I made two flourless chocolate cakes in rapid succession last weekend, for my various Seders. It was fun, easy(ish), and highly successful. I wasn’t even planning on blogging them, and the first one was so easy I don’t actually have anything to say about it—it’s really good, though.
The second one was a bit more interesting, though, because I made a ton of mistakes during the process. So I have something to say. It’s from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman—this particular cake is her Chocolate Hazelnut Torte. I started by toasting some hazelnuts in the oven in the bottom of a roasting pan, for about ten-ish minutes at 375° (because that’s what the first cake was baking at). I then ground them in my dad’s food processor, which I have only ever seen him use to make charoset; it looks like it can hold about a cup and a half, and is twenty-eight years old.
I melted the chocolate in a makeshift double boiler (put a bowl on top of a small saucepan—just make sure the bowl can sit on top of the pot fairly stable-ly and don’t put too much water in the pot; it shoudn’t nearly reach the bowl). I creamed the butter and sugar and salt with my usual back-of-the-spoon method. (The recipe said to cream the butter and then add the sugar; I didn’t notice this so I ignored it, and I also have no idea what it means, since I’m used to always creaming things together.)
Then I began to separate the eggs. I had a bowl where the whites were supposed to go, and separated them by cracking the eggs over my open hand and letting the whites spill through my fingers into the bowl. (This is a disgusting feeling, but it’s really satisfying when it all sort of glops off and you’re left with just the intact yolk.) I separated the first two perfectly; the third one completely broke. There was tons of yolk in my beautiful, formerly unadulterated whites. I knew I was going to have to whip the whites to peaks later in the process, and had the following conversation with my dad.
My dad: …
My dad: I guess you’re not live-blogging this.
Me: Is it true that if you get any yolk in your egg whites, they won’t whip properly?
My dad: That’s what they say.
Me: So should I throw these out and start over?
My dad: No.
Me: Do you think it will turn out OK?
My dad: I have no idea.
Me: But I shouldn’t bother redoing it?
My dad: No.
I don’t know if he just didn’t want me to waste six more eggs or what. I fished out as much of the yolk as possible—which wasn’t much—and separated the rest of the eggs without incident. I mixed together the chocolate and hazelnuts into the yolk/butter/sugar mixture.
Then I noticed half a stick of butter that I was supposed to have creamed in with the sugar a while ago. I was becoming extremely worried about this cake’s chances of success. My dad was like, eh, just cream it in now. So I did—it was somewhat weird, creaming butter into chocolate/hazelnut/etc. stuff (and also, I don’t know how I creamed that much sugar into such a small amount of butter earlier, but I guess I’m just highly skilled), but it seemed OK-ish. Sort of fun. And the texture was much better afterward.
I got out the electric beaters and began beating the egg whites. This went on for a while. We were not optimistic. And then all of a sudden they began to fluff! Super exciting! I can never get egg whites to fluff! I beat them until they held soft peaks (they peak and then sort of fold over)—I didn’t want them to get too stiff.
I folded (?? I really just tried to mix gently… so basically I just mixed normally) them into the batter and put it in the oven.
The next day I put apricot jam on top and covered it with chocolate glaze. And everyone REALLY LIKED IT.
So I want to give you a moral to this story. You might fuck up a lot while baking, and it might be OK. It might taste awesome.
Chocolate Hazelnut Torte
from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman
1 1/2 c (6 oz.) coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate
3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1/2 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 eggs, separated
2 tsp Passover vanilla powder (or just vanilla, if you have super-imitation vanilla that doesn’t contain grain alcohol)
1 1/2 c finely ground toasted hazelnuts
1 c chopped semisweet chocolate (about 4 oz)
2 tbsp butter
1 c raspberry or apricot jam, warmed
Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 9-inch cake pan and cover with a round of parchment paper. Toast the hazelnuts for about five to ten minutes at 375° or so (this is open to interpretation; the hazelnuts are done just before you can smell them, which I know is ridiculous and impossible. I forgot about mine until I could smell them, though, and freaked out a little, but they were fine). Melt the chocolate for the cake in the top of a double boiler; set aside to cool. Cream the butter with the sugar and salt until fluffy. Separate the eggs and add in the egg yolks, melted chocolate, vanilla, and nuts. Stir to combine.
Whip the egg whites until they hold peaks (they should be glossy). Stir a large spoonful of whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest of the whites in three batches.
Pour into the pan and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. The top should be light and crusty and the interior will still be moist. Cool in the pan on a wet kitchen towel for 20 minutes, then cut away the edges that have adhered to the pan and invert on a cake rack. Unmold carefully and place in the freezer while preparing the glaze. (I didn’t do any of this—I left it in the pan because it seemed irretrievably stuck, as the cake had risen enormously. I also made the cake the day before, and made the glaze the next day after dinner.)
For the glaze, melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Cool to room temperature. Spread the top of the cake with the warmed jam/preserves. I just then spread the glaze on top—you are actually supposed to sort of swirl/drip it over, similar to how you would do with a bundt, but my glaze had cooled and had become unattractive.
Sorry, no picture of the final product!! It was really good, though.