I was drawn to Alice Medrich's recipe for chestnut torte from Bittersweet because right now I'd love any reason to roast chestnuts and fill my home with warmth. It's brain-freezing cold in NYC right now; a fat slice of chocolate flavored chestnut cake might just take my mind off of my sore frostbitten skin. And if you're not freezing your butt off, I'm sure it would also be a nice dessert for Valentine's Day.
Chocolate Notes: You can use standard bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (without a percentage on the label), or any marked 50% to 62%, I don't like to overwhelm the flavor of the chestnuts. To keep the flavors in balance, I compensate for the intensity of the higher percentage chocolates as follows:
To use chocolate marked 64% to 66% instead of standard bittersweet: Use 3 1/2 ounces chocolate.
For chocolate marked 70% to 72% instead of standard bittersweet: Use 3 ounces chocolate, and increase the sugar to 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon.
Note on Chestnuts: If you don't want to roast or steam your own, the best cooked whole chestnuts come in vacuum packages in better supermarkets and gourmet stores. Those in jars are not quite as good, but they are still acceptable. Do not confuse them with sweetened chestnuts or chestnuts packed in syrup. You can also use Faugier chestnut puree (ingredients are listed as: chestnut puree, water, corn syrup), which is essentially unsweetened except for the tiny amount of corn syrup. Do not confuse the latter for sweetened chestnut puree, also called chestnut spread, that comes in jars.
- Yield:12 to 14
- 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup (about 6 ounces) mashed. steamed, or roasted chestnuts or canned unsweetened chestnut puree (see note)
- 1 tablespoon rum or brandy
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
- Rum- or brandy-flavored whipped cream
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Unless you arc planning to serve the cake on the pan bottom, line the bottom of the cake pan with a circle of parchment paper.
Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir occasionally until nearly melted. Remove from the heat and stir until melted and smooth. Or microwave on Medium (50%) power for about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir until completely melted and smooth.
Stir the chestnuts, rum, vanilla, and salt into the chocolate. Whisk in the egg yolks, along with 6 tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside.
In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat at high speed (or medium high speed in a heavy-duty mixer) until the peaks are stiff but not dry. Scoop one-quarter of the egg whites onto the chocolate batter. Using a large rubber spatula, fold them in. Scrape the remaining egg whites onto the batter and fold together.
Turn the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it level if necessary. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan still has moist crumbs clinging to it.
Set the pan on a rack to cool. (The cooled torte can be covered tightly with plastic wrap, or removed from the pan and wrapped well, and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
To serve, slide a slim knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake. Remoye the pan sides and transfer the cake, on the pan bottom, to a platter, or invert the cake onto a rack or tray, remove the bottom and the paper liner, and invert again onto a platter. Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift a little powdered sugar over the top of the cake before serving, if desired. Serve each slice with a little whipped cream.