Chocolate, date & almond torte
This is the cake I made for my birthday back in March...remember, when I didn't have a computer? I was looking for something a little different, and because a friend was going through a period of wheat-free, dairy-free eating, as prescribed by his so-called 'witch doctor', another friend suggested he should make this long-time family recipe for his birthday, which was wheat and almost dairy-free. He didn't get around to it (ultimately buying a very excellent berry & soy custard flan from Silly Yak's), but because the recipe looked so good I gave it a go for my own birthday a few days later.
The whole cake only has 5 ingredients: dates, whole almonds, chocolate, sugar and egg whites and you simply chuck things into a food processor until "chunky" and fold them through a meringue. Incidentally, Kelly from The Occasional Epicure alerted me to the existence of frozen eggwhites, in the supermarket. Excellent idea.
It sounds simple, but this cake blew everyone away. Its texture and taste were so different that it's been one of the most popular things we've had at rehearsal this year (I seem to take most of my baked goods to rehearsals. As does Belinda. Those singers do get very spoilt!)
It's quite dense and chunky, but held together by the meringue and the sticky dates. In a fit of organic awareness, I bought my ingredients at a local organic supermarket, but after I paid $20 for a handful of dates and $10 for a small bag of almonds, I wasn't quite prepared to pay $34 a kilo for dark chocolate. I'm afraid I turned to Nestle Club for that because it was on special at the local shop! Fearing a lack of intense cocoa flavour from my not-quite-70% cocoa solids cheap-as chocolate, I jacked up the flavour with a few spoonfuls of Dutch cocoa powder.
Funny story: after I went out and bought all the ingredients, I came home to find that I'd left the recipe at work. I stood there in the kitchen in a dither. There was no way I wasn't going to make this thing now, after spending a week's salary on ingredients. I considered phoning my friend, until I realised she was off traipsing through mud in the countryside, so that option was out. I turned to my cookbooks to find any sort of tips on cooking similar style tortes with meringue bases, and what do you know...the first one I turn to in Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion is basically the same recipe as my friend's long-time family treasure, without the almonds! Saved! I was saved from ignominy!
Because I'm not on a dairy-free diet, I covered mine in whipped cream, and gave my friend his own mini version. Admittedly, his looked a bit like a wombat turd, so keep that in mind when considering presentation ideas....
This piece had been in the fridge for quite a few days. It keeps excellently...apart from the cream!
Read on for the recipe:
Chocolate, date & almond torte
6 egg whites
200g caster sugar
200g dates, stoned
200g dark chocolate
200g whole almonds, with skin on
-Preheat oven to 180c, and grease a 24cm springform tin well
-Place dates in a food processor and chop. Be quick and careful, because dates can turn into mush in the blink of an eye. Remove chopped dates.
-Add the almonds and chocolate and chop until "chunky".
-Beat egg whites until stiff, then slowly beat in sugar to form a soft meringue.
-Fold in dates, almonds and chocolate. Tip mixture into tin and bake for 1 hour.
-Turn off oven but leave cake in until oven is cold. Leave cold cake in tin overnight to soften before serving covered in whipped cream or mascarpone and berries, nuts etc.