Constant readers will note that this test may not seem as difficult as I purport. After all, I’ve waxed elegantly on my desire to shove all manner of edible goods down my throat with little regard to personal safety or self-esteem. I dip toasted raviolis in ranch dressing and can name at least five nontraditional uses for Provel cheese off the top of my head (fun fact: one of them is eating Provel cheese off the actual top of my head, which is why I keep my hair so short in the summer).
Nonetheless, Buttertooth’s resident baker must issue a shocking confession: I don’t really like sweets. Ask me to pick between a sandwich and burrito, and I’ll crack a lame “Sophie’s choice” joke to distract you as I abscond with both, but sweets . . . meh. I’m a second dinner kind of guy, a real snack ‘em if you got ‘em, know when to fold ‘em and know when to walk away from the dessert bar kind of guy. It’s a real drag because baking is my preferred pastime, if only for the challenge and cathartic release. It’s exact and exacting and almost meditative as it centers me in the present moment and forces me to ignore the niggling anxieties of tomorrow or next week. Plus, everyone’s a friend when you’re the guy at work with all the cookies.
Suffice to say, this is why I set the bar so high for all my dessert recipes. Would I rather eat this slice of cake or a bagel bite (thus proving once and for all that, when pizza’s on a bagel, you really can eat pizza anytime)? This flourless chocolate torte satisfies that requirement in spades (in diamonds and hearts even). Usually gluten-free tortes are too dense for my (ahem!) delicate palate. They fudge up my mouth and leave me scurrying for a glass of milk when everybody knows milk is gross. But this . . . this effortless confection makes me feel like I’m chomping on a delicate chocolate cloud. And I’m here for that disturbing visual image.
The secret, of course, is
visualizing yourself being kind to your egg whites. Whip them, yes, but then apologize by tucking them as gently as a baby into the batter. (‘Tuck’ is a strange verb to substitute for ‘fold’ in a recipe, but I wanted to make that baby line work, and you can’t fold a baby unless your day has gone terribly wrong).
Plus that coulis! Local Cherry Coulis may sound like a lovely fifth alternate on Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 10 (Please welcome to the main-stage, Local Cherry Coulis!), but this sauce complements the torte with the perfect balance of tart and tang. I will say that, if you don’t have two pounds of frozen local cherries from Beckie’s mother’s garden languishing in your freezer, then store-bought is not fine, and I’m ashamed you even got this far.
JK, girl. Live your best life, make your best dessert, and ask yourself this simple question: if the guy with the cookies isn’t a stranger, then why am I eating his cake?
- Unsweetened cocoa powder for pan dusting
- 15 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 16 tbsp (2 sticks) of butter
- 6 eggs, separated
- 6 tbsp + 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp bourbon whiskey
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- Pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar for torte dusting (optional)
- 2 cups fresh sour cherries
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (adjust based on level of fruit tartness)
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 300ºF. Grease a springform pan and dust with cocoa powder.
- In the top pan of a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second bursts, combine the chocolate and butter. Set the top pan over barely simmering water in the bottom pan and melt, then whisk until well blended. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, beat together separated egg yolks, 6 tbsp sugar, whiskey, scraped vanilla bean, and pinch of salt until pale and thick, 3-5 minutes. Gradually incorporate chocolate mixture and continue beating until well blended.
- In the deep, clean bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy, about a minute. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar to stabilize the egg whites and continue beating until medium to firm peaks form, about 2 additional minutes. Gently fold in the egg whites into the batter in 3 or 4 separate additions so as not to deflate their volume.
- Pour the batter into the prepared springform and spread evenly. Bake until the torte rises and puffs slightly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out moist but not liquid, about 40 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow to cool for 30 minutes.
- Puree the first three ingredients and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Warm in a saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles begin to form, approximately 5 minutes.
- Remove ¼ cup of the sauce and whisk in the cornstarch. Return cornstarch slurry to the saucepan and whisk to fully incorporate.
- Heat for an additional 2 minutes. Chill and serve.