Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Naturally Gluten Free Torte

Some years back I was shopping in San Antonio at the H.E.B. Central Market and came across Chestnut flour, from Italy. Of course, I had to have it. 

Chestnut Flour
Chestnut Flour
I've loved chestnuts since I was a child, long ago. My mom loved chestnuts and brought us up having them at least once each Fall or Winter. Once, my husband and I were very briefly in Paris in Fall and we bought chestnuts, roasted over an open fire and presented to us in cones of newspaper. Ah, memories... 

Seeing chestnut flour, I was unsure what I would use it for, but that has never stopped me; I would find something. And somehow, the bag of chestnut flour was toted along as we moved here and there, stored in one of my Tupperware Modular Mates in the back of my cupboard. It was still good, too; sweet flavored and yummy. Now that i found a use, I will look for others. Chestnut flour can be found on Amazon, BTW.

Non sequitur: So a few days ago I was thinking about a sweet potato I have in my fridge and wanted to check out a recipe I had found a few years ago on the internet for a sweet potato cake with maple something-or-other icing. The icing part I was not so thrilled about as all they did was drizzle some maple syrup over the completed cake's icing. Not what I would have deemed "maple icing." Anyway, I went through folder after folder of recipes I have printed off and stored over the years and could not find it at all. Well. Okay, I also generally save the file before printing it out anyway so I set about hunting through my "recipes" folder on my computer. Ahem. As I said, I have been collecting recipes (and recipe books) for years and years, so I have a LOT of recipes stored. As I scrolled slowly down the list in Word, lo and behold; here was a recipe for a cake using chestnut flour

Hungarian Dobos Torte, (photo found here)
Grandma's Nut Torta
Grandma's Nut Torta
At this point, while I still wanted to check out the recipe for the sweet potato cake, I was intrigued. I do not recall having saved a recipe for a cake using chestnut flour, and it was certainly not printed and stowed in one of my recipe folders; having just looked. I rectified this by printing it immediately. Looking at the recipe, it called for chestnut flour and hazelnut meal, with no wheat flour at all. While I am not gluten intolerant, I have friends who are, so I am always on the lookout for recipes that would work for them. This recipe was gluten free by its very nature. Two birds, and all that. 

I obviously saved this recipe some long time ago, with no indication of the website I found it on; something I am more careful to note nowadays. It was called a "cake", and of course, it is. But I wondered if it would be classed as a torte. I started looking around, researching what, exactly, constitutes a "torte." As it turns out, all tortes are cakes, but not all cakes are tortes. There are two particular styles that classify a cake as a torte. One is a regular cake that is either baked in many layers, or sliced into many layers and stacked with a filling between each of the many layers. Cakes such as Dobos Torte fall into this category. The other is a type of cake generally made with eggs and nuts and little, if any, wheat flour. My Yugoslavian Grandmother made what she called "Nut Torta" and this is one of this second type of Torte cake.

The recipe that I found for this "cake" using chestnut flour also called for hazelnut meal. I am not overly fond of hazelnuts anymore, though they were once my most favored of all nuts. I decided I would substitute Almond Meal, because I knew I had some in my freezer. Then I had to decide what to fill the cake with. This torte is made as one-layer, so it could be left as one layer and frosted, or just dusted with confectioners' sugar. I decided to slice the cake into two layers and fill it. Now I started casting around in my mind for what would be a nice filling for this torte. I decided on a combination of dates and prunes. Either/or would also be good. I placed cut up dates and prunes in a saucepan with a small amount of water and brown sugar and cooked them until they were very thick and slightly broken down. I could have pureed the mixture at this point, but decided I didn't feel like washing the food processor bowl afterwards :-)
Chestnut Almond Torte with Date Prune Filling
Chestnut Almond Torte with Date Prune Filling, served with Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Glazed Slivered Almonds

I have been noticing for the last few months that when I use a recipe, even if I am substituting exact amounts, I need more liquid than called for. I can only guess that as it is quite dry here, especially after the heat running constantly all this long winter, all my flours are more dry than usual. I had to add liquid to this recipe also, so if you live in a place with high humidity, you may not need as much liquid. If your batter (before adding the meringue) looks like cookie dough, add up to 1/4 cup of water or milk to thin it before proceeding. That said, the recipe was very skimpy on instructions, so I sort of just did as I thought best.

Chestnut Almond Torte

makes one (8-inch) layer
Chestnut Almond Torte
Chestnut Almond Torte

1 cup chestnut flour
1 cup almond meal/flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 TB), room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). Grease an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the pan with parchment and grease the parchment. Set aside.

Whisk together in a mixing bowl the flours, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar thoroughly. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until completely incorporated. Add in the vanilla, and, if your batter looks more like cookie dough than cake batter, add up to 1/4 cup of liquid to thin it a bit. 

In a separate bowl with scrupulously clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until well frothed. Begin whipping in the 1/4 cup of sugar a little at a time, just until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Fold about 1/3 of this meringue into the cake batter, to loosen. Then, gently fold in the remaining meringue until no streaks remain. Pour this batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan to a rack to finish cooling. 

If you decide to fill this cake, wait until the cake has cooled completely before cutting into two layers. Proceed with the Date Prune Filling recipe, (or use the recipe for Ricotta Cream Cheese Filling). Once the filling is cooked, you might add in a little liqueur of choice. I was going to use Grand Marnier, but I had some almond liqueur from Spain and used that instead.

Date Prune Filling

enough to fill one 8-inch cake

1/2 cup soft prunes (abut 10)
1/2 cup dates (about 10)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 - 2 tablespoons liqueur, if desired

Photos 1 - 5: Filling Chestnut Almond Torte
Photos 1 - 5: Filling Chestnut Almond Torte
Cut the dates and prunes into small pieces and place them in a small saucepan. Add the water and brown sugar and bring to boil. Lower heat and cook for about 15 minutes, until there is little liquid left and the fruits have broken down (photo 1 above). Cool slightly, then stir in the liqueur, if using. Spread the filling onto the bottom half of the cake (Photos 2 and 3 above). Set the top of the cake in place (photo 4 above) and dust with confectioners' sugar (photo 5 above). 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.