Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

For some strange reason, my parents never christened my sister or me when we were babies. Christenings aren’t that popular any more – people simply hold a naming day. But back in the sixties, Christianity was still in, so it was the norm to have a baby Christened. My sister was Christened when she was eleven years old – mainly so she could be confirmed a few weeks later with all her sixth grade classmates. As it turned out, I was also Christened when I was eleven – not because my parents were trying to establish some whacky kind of tradition. It was more about convenience.

My cousin was being Christened – she was six months old at the time. I remember standing at the front door one night, farewelling my Aunty Kathy and my uncle Yuri. They were telling Dad about their plans to have Tashi Christened at the Wayside Chapel, by the Reverend Ted Knoffs, who’d Christened Tashi’s older brother three years previously. “We’ll get Pet done at the same time!” my dad declared! He and Mum would be Tashi’s God Parents, and Aunty Kathy and Yuri would be mine.

So there I was, nearly 12 years old, standing up the front of the Wayside Chapel, with the good Reverend Ted wiping holy water across my forehead. I felt a silly goose! But these things are a rite of passage, aren’t they? Where some people subsequently form a bond with their God Parents, I felt more of a connection to my fellow-Christenee, and new God sister, Tashi.

Years later, Tashi was eleven years old and allergic to wheat. Being the cake maker in our family, this was quite a challenge for me. I wracked my brains to think up a suitably delicious cake that was wheat free. What I invented was a meringue-based torte laced with nutella and whipped cream. It’s been more than a decade since then, and even on my most recent visit to see Tashi’s new baby, she was still raving about that cake. Last week I plumbed the depths of my memory and reproduced it for my new husband’s birthday. How funny that I’m now the one that’s gone wheat free!

And incidentally, it’s Tashi’s birthday today. Happy birthday Tashi!

8 egg whites
2 cups caster sugar
3 tsp white vinegar
200g hazelnut meal

250g dark cooking chocolate
1 cup caster sugar
3 whole eggs
200ml pure cream
500g jar of Nutella (or similar chocolate hazelnut spread)
1.2 litres thickened cream

Approx. 10 Ferrero Rocher

1. Preheat your oven to 150 degrees celcius – also known as a slow oven.
2. Divide the torte ingredients in half to make two separate batches – unless you have a double oven!
3. Cover two large pizza trays with aluminium foil. Place a dinner plate face down on each and mark a circle with the back of a knife.
4. Place egg whites in small bowl of electric mixer and beat until soft peaks for,
5. Gradually add the sugar and continue to mix on high speed until the sugar is well combined and dissolved.
6. Gently fold in the hazelnut meal and white vinegar. Ensure both are well combined with the meringue mix.
7. Divide the mixture equally between the two baking trays and spread to the boundary of the marked area, ensure the mixture is an even thickness all over.
8. Bake for 45 minutes or until the edges of the meringues are a light golden brown. Switch oven off and allow meringues to cool in over with door ajar. Do not remove until completely cold.
9. Repeat again so that you’ve created four separate meringue layers for the torte.

1. Break chocolate into small squares and place in large oven proof mixing bowl. Add sugar and microwave on high (600w) for four and a half minutes. Stir vigorously to combine sugar and chocolate until sugar has dissolved.
2. Crack eggs into a bowl and lightly beat with a fork. Add to chocolate mixture while it’s still hot. If it’s cooled slightly, reheat in microwave for 20 seconds – the heat of the chocolate is what cooks the eggs and this is very important to eliminate any eggie taste. Use a large balloon whisk to combine the egg and chocolate mixture if your mix has lumps.
3. Whip the pure cream until it forms firm peaks. Stir into chocolate mixture – it will melt, but don’t worry, it’s supposed to. Again, use your balloon whisk if lumps forms.
4. Place chocolate filling (aka chocolate mousse) in the fridge and allow to chill until the mixture is completely firm. This should take a minimum of two hours.
5. Whip the thickened cream, again until firm peaks form. You need this cream to hold it’s shape so don’t under whip it.

1. Place one of the meringue layers on a flat serving platter. Make sure you choose the one you really want as there’s no moving this torte once it’s assembled.
2. Spoon the Nutella into a piping bag with a 4mm round piping tube. Pipe Nutella over the meringue – you don’t need to completely cover it or be neat.
3. Spoon half the chocolate mousse filling onto the meringue and carefully spread evenly to the edges of the meringue. Place a second meringue layer over the chocolate mousse filling.
4. Pipe more Nutella over the second layer of meringue. Spoon one third of the whipped cream over the Nutella and again, spread carefully to the edges of the meringue.
5. Place the third meringue layer over the whipped cream layer and repeat steps 11 and 12. Place the fourth and final meringue layer over the chocolate mousse layer. This will be the top of your torte.
6. Spoon half of the remaining whipped thickened cream onto the top of the torte. Spread carefully to the edges with a large spatula, smoothing the top decoratively.
7. Pipe the remaining Nutella across the top of the whipped cream in a decorative zig-zag pattern.
8. Spoon the remaining whipped thickened cream into a fresh piping bag fitted with a 8mm round piping nozzle. Pipe swirls of cream around the edges of the torte – approximately 1 inches wide. Place a Ferrero Rocher on every second swirl – you should get about nine onto the cake, depending on how you’ve spaced your swirls.
9. Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the whole thing settle and set. Serve with fresh raspberries – or with nothing. This one’s good enough to eat on it’s own!