Last fall, when one of my friends got engaged, I knew that we had to celebrate immediately. And, because it was an impossibly warm day in October, I figured we should make use of our deck for the festivities. (Good thing, because as it turned out, it was the last time we were up there before the winter hammer lowered.) Since it was a very spur-of-the- moment gala, we decided to do go simple: champagne (obviously) and dessert. The only problem was that I had about an hour to pull the whole thing together. So, I did the unthinkable.
That’s right, when we were out buying countless bottles of bubbly, I nabbed the pre-made flourless chocolate torte sitting nearest the wine aisle at the store. It went against everything I believe in (read: everything I live and breathe to do; namely: cook and bake, etc etc). But I popped that sucker out of it’s complicated plastic container, plunked some berries down on top and called it a party.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
The torte, like most flourless chocolate cakes, was fine. Dense and fudgy, sure, but also a little dry and one-dimensional. Since then, I’ve been on a hunt for a recipe that would allow me to rectify this egregious store-bought wrong. Last weekend, in search of the perfect exclamation point to Monday night’s Italian dinner, I came across a recipe for the Chocolate-Almond Torte you see here.
While I won’t proclaim it the best I’ve ever made, it was tastier than the store-bought version of last fall (let it go, Kristin; I know) by leaps and bounds. It was fudgy and dense, but it also had the added benefits of dark chocolate, subtle orange zest and a mellow almond flavor woven throughout. So, one dimensional it was not. And it wasn’t dry either. But if it had been, I might not have noticed, since I scooped heaping dollops of freshly whipped cream (spiked with almond extract and Grand Marnier) on top of each slice.
Chocolate Almond Torte
1 1/2 cups blanched slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel*
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Combine almonds and 1/3 cup sugar in processor. Blend until almonds are very finely ground. Transfer almond mixture to medium bowl; do not clean processor. Add chocolate and 1/3 cup sugar to processor. Blend until chocolate is finely ground but not beginning to clump, about 45 seconds; stir into almond mixture. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in large bowl until mixture falls in heavy ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes. Beat in almond extract and lemon peel. Fold in chocolate-almond mixture, then butter.
Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into chocolate batter in three additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; store at room temperature.) Cut around pan sides to loosen; release sides. Sift powdered sugar over cake.
* I used orange, rather than lemon, zest.
Grand Marnier-Spiked Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 to 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, beat all ingredients until soft peaks form.