If you are not familiar with the term, a torte is a cake made with eggs, ground nuts, sugar and little or no flour. The English word torte comes from the German Torte, which comes from the late Latin torta. The Italian torta means cake, so it is more generic than the English torte.
I have been meaning to write about this torte for a long time: what has prevented me was that I could never get a decent photo. I was not looking for a great shot, but simply one good enough to show what the dessert looks like. I have finally decided that the photo above will have to do: the beauty of this torta is in its flavor and texture, not its outward look.
The original recipe for Chocolate-Apple-Nut Torte is in Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, which, besides being a great cookbook, gets my vote for best cookbook title ever. I made the torte the first time for a party at our house and it has become a favorite. In fact, a slice of it, like the one in the photo, is my usual afternoon snack. From the beginning, I started making changes to the original recipe, both to the ingredients and the procedure. (This post shows a more faithful rendition.)
You can see the original list of ingredients on this page, while this is what I use:
- 8 egg whites and 4 egg yolks from pastured eggs (the remaining 4 yolks usually go into the making of Peter Reinhart's challah, from Artisan Breads Every Day)
- 3 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
- 1 cup almonds (mandorle), blanched, skin removed and lightly toasted in a 350 F oven (for 12 minutes or so)
- 4.5 oz. chocolate (70% cacao), coarsely chopped or broken up into smallish pieces
- 1 medium organic apple (mela)
- 1/16 teaspoon ground cinnamon (cannella)
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole-grain barley flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
As you can see, the torte has no added fat. I first cut down the amount of sugar to 1/4 cup then substituted it with agave nectar or honey (miele). Instead of chocolate chips, I use chocolate of good quality with a high cacao content. Then, instead of white flour, I use whole-grain barley flour that I get as part of my grain CSA share. Finally, I choose an apple with a soft skin, leave it unpeeled (this way, I avoid food waste) grate it and use it all.
You can prepare the almonds in advance. If you do not, make sure they cool down before proceeding with the recipe. Separate the eggs, place them in two bowls and let them come to room temperature. In choosing the bowls for the egg yolks, keep in mind that it will end up containing all the batter.
Put almonds and chocolate in the food processor and first pulse a few times, then let it run for a while until chopped rather finely. I don't pulverize the almonds, so the cake has some texture from small pieces of both almonds and chocolate. Quarter the apple and grate it using the extra-coarse side of a hand grater or the coarse shredding disc of a food processor (this is to minimize the release of juice).
Heat the oven to 350 F (select the convection baking option, if available; I do so, and since my oven does the temperature adjustment, I still set it to 350 F). Line the bottom of an 8.5-9" springform pan with parchment paper and spray some oil around the side. (If you use a pan that is slightly smaller or bigger, you may need to adjust the baking time.)
Beat the egg whites (albumi) until stiff peaks form and set aside. Beat the egg yolks (tuorli) with the agave nectar or honey until thick and bubbly. Add the following ingredients in sequence, each time folding them in with a spatula:
- almonds and chocolate
- grated apple, cinnamon, vanilla and salt
- sifted flour and baking powder
Add 1/3 of the egg whites and fold in gently, then fold in the rest. It is fine if the batter is not homogeneous. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly and put the pan in the oven.
Check the torte after 40 minutes. The torte is ready when a toothpick inserted in the center of it comes out clean. If you use a convection oven, 40 minutes may be enough as baking time. If you use a regular oven, you will need a few more minutes. Let the torte cool completely, then run a knife all around before opening the pan. Slice the torte and enjoy it. A cup of chocolate cream tea goes very well with it.
This is my submission for the third edition of Creative Concoctions, an event created by Ivy of Kopiaste..to Greek Hospitality that has two editions per month. The theme of Creative Concoctions #3 is desserts.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the torta al cioccolato con mandorle e mela audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]