Chocolate. Yes, chocolate is my very favorite of all sweet indulgences. Yours too? I already knew that. That’s why I’m sharing with you my latest creation, Chocolate Decadence Torte, naturally gluten free because it is a flourless cake, of sorts. In fact, it only has a handful of ingredients. My inspiration for this recipe comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s, The Cake Bible. She uses just three ingredients: chocolate, butter and eggs. Because we are dairy free, I opted for organic palm fruit shortening and I add in a nice dose of pure vanilla extract and a sprinkling of espresso powder to heighten the chocolate factor and mask any “interesting” flavors our non-butter butter substitute may contribute. Face it, butter brings fabulous flavor. But when we try to create yummy dairy free desserts that utilize butter as a key ingredient, you have to add a little extra pizazz to adjust for the flavor that the butter would have provided. Keep that tip in mind when adjusting your old recipes to accommodate your new dietary restrictions. Sometimes a few extra herbs, spices, or natural flavoring/extracts are all that are needed to bring the oomph back to your old favorites.
To create the torte, I first chopped up some high quality bittersweet chocolate into small pieces and placed it in the top of my vintage double boiler (along with palm fruit shortening for the fat). The one that my husband’s parents passed down to us when we were married. If you don’t have a fancy schmancy set up like this, simply fill a small saucepan with an inch of water and bring it to the boil. Turn the heat down on the water until it is almost simmering. Place your chocolate in a stainless steel or pyrex bowl larger than the pot containing the water. Place the bowl over the water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water (or the chocolate could scorch) and that steam is not escaping around the bowl (or the water from the steam could cause your chocolate to seize). Voila, you’ve just created a water bath or as the French call it, a bain marie (Mary’s bath).
Next I whisked some eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer over the simmering water in the water bath until the eggs were just warm to the touch. The eggs were then beaten in the mixer until tripled in volume and soft peaks formed. Lastly, I folded the eggs gradually into the chocolate mixture before pouring the batter into a springform pan.
What I love about this cake (torte), aside from being chocolate, is that it can either be dense and fudgy served chilled straight from the refrigerator or the softest and creamiest truffle-like bliss you’d ever want to slip your fork into if let to sit at room temperature a few hours before serving. Topped with ganache, drizzled with a berry coulis or creme anglaise, or accompanied by a scoop of sorbet, this dessert would find perfect company onto your fanciest of dinner party menus. And since there is no added sugar (aside from what might exist in the chocolate you choose to use) your child might just pick up a slice at 7 a.m. after you ask ‘what do you want for breakfast?’ because he knows his mommy made him a sugar free and gluten free and dairy free treat that he thinks he can eat any time of day. This particular boy has been (mostly) contentedly and unarguably accepting homemade sweet treats for the last six months that include only dates, bananas, or apples. Certainly, he was elated to enjoy a more “normal” tasting dessert that elicited memories of too frequent sweet treats created by mom the chef and baker before we began this exciting dietary journey. I hope your fans enjoy it as much as mine did. As for me, I’ll be making this one again soon.
- Grease the bottom and sides of an 8" springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and then grease the paper. Wrap the outside of the springform pan with a double thickness of heavy duty foil to prevent water from a water bath from seeping into the pan while baking.
- Secure a 10" or larger pan for your water bath.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Bring a tea kettle or pot of water to the boil to fill the water bath after the filled cake pan has been placed in it. Remove from heat.
- Place the chocolate and palm fruit shortening in the top of a double boiler or a stainless/pyrex bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. The bowl of chocolate should not touch the water, nor should steam be escaping from around the bowl. Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture until a few lumps remain. Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted. Stir in the espresso powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of stand mixer set over the simmering water used for the chocolate, heat the eggs, whisking continually to prevent scrambling, until eggs are warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and transfer mixer bowl to the stand mixer and beat, using whisk attachment, until tripled in volume and soft peaks form when the beater is raised (5-8 minutes).
- Add 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract to the cooling chocolate mixture.
- Using a wire whisk, stir in one quarter of the eggs into the chocolate mixture to begin to lighten it. Continue adding more, one quarter at a time, gradually folding in the eggs until almost incorporated, being careful not to deflate the eggs. Fold the last quarter of the eggs in with a rubber spatula, gently mixing until no streaks remain. Do not over mix.
- Scrape the mixture into the prepared springform pan, smoothing the top gently with an offset spatula. Set the springform pan into the prepared 10" or larger water bath pan. Pour the hot water that you prepared for the water bath into the outer pan to surround the springform pan to a depth of 1". Take care not to splash any water into the cake batter.
- Place the cake into the oven and bake 5 minutes. Cover the springform pan with a piece of parchment or buttered foil and bake 10 more minutes. The cake will look very soft. Allow to cool at room temperature 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap or parchment and chill until firm, 3 hours or overnight.
- While this cake can be enjoyed straight out of the cooler, I prefer to let it sit at room temperature several hours to soften the texture. Use a sharp chef's knife to slice the pieces, rinsing the knife blade under very hot tap water and then wiping off any excess liquid with paper towels between slices to create a professional looking slice.
- Accompany with your favorite sorbet, ice cream, creme anglaise, or fruit coulis.