Chocolate Hazelnut Torte Recipe:
1/2 cup (70 grams) hazelnuts
1/4 cup (30 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces (170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Chocolate Ganache: (optional)
8 ounces (227 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
1 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)
Note: Cream of tartar is used when whipping eggs whites to help stabilize them, and to prevent them from drying out and being over beaten.
To toast nuts: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until nuts are brown and fragrant and the skins are starting to peel away from the nuts. Remove from oven and place the nuts in a clean dish towel. Roll up the towel and let the nuts 'steam' for about five minutes and then rub the nuts to remove the skins. Let cool.
To make ground hazelnuts: Once the hazelnuts have completely cooled, place in a food processor, along with the flour and salt, and process until hazelnuts are finely ground. Set aside.
To make Torte: Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line the bottom of an 8 x 3 inch (20 x 7.5 cm) round cake pan or springform pan with parchment paper.
Separate the eggs while they are still cold, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another. Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (this will take about 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar until pale and thick (about 3 - 5 minutes). (When you raise the beaters the mixture will slowly fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.) Beat in the vanilla extract. With a rubber spatula gently fold in the warm chocolate mixture and the nut and flour mixture. Set aside while you whip the egg whites.
In a clean bowl, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, at medium speed, until foamy and then add the cream of tartar. Continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar, beating at high speed until stiff but not dry. With a large spatula or whisk, fold a small amount of the whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it. Quickly fold in the remaining whites. Do not over mix or the batter will deflate. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake shows moist crumbs.
Cool the torte completely in the pan on a wire rack. It will rise and then fall in the center, leaving a higher rim of cake around the sides and there will also be some cracking and crumbs. Once the torte has cooled completely remove from pan. Serve with softly whipped cream.
Note: If covering the torte with ganache, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or up to a few days.
Chocolate Ganache (optional): Place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized stainless steel bowl. Heat the cream and butter in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. If desired, add the liqueur.
Place the chilled torte on a wire rack and then put the rack onto a baking sheet. (In this way if the chocolate ganache drips it will end up on the baking sheet, which makes clean up easier.) Brush any loose crumbs from the torte and, with a cake spatula, frost the top and sides of the torte with about 2 tablespoons of the ganache. (This will seal in any cake crumbs so that your cake will have a smooth finish when the ganache is poured on the cake.) Refrigerate the cake for 5 minutes to set the crumb coat. If you have any air bubbles or crumbs in your ganache, pour it through a strainer. Pour the remaining ganache into the center of the cake. Working quickly, spread the ganache with a spatula, using wide strokes to push the ganache over the sides of the cake, to create a nice even coating of ganache. If there are any bare spots on the sides of the cake, touch up with the ganache that has dripped onto the baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate. I find this cake is better served the next day so the flavors have time to soften and blend. Any leftover ganache should be strained, to remove crumbs, and then it can be used to make truffles to decorate the top of the torte.
Serves 10 - 12.
A Chocolate Hazelnut Torte is a European style cake that has a rich chocolate flavor, and a soft, moist, almost pudding-like texture. It is similar to a Chocolate Torte only ground hazelnuts are added to the batter. And like a Chocolate Torte, I love its rustic look, with its broken and cracked surface and sunken top. Excellent when served alone but if you want even more chocolate flavor, this torte is absolutely delicious when covered with a smooth and shiny coating of Chocolate Ganache.
This recipe is one I adapted from Alice Medrich's excellent book 'Cocolat'. The year (1990) this cookbook was published I had never tasted, let alone baked, a chocolate torte. After making this European style cake I found it had a wonderfully intense chocolate flavor and moist texture that was very different from the butter cakes I grew up eating. What makes this cake so different is that it contains only 1/4 cup (30 grams) of flour. It also uses good quality chocolate, lots of unsalted butter, and its volume comes from the beating of the eggs (yolks and whites separately) with sugar. While the cake rises during baking, it collapses as it cools, leaving a crust that is cracked and sunken. This recipe takes a basic chocolate torte and adds toasted and ground hazelnuts. Hazelnuts and chocolate are wonderful together and are enjoyed around the world. Testament to their popularity is the fact that Nutella (that popular spread made with sugar, vegetable oil, hazelnuts, and cocoa powder) "out sells all the world's brands of peanut butter put together" ('The Chocolate Connoisseur' by Chloe Doutre-Roussel). While this cake can be eaten plain, I often like to cover it with a dark chocolate ganache. For the uninitiated, Ganache is a French term referring to a smooth mixture of chocolate and heavy cream. When poured over a cake it gives it a lovely smooth and shiny glaze. The important thing to remember is to use a good quality chocolate, both for the cake and ganache, but make sure it is one you would enjoy eating out of hand. The reason I mention this is because some of the bittersweet chocolates that are highly recommended by chefs and food writers may be a little too bitter tasting for some people's palates. So taste and compare a few brands for a flavor you like before making the cake. Now, this is the perfect cake for a celebration or dinner party as it can be made several days in advance. In fact, it is better after a day or two when the flavors have had time to soften. This will definitely become a favorite.