Recipe: mocha hazelnut torte
After making a chiffon cake with swiss meringue buttercream, I usually wind up with at least a dozen egg yolks. I saw that David Lebovitz posted about using up egg whites which is the opposite of my problem. While perusing my old Chocolatier issues, I found a recipe from 1994 that uses at least ten egg yolks (more, if you go all out on the plating). Sweet! Except it’s a three truffle recipe. It doesn’t mean the recipe is necessarily difficult in terms of skill level, rather – it means there are several steps. That’s fine, I thought.
I had made the espresso pastry cream a day ahead because I knew doing all of the steps in one day would put me in a foul mood. Fine – that worked out alright. The recipe didn’t say to strain the pastry cream through a sieve. I am here to tell you to definitely do so. I like my pastry cream to be smoooooooth. The next morning I baked the chocolate genoise which turns out to be a little more brittle than I expect from genoise, but I was cool with it. While the genoise was cooling on a rack, I started on the hazelnut meringue. The first step was to skin some hazelnuts. God, I hate skinning hazelnuts. It’s fairly straightforward, just roast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes and then wrap them up in a kitchen towel to cool. When they heat up, they expand and bust their skins. When they cool, they shrink and will theoretically release from the skins with ease. Theoretically. My advice is to roast 25% more hazelnuts than called for because some of those suckers will refuse to release.
ground up and folded into the meringue
After baking and cooling the meringue, I made my chocolate ganache/glaze and began the assembly. I have a love/hate relationship with pastry cream (I have love/hate relationships with a lot of foods). What frustrates me to no end is how structurally sucky pastry cream is. When you layer it into a cake, it squishes all over the damn place as you try to cut it (i.e. apply pressure from above). Makes for the sloppiest presentation and that’s frustrating for an obsessive-compulsive. The order is to lay down one sheet of genoise, spread pastry cream, set the meringue layer on top, spread more pastry cream, top with second genoise, the glaze and make pretty.
spread an even layer of the espresso pastry cream
glaze the top with dark chocolate ganache
decorate as you like
I refrigerated the beast for a few hours in the hopes that it would encourage viscosity in the pastry cream. I trimmed the edges with a big serrated (and sharp) knife, but we got oozeage anyway. *Frustrating*. I’d freeze it, except Shan us to never freeze pastry cream. In the end, I managed to slice it up into nice serving squares, although the meringue essentially disintegrated and incorporated itself into the pastry cream. I guess that means you should serve it pretty quickly.
a piece of cake (not)
Mocha Hazelnut Torte
Chocolatier March 1994 with vanilla custard sauce omitted
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tbsps unsalted butter
2 tsps vanilla extract
2/3 cup cake flour
2 tsps baking powder (omitted for my elevation)
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 oz. roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
3/4 tsp flour
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
espresso pastry cream
8 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsps cornstarch
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsps unsalted butter
2 tsps ground espresso
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tbsps heavy cream
2 tbsps crème fraiche (I didn’t have any, so I used 2 tbsp cream)
Make the chocolate genoise: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 17.5×11.5-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Stir in vanilla extract and set aside until ready to use. Sift together the cake flour and baking powder. Set aside. Combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together over a barely simmering water bath. Whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes until mixture is very warm, but not hot [that's vague, no?]. Attach bowl to mixer stand with wire whip attachment and beat on high speed until very thick and holds a ribbon – about 3 minutes. Fold the sifted flour into egg mixture in two batches. Fold in the reserved chocolate mixture. Pour batter into the pan and spread it evenly. Bake 10-12 minutes until cake springs back when lightly touched. Run a knife around the edges to loosen, then invert onto a wire rack to cool. Remove the parchment paper.
Make the hazelnut meringue: Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a 17.5×11.5-inch pan with parchment paper. Set aside. In bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade, pulse the hazelnuts, powdered sugar, and flour until nuts are finely ground. In a dry, grease-free mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites on high speed to soft peaks, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar to the whites and continue beating on high until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently and quickly fold in the ground hazelnuts one third at a time. Glue the corners of the parchment down with a dab of the meringue. Spread meringue evenly onto paper to cover at least an 8×8-inch square [or a size big enough to cover half the baking sheet because you will layer it with the two halves of the genoise.] Bake for about 35 minutes, until light brown and no longer wet. Set aside to cool.
Make the espresso pastry cream: In a large stainless steel bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until pale yellow and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface when whisk is lifted (about 2-3 minutes). Stir in the cornstarch. In a medium saucepan bring the milk to a boil, then remove from heat. Using a wire whisk, slowly incorporate the hot milk into the beaten egg/sugar mixture. Return the mixture ot the pan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly for 5 to 7 minutes, until thick and creamy. When the mixture just returns to a boil, immediately remove from heat and scrape into a bowl to stop the cooking process. Stir in the butter and the ground espresso. Set bowl over ice bath and stir occasionally until cooled. Place plastic wrap directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled.
Make the chocolate ganache: Place chocolate into a small bowl. In a saucepan, whisk together the cream and the crème fraiche and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds to soften the chocolate, then gently whisk until smooth.
Assemble the torte: Cut the chocolate genoise into two 8-inch squares [I just cut the sheet in half]. Spread 1/2 of the pastry cream over one of the chocolate cake layers. Trim the hazelnut meringue so that all the edges are straight [I trimmed after assembly]. Place hazelnut meringue on top of the cream layer. Spread remaining pastry cream over the meringue. Place the second layer of chocolate cake on top. Glaze the top layer of the cake with the ganache. Garnish as you like. Refrigerate for several hours until firm. To serve, allow torte to temper slightly so that you can cut easily through the ganache. With a serrated knife, cut the torte into twenty-five 1 1/2-inch squares.