Life isn't always what we wish it to be: we find obstacles in our paths, come to forks in the road with no one there to tell us which way will be the best, get a ripe tomato tossed at our back or cream pies thrown in our faces. We can’t even always count on life’s little pleasures.
Take my good friend in that cold, snowy city up north, the chocolate freak for whom I made the delicate chocolate tartlets. She let me in on the terrible news that, although she loves everything chocolate, the more sinful the better, she is allergic to both flour and dairy products. Poor her! So I promised that I would come up with a couple of recipes that offered her both the rich, creamy, dense, satisfying decadence of a fabulous chocolate dessert, but without the flour and the dairy. How can she eat what she craves when it is forbidden?
And what a challenge it turned out to be : flourless is pretty easy, but no cream, butter or milk? Hmmm, that is the true challenge. Especially if it is to be rich. I started by looking through the recipes I use for Passover. It would be impossible for me to go through the entire 8-day holiday without eating cake. And as flour is a no-no, I do have a stash of appropriate recipes.
I finally chose two different chocolate desserts to make. The first is from Jayne Cohen’s intimidating yet wonderful cookbook The Gefilte Variations, wonderful modern recreations of classic Jewish dishes. Now, I have tried many Passover cakes based on ground nuts and whipped egg white, and though some are quite good, they are rarely what I would refer to as decadent or rich. More airy and light. What caught my eye was Jayne’s description of her Hungarian Chocolate-Walnut Torte as “fudge-luscious”. Yummy! Who wouldn’t want fudge-luscious? Now, I know that this one does include 3 tablespoons of matzoh meal, but 3 tablespoons for a fudgier cake I am hoping that my friend can do.
The second cake, which will be made once my family finishes this one (I have to admit, that the more I bake, the more they balk, and it ends up being up to me to eat everything all on my lonesome) will be a beautiful chocolate roll filled with chocolate – or maybe mocha – mousse. Nary a grain of flour or a dot of butter in sight!
CHOCOLATE-PECAN TORTE an almost flourless, dairy-free treat
¾ cup + 2 Tbs (180 g) sugar
6 oz (180 g) semi-sweet or bitter chocolate (I use Lindt 70% cocoa), broken into pieces
6 large eggs, separated, ideally at room temperature
6 oz (180 g or about 1 ¾ cups) pecan meats
3 Tbs matzoh meal
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line the bottom of an 8” or 8 ½” – round springform pan with parchment or waxed paper.
In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, combine ½ cup (100 g) of the sugar and ½ cup (125 ml) waterover medium heat. Bring to the boil and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, boil until the sugar has completely dissolved and it has turned into a simple syrup. (This took me several minutes and I was nervous that I wouldn’t know what to look for, but it does get syrupy, glossy and changes colors very slightly. If you dip a stainless soup spoon into it and allow it to dry for just a couple of seconds, you will see the sticky, shiny syrup on the spoon.)
Add all of the chocolate which has been broken into pieces and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. I ended up with a very thick blob of chocolate. Don’t worry. Set it aside to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until lightened and fluffy.
Grind the pecans in a food processor with all of the remaining sugar – leaving aside a tablespoon or two to beat in with the egg whites – and the matzoh meal until you have a fine powder.
Add this pecan/sugar/meal mixture to the beaten egg yolks and blend well.
Stir the chocolate-syrup mixture into this yolk-nuts batter. Blend well. It may be a bit stiff, but just use a little elbow grease.
Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until frothy, then, while continuing to beat, gradually add the remaining couple of tablespoons of sugar and keep beating the whites until very stiff.
Fold one third of the whipped whites into the chocolate-nut mixture with a spatula. This will lighten the batter enough that the rest of the whites won’t deflate.
Gently fold in the rest of the whites in two batches, incorporating gently but thoroughly until no more whites are visible.
Pour and spread the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake about an inch from the edge comes out clean.
Place the pan on a rack and allow to cool thoroughly. When the cake is cooled, carefully run a knife around the edge of the cake then loosen and remove the ring. Slide the cake off of the parchment and onto a serving platter (the cake came off the bottom of the pan quicker than I had expected and we almost had an accident, so be careful!).
Allow to sit, even till the following day, to enjoy a truly scrumptious, fudgy cake.
This cake can be served simply with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, with a fruit coulis or, for those of you with no allergies, with freshly whipped unsweetened cream.
I made this Torte Monday afternoon, replacing the walnuts with pecans, using all Lindt 70% dark chocolate and a bit more sugar. After removing the cake from the oven and allowing it to cool, I removed it from the springform pan and transferred it to a serving plate. After a while I tried a slice. I couldn’t wait any longer. I initially found the center to be uncooked – not undercooked, but uncooked – while the outside inch a little too cooked. I decided that the next time I make this, and yes, I will make it again, I would bake it in a wider pan, maybe my 10” springform, and cook it for less time, assuming that it will cook a little bit more evenly.
I had my second slice the following day with my mid-morning cup of coffee. And Yowzer! It was delicious! The center firmed up and was super fudgy and the outside had mellowed somewhat so it too was fudgier and less cake-like. And each time I have eaten another slice, I find it a bit more fudgy and chocolatey and have enjoyed it that much more. Overall, I found this cake to be like a slightly cakier version of a pecan brownie, and as far as flourless, dairy-free cakes go, it is indeed the densest, fudgiest I have yet to come across.
So, you see? On a very good day we can always find a way to indulge in even the most forbidden fruit. ENJOY!