I’m not going to write very much today…
…instead, I’ll just tell you a little about this Wickedly Sinful Chocolate Torte and let your imagination and the pictures do the rest: it is made from layers of chewy meringue made with toasted hazelnuts, filled and topped with a rich chocolate ganache, and finished with a rich salted caramel sauce, studded with hazelnuts dipped in caramelised sugar.
Hopefully by now you’re drooling with notions of rich, decadent luxury.
Just a couple of tips: be sure to use good-quality hazelnuts, and do toast them lightly. This will release their full, rich flavour. Use a dark rather than milk chocolate for the ganache – the meringue is quite sweet, so you want something to counter that. And make sure to use salt in the caramel topping. Yes, salt. It takes the caramel from being sickly-sweet to something that is rich and sophisticated. All this, and it’s gluten-free – not even a dash of wheat flour comes near this torte.
The recipe below looks quite elaborate, but each stage is quite easy. You can even skip the caramel on top, and it is still richly delicious.
Tempted yet? You should be!
To make a Wickedly Sinful Chocolate Torte:
I know this looks quite long and labourious, but it’s actually three relatively easy stages – I’ve just tried to set out what happens and what to watch out for as you’re going, so you don’t get any surprises.
For the layers:
• 4 egg whites (120g)
• 225g white caster sugar
• 1 teaspoon vinegar
• 2-3 drops vanilla extract
• 100g skinned hazelnuts, toasted and ground
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line two 20cm (8 inch) cake tins with greaseproof paper (I recommend double-lining them – this prevents burning.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks. Add the sugar in 4-5 batches, whisking very well after each batch. Keep mixing until you have a stiff, glossy mixture.
Stir in the vinegar and vanilla, then fold in the ground hazelnuts. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins. Spread level, and bake for 45-50 minutes until crisp (it won’t puff up much, if at all). The surface will develop to a light beige, but should not get brown.
Once the meringue layers are ready, remove from the oven, and leave to cool completely.
For the chocolate ganache filling and topping:
• 300g double cream
• 150g dark chocolate
• 1 scant tablespoon caster sugar
• 1-2 drops vanilla extract
Put the cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Stir and put to one side.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Leave to cool until lukewarm. Pour the chocolate into the cream mixture and whisk immediately. The mixture will quickly thicken into chocolate whipped cream (takes only a few seconds, so act quickly and do not over-whisk!).
Spread half the filling over the base meringue. Put the second layer of meringue on top, and add the rest of the chocolate cream Finish as desired – smooth, swirly or peaks. If you are going to add the caramel on top, then make peaks around the edge to keep the caramel from dripping off the top.
Store the filled torte in the fridge, removing about 30 minutes before serving.
For the caramel:
• 150g white sugar
• 2 tablespoons water
• 150g double cream
• 25g butter
• fleur de sel/kosher salt, very finely ground
Put the sugar in a saucepan with the water. Cook on a medium heat until the water has evaporated, and the sugar turns to a light caramel (watch like a hawk – it goes from golden caramel to bitter and burnt in a matter of seconds).
Pour about two-thirds of the cream into the caramel, and stir vigorously. Be careful, as the mixture will bubble up. Add the butter, and stir well. Leave to cool for around 5 minutes.
Stir in the rest of the cream, and add salt to taste – this really is matter of personal judgement, but it is easy to add to too much, so little by little is the way to do it.
Leave the caramel until completely cool. It should flow, but be very thick (if too thick, add a teaspoon of cream and stir well). Pour or drizzle over the chilled torte.
To make caramelised hazelnuts:
• 100g white sugar
• 2 tablespoon water
• 100g skinned hazelnuts, toasted
Put sugar into a saucepan with a little water. Cook until you have a light caramel. Add the nuts, mix quickly, and transfer to a non-stick baking sheet. Using a fork (because they’re very hot!) separate the nuts. If the caramel is too hard, put the lot into a hot oven and it will soften.
Worth making? Indeed! I made this for a party – it lasted about 5 minutes on the table.