Monday, October 29, 2012

Torta de Regina de Notte

Alone a chunk of bittersweet chocolate is redolent with night blooming floral scents, of garden paths still warm from the sun's kiss, expressing passions that unfurl only during night's dark embrace. For me citrus fruits grant the ability to taste sunshine. Bursting and bright, it is no wonder humans have long heralded oranges as symbols for the sun's rebirth. The perfect globes contrasting the scant arch of a Northern hemipshere's winter day, especially an overcast, grey day like today.
In this torte the contrasting & complimentary are wedded together by earthy hazelnuts, resulting a sensory experience exceeding the sum of its parts. It tastes better than the recipe reads, better than the gorgeous photo by Helen Dujardin, which is no small feat as her photos are always lush...Queen of the Night fits this torte.

Since citrus isn't in season yet I cheated with a premium organic store-bought marmalade. I always use bittersweet chocolate, not semisweet, use either. The simplicity of baking by weight, not volume means you can grind your own hazelnuts or buy flour/meal at the store. Ditto the chocolate - ground chocolate (not cocoa!) also makes this recipe faster to assemble. Otherwise use the standard grate side of the box grater, it will result in a fine grate chocolated, not chunks or the melted mess the fine side will make (ask me how I know that...) Prepping each ingredient before starting to mix the cake helps maintain the egg-based structure.
Each winter one new-to-me cookbook becomes 'the' cookbook of the season. Winter 2012 will be Marmalades Savory & Sweet. In a few months when citrus peaks I'll make a batch and repeat this recipe. May even cheat again so I can dally with this Queen again. Waiting for good citrus to have this cake was not an option. Despite cheating on the citrus marmalade, the cherry marmalade cannot be ignored, especially as twelve ounces of fat Bing cherries in my freezer are chorusing in siren song. By next week there will be a post extolling another pleasure awaiting between the covers of Ellen's delightful book.

Here's how I made the Queen of the Night: it took only one ingredient change to make this safe for me to eat, and I think the coconut oil enhanced the main ingredient floral notes.

Cake Ingredients
7.06 ounces / 200 grams ground hazelnuts, plus half an ounce more to dust the pan
9.52 ounces / 270 grams granulated sugar
8 large eggs, separated
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
4 ounces orange juice (the juice of 2 oranges)
1 tbsp hazelnut liqueur or vanilla extract
7 ounces / 225 grams semisweet chocolate - ground or finely shaved
pinch of salt

Glaze Ingredients
8 ounces marmalade
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
1-2 tablespoons orange juice

Lightly grease a 9" springform pan with coconut oil. I like to parchment the bottom of the pan then oil the paper & sides. Dust with extra ground nuts.

Combine the egg yolks and sugar, mixing until ribbons form...about 5 minutes with a stand mixer. Add in the orange zest, ground hazelnuts, chocolate, orange juice, hazelnut liqueur and the pinch of salt. Blend until fully incorporated and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees - 325 if you have a convection oven.

Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/4 to 1/3 of the egg whites into the rest of the ingredients. Gently, this is where the cake's crumb and texture comes from. Repeat until all the egg whites are folded in. Pour into the prepared springform and set in the oven.

The book says to bake the cake for 55 minutes, mine was done in 40 minutes. Keep toothpicks handy and pay attention to the baking scents. Once a pick comes out mostly dry, pull the cake and set to cool for 10-15 minutes. Run the back of a knife edge around the outer rim, pop the spring form off and make the glaze.

While the cake baked I cleaned up and made the glaze. If you like the rind in marmalade, just combine the marmalade, liqueur and orange juice, warm in a small pan until runny. I'm not a fan of the rind, so I strained the glaze, let it cool to room temp and then brushed the top and sides, using a silicone brush.

The first sliver was slightly warm when I devoured it. The second  cooler slice was just as good...and the house smells delicious. Whipped topping & chocolate shavings complete the presentation. Coffee or champagne or prosecco are the ideal accompaniment to this rich, yet not too-sweet cake. The book says 8 servings from the 9" round, at my table it is 16 servings/decadent slivers.

If the cake isn't going to be consumed within a day, wrap servings of the completely cooled cake in plastic wrap, and freeze it.

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