Chocolate Chestnut Torte
The flavors of chocolate and chestnuts are a classic European duet and with the availability of high quality canned and jarred chestnut products, recipes featuring the combo are easy to make. I am a fan of Clement Faugier products and this recipe uses the unsweetened chestnut purée available at L’Epicerie (or check on-line).
You will find cans ranging from 14 to 16 ounces (depending on brand) and you can use any of them (the whole can) for this cake – it is that forgiving. This cake is a flourless chocolate cake, not too sweet, with a dense, creamy texture from the chestnut purée, yet light at the same time from the whipped egg whites. You can serve it with a simple dusting of confectioner’s sugar or top with a ganache as I have here. Or with some whipped cream on the side. It is versatile. It also freezes very well sans glaze.
Note: the vanilla bean paste is a specialty product that I just happened to have on hand. You can bump up the vanilla flavor by adding vanilla bean seeds along with regular vanilla extract to the recipe as an alternative.
Serves about 12
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, such as Callebaut, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1, 15-ounce can unsweetened chestnut purée
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and the seeds of half a plump vanilla bean
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
Position oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat the insides of a 9-inch springform or loose-bottom pan with nonstick spray. Line the pan with a parchment round and spray parchment.
Melt the chocolate in top of double-boiler or in microwave. Allow to cool slightly.
Beat butter until smooth and creamy with flat paddle on medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Add the chestnut purée and beat until smooth and combined. Beat in vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean) and salt. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a clean grease-free bowl, whip the egg whites and salt with balloon attachment until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually and whip until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Lighten the chocolate-chestnut mixture by folding in about on-quarter of the egg whites until a few white streaks remain. Fold in the remaining whites in two batches, just until no white streaks are left. Scrape batter into pan. Smooth top with a small offset spatula.
Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes or until a bamboo skewer inserted in the center shows moist crumbs when removed. The cake might puff a bit around the edges and possibly sport some cracks, all of which is fine. The center will be set, but still a bit jiggly. Cool pan on rack for about 20 minutes or until barely warm. Run an icing spatula around the edge of the cake and unmold onto a 9-inch cardboard round (the top of the cake should now be the bottom and against the cardboard). Peel away and discard parchment if sticking to cake.
If you are going to dust with confectioner’s sugar, the cake is ready to serve. If you want to glaze it, refrigerate for a few hours first for it to firm up. You can also double wrap the cake at this point in plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil and freeze up to 1 month. Defrost in refrigerator overnight.
To glaze, use my Dark Chocolate Ganache. Have the ganache in its liquid state and ready to go. Place chilled cake on a rack and pour ganache on top, allowing it to drip down the sides. Use a small icing spatula to help apply to sides, if necessary. Chill to set ganache. Serve with softly whipped cream. (May be glazed and refrigerated overnight before serving). Serve slightly chilled to room temperature.