Creative Sustenance

Culinary and other adventures in foraging, gardening, urban farming and more, in Wisconsin and the Midwest.

Christmas chocolate torte

Over the last month I've shared some pictures on facebook of a few things we made for holiday meals, and was asked to also share the recipes. So, the next three or four blogposts will spotlight those recipes from Thanksgiving and Christmas. We'll start with a chocolate torte that we made again for Christmas this year. This torte has become one of my favorite holiday desserts. It's simple, very attractive and also very delicious. (My daughter brought a piece to one of her friends, who declared it "The best thing I've ever eaten!" Of course she was being generous with her compliment, but not by much!)

I got the recipe for this lovely torte years ago from a magazine of holiday recipes. What attracted me was the photo that accompanied the recipe, as it highlighted chocolate almond "pinecones" on a decorative and rustic topping. Here's how you do it.

To make the chocolate almond pinecones you'll need:

  • almond paste (comes in a tube or small can...smells wonderful too)
  • sliced almonds
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips, about ½ cup
  • shortening, 1 tbl

1. Form the almond paste into little cones, maybe a couple inches tall and an inch or so wide at the base.

2. Stick the sliced almond pieces into the cone in a pinecone-like formation.

3. Stick a swizzle stick or toothpick into the bottom to help hold onto the pinecone. Heat the chocolate chips and shortening in the microwave until liquified. Gently and slowly drizzle the chocolate, in a thin stream, over the pinecone, and use another toothpick or small artist's paintbrush to fill in the spots that the drizzling doesn't touch. Note: If you try to dip the cone or pour the chocolate on too heavily you'll just get a big bumpy chocolate blob. Be delicate and patient.

4. Place the finished pinecones on a wire rack to harden up. I put the rack in the freezer for a while. You can reuse these if you're careful with them. Place them in a small tupperware container and pop in the freezer until you want to use them again.

For the torte itself:

  • Chocolate graham crackers, about 1½ cups
  • Sugar, ¼ cup
  • Butter, ½ stick or more, melted
  • 9-inch springform pan

1. Combine chocolate graham crackers and sugar in food processor and pulse until the consistency of sand.

2. Dump contents into a bowl, add melted butter and mix well.

3. Press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and bake for about 8 minutes at 375°. Set aside to cool.

  • Bittersweet chocolate, 4 ounce bar
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips, 4 ounces (about ½ cup)
  • Baking chocolate, 4 ounces (if you want a lighter-colored top use white chocolate. This year I changed it up a bit and wanted a darker top, so I used dark chocolate)
  • Plain (flavorless) gelatin, 1 packet (¼ ounce)
  • Egg yolks, 5 or 6
  • Sugar, ¼ cup
  • Half-&-Half, 1 cup
  • Heavy whipping cream, 2 cups

1. Add gelatin to about a ¼ cup of water and let it sit.

2. Add each of the chocolates to a separate mixing bowl. You might briefly microwave them to soften the chocolate up.

3. Add the egg yolks to another mixing bowl and beat them until fluffy. Add the ¼ cup of sugar and continue beating until well mixed. Follow that by adding and mixing the half-&-half. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and heat to 160°. Remove from heat and add the gelatin. Stir to combine.

4. Pour a third of the hot egg yolk/sugar/cream mixture into each of the three bowls of chocolate. Stir to thoroughly mix and melt the chocolate. Allow everything to cool for about 15 minutes.

5. In a mixing bowl whip the heavy cream until it achieves stiffness and peaks form. This will build endurance and strength in your forearms and wrists if you do it with a hand whisk. 

6. Loosely and gently fold a third of the whipped cream into each of the bowls of chocolate. Saving the lightest colored chocolate mixture for last, pour one bowl into the springform pan, smooth it out with a rubber spatula and pop it in the freezer until it's pretty firm. Add the next bowl and do the same, freezing it until it's firm. Then do the same with the last, lightly colored chocolate mixture. 

7. While the torte is in the freezer melt some semi-sweet chocolate and fill a brine syringe or something similar with the melted chocolate. Take the torte from the freezer and make some decorative leaf and branch designs on the surface with the melted chocolate. Squirt some melted chocolate on the bottom of the chocolate almond pinecones and place them on top as well.

8. Be gentle when removing the sides of the springform pan from the torte. Also, while slicing through the torte itself is very easy, you may have to use some force when you get to the graham cracker crust; be firm but gentle.

There you go, a chocolate dessert that everyone will be impressed with.

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