Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tender chocolate cake (Torta tenerella )

Tender chocolate cake (Torta tenerella )

Now that we are officially in Autumn and that even in Dubai the weather is getting chillier (so nice actually), it is finally time for the chocolate season to start again. To be honest for me it never stops, as I enjoy having chocolate at any time of the year, including the hot summer - and I am not talking about chocolate ice cream or semifreddo!. And to start (or continue) the new chocolate season, I want to share the recipe for my "passe-partout" chocolate cake. Passe-partout because this cake is good for many different occasions, simply adapting the way it is presented and served. In Italy it is called torta tenerina or tenerella (that means tender, soft), and it's similar to the cake that French call fondant; it is basically a nearly flour-less chocolate cake, characterized by an extremely moist, tender and almost melting center. The result is based in part on the ingredients that are always the same, even if in different quantity and proportion depending on the recipe: chocolate, butter, eggs (whose whites must be whipped into a meringue), sugar, very little or no flour (sometimes replaced by corn starch), in some cases cocoa powder and optional flavors (like coffee or liquor); but what gives the fondant center is the baking time, that has to be short. The longer the cake is baked, the firmer the heart becomes; and here the level of internal tenderness preferred depends much on personal taste: some people like a really melting center, others prefer a firmer one. It's just a matter of trying and adjusting the baking time to personal preferences (and oven too, since each one is different, in particular when it comes to bake sweet goods requiring much precision). I like the center soft but not really melting and, in general, I tend to bake the cake a little longer if I know that children are going to eat it. I also have to say that a cake with a softer center is more suitable to be served at the end of a meal than a firmer one, which is more similar to other chocolate cakes good for breakfast or tea-time (and this is why I bake it longer for kids).
With regard to how the cake can be served, it is actually delicious on its own, but if you want to add "something" I give you some ideas. My favorite way of serving this cake is with vanilla ice-cream and a raspberry sauce made blending fresh raspberries with a little sugar and a splash of lemon juice (and, for an alcoholic version, one or two tablespoon of a liquor like Cointreau or Grand Marnier or rum). It is also good with whipped cream and/or fresh fruit (raspberry or strawberries are perfect with chocolate); in winter it goes well with a light custard or a pear compote (alcoholic if you like). 
The recipe I use, slightly adapted, has the signature of  the Italian pastry-chef Maurizio Santin (I have already posted his recipe for chocolate chip sablè cookies); I made this cake several times and for different occasion and always with great success: sometimes I add a flavor (even if my favorite version is with nothing), bake it longer or not depending on the purpose, serve it plain or with some addition (see above), but it is always delicious. 
Some preparation notes for a good result of this cake (and any other fondant cake) before leaving the recipe:
  • the batter should be smooth and with no lump
  • do not use high oven temperatures (max 170° - 180°C)
  • remove from the oven when it is set but already humid inside (bake few minutes longer for a more cakey result)
  • remove the cake from the pan only when completely cold (in particular when baked for a shorter time)
  • the surface will tend to crack, but it is normal
Ah, I forgot! The recipe is quite easy and very fast to prepare: the perfect solution for those days or occasions in which you want to impress without much effort.  
Tender chocolate cake (Torta tenerella )

Tender chocolate cake (Torta tenerella )
makes one 20 cm Æ cake  
200 g dark chocolate (at least 55-60% cocoa solid), chopped
80 g butter
80 g sugar
60 g flour
4 eggs, divided
Butter, then line with parchment paper a cake pan of 20 - 22 cm diameter. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water (the water do not have to boil and the bowl must not touch the water) or in a microwave at low power, melt the chocolate. Add the butter, diced, and melt: be careful, it is important to maintain the temperature under 50°C.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, then sifted flour.
Wisk egg whites until soft peaks form; when egg whites start to become foamy, gradually add sugar. Gently add to the chocolate-eggs-flour mixture and mix until incorporated.  
Tender chocolate cake (Torta tenerella ) - before baking
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the surface start to crack but the interior of the cake is still humid. 
Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder or icing sugar before serving.  
Tender chocolate cake (Torta tenerella )

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