Vail baking column: Chocolate hazelnut torte
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful. This Chocolate Hazelnut Torte is sophisticated, stylish, and lush, pleasing to the eye and the palette, and just right for a special occasion.The torte comes together in three distinct steps: First, a shortbread crust is made and baked. Next, a mousse-like filling is prepared and chilled. And, lastly, the torte is topped with a rich chocolate ganache. All together, it requires about one and a quarter hours of active time. I usually make it over a two-day period; on the first day I create the crust and the filling and the next day I add the topping. Once made, it can wait in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before serving, which is a real asset when entertaining.I like to serve slices of the torte on a white or light colored plate decorated with a drizzle of chocolate sauce (homemade or commercial) flavored with a splash of hazelnut liqueur. Chocolate hazelnut torte(Make in an 8- or 81⁄2-inch springform pan)Crust3 tablespoons of granulated sugar2 tablespoons of toasted hazelnuts1⁄2 cup of flour2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processedGenerous pinch of salt4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into eight piecesFilling3 tablespoons of cold water1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin 1⁄2 cup of chocolate hazelnut spread (I use Nutella)1⁄2 cup of mascarpone cheese11⁄2 cups of heavy whipping cream2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed3 tablespoons of granulated sugarTopping31⁄2 ounces of high quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate1⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping creamPreheat the oven to 350 degrees. Invert the bottom of the springform pan, so the lip on the pan bottom’s edge will not interfere with cutting and serving the torte. Very lightly grease the springform pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Make the crust: Place the sugar and toasted hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt and butter and pulse only until large clumps of evenly-moistened dough are formed. Press the dough on the bottom of the pan until it is even and smooth. Prick it all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until it’s set and firm. Remove it to a rack to cool completely. Release the sides of the pan, carefully invert the crust, remove the parchment paper, re-invert, return the crust to the pan and reattach the pan sides. Set aside. Make the filling: Pour the cold water into a medium-sized saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and let it sit until the gelatin softens (about 5 minutes). Put the pan on the stove over low heat and stir until the gelatin melts and the mixture is clear. Add the chocolate-hazelnut spread and whisk or stir until all are fully combined. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the mascarpone cheese and whisk or stir until well mixed. Set this aside. Using an electric mixer, beat (starting at a low speed and gradually increasing) the heavy whipping cream, cocoa and sugar until soft peaks form. Whisk a fourth of the whipped cream into the chocolate-hazelnut mixture to lighten it. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Scrape the filling onto the crust in the pan and smooth and level it. Cover and chill for at least five hours and up to two days.Make the topping: Finely chop the chocolate (a food processor is the fastest way to do this) and set aside. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer over low heat, remove it from the stove, add the chopped chocolate, cover and let sit for a minute or two. Gently stir until fully combined and smooth. If chocolate doesn’t melt fully, place pan back on very low heat and stir constantly until it does. Cool until slightly thickened, lukewarm (you don’t want it to melt the filling), but still pourable. Remove the torte from the refrigerator. Run a knife around the inside of the pan, pressing toward the pan rather than the cake. Remove the pan sides and place the torte on a serving platter. Pour the topping over the cake and spread it quickly, allowing it to run down over the sides unevenly. Return the torte to the refrigerator to chill. Cover with a large bowl or place in a cake carrier. Serve within 24 hours. Cut into slices with a sharp, thin knife, wiping clean between cuts. Serve it chilled if you prefer a dense filling; let it sit until it reaches cool room temperature for a softer, mousse-like texture. This is a variation of a recipe from Gourmet Magazine.Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
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