the edge of the torte, slowly and evenly pour the glaze around the circumference of the torte layer, making sure that the sides are covered. Then pour the remaining glaze onto the center of the torte.
14. Using a metal offset spatula and working quickly, spread the glaze evenly over the top, letting the excess run down the sides.
15. Let the cake sit at room temperature until the glaze sets and becomes slightly firm, about 20 minutes. Once set, slide an offset spatula under the base of the torte, rotating the spatula to release any spots where the glaze has stuck to the rack. Carefully lift the torte and, supporting the cake’s bottom with your free hand, slide it onto a serving plate.
16. To serve, slice the cake and dollop with the whipped cream.
Dark Chocolate Ganache Glaze
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1. In a small saucepan, heat the cream on medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the finely chopped chocolate until smooth, using a rubber spatula so as not to incorporate any air. Cool the ganache, stirring occasionally until it thickens and forms ribbons off the end of the spatula, 5 to 10 minutes.