Italian Chocolate Almond Torte

Last week we had a dinner party for a speaker who came to campus.  There was a group of us who had gone through an intensive training with her previously, and so we decided to gather together for dinner the night before she spoke on campus.  I volunteered to bring dessert for the dinner party, as my supervisor was hosting the dinner and I was grateful to have such fantastic colleagues come together for the dinner.  Our speaker had a few dietary needs, being both gluten- and dairy-free.  This created some interesting challenges for me to consider in thinking about dessert.  I had started by looking online and while I quickly found lots of options using coconut flour or rice flour.  I decided to focus on something with all of the ingredients I had available or easily accessible in my small-town grocery store.  I came across this great recipe from the Pure Dessert cookbook by Alice Medrich.  I was anxious about using egg whites, but went to the small co-op we have in town and found some excellent chocolate bars and moved forward in making the Italian Chocolate-Almond Torte.  And it was delicious.  It will definitely go on my list of potential recipes for the future with the right group of individuals.

Italian Almond Chocolate Torte

Italian Chocolate-Almond Torte

1 cup (5 ounces) unblanched or blanched whole almonds
7 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 large egg whites (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Powdered sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the sides of the springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Combine the almonds. chocolate, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a food processor and pulse until the almonds and chocolate are very finely chopped but not completely pulverized. Set aside.

In the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer or using a hand-held mixer and a large bowl, beat the egg whites with cream of tarter until soft, moist peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry. Add one-third of the nut mixture to the egg whites and fold in with a large rubber spatula until nearly incorporated. Fold in half of the remaining nuts, then fold in the rest of the nuts.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until the torte has risen and is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, or with a little melted chocolate, 25 to 30 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and invert the cake onto the rack. Remove the bottom of the pan and then the parchment liner. Turn the cake right side up and cool completely. Cover or wrap tightly, and store for up to 3 days at room temperature.

To serve, transfer the cake to a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar or cocoa, and serve slices with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

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