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Chocolate & Pine Nut Torte
“This chocolate cake is sophisticated, rich, moist and even a bit gooey, with a slightly crusty top. If you have grappa, use it instead of the rum. The cake can be served once it's completely cool, but for the best flavor and texture, make it the day before you plan on eating it. Serve with a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.”
¼ cup currants
1 tablespoon rum, grappa or brandy
¼ cup whole almonds
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or semolina flour
3 ounces 60-70% bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably natural (see Note)
1 cup sugar, divided
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup boiling water
2 large egg yolks
4 large egg whites, at room temperature (see Tips)
Scant ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
1Position a rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 375°F. Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan (2½ to 3 inches deep) with parchment paper and very lightly coat the sides with cooking spray.
2Place currants and liquor in a small cup or bowl. Press the fruit into the liquor to cover; soak for at least 15 minutes.
3Process almonds and flour in a food processor or blender until very finely ground.
4Combine chocolate, cocoa, ¾ cup sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add boiling water. Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Whisk in egg yolks, the soaked currants and any remaining liquor.
5Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat on high speed until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. (See Tips.)
6Whisk the almond mixture into the chocolate mixture. Gently fold about one-fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle pine nuts (or almonds) on top.
7Bake until the cake rises and forms a very thin crust on top (check early and tent with foil if the top looks like it's browning too fast; it may crack a little), 20 to 25 minutes. A toothpick plunged into the center will emerge still gooey and the center of the cake will jiggle a little when nudged. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. As it cools, the torte may sink a little and the top will look rustic and uneven. When completely cool, cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature to serve the next day, if possible.
8To serve, remove the sides of the pan and transfer the cake to a serving plate.
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and keep at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Equipment: 8- or 9-inch springform pan, 2½-3 inches deep
Note: Cocoa powder comes in two styles: natural and Dutch-processed. Dutch-processed cocoa has been treated with alkali, or "Dutched," to neutralize the natural acidity of cocoa, while natural has not. For this recipe, we prefer the taste of natural cocoa powder, although either type can be used.
Tips: To bring an egg to room temperature, submerge it (in the shell) in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for 5 minutes.
When egg whites are beaten to “soft” peaks, the whites will still be soft enough to curl over when a beater is turned upside down. The whites are considered “stiff” peaks when they remain stiff and upright.