Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Berry Decadent Dessert

Though I didn't indulge in a big chocolate bake-off for Valentine's Day this year, I knew that pretty soon I'd have to unleash some dark, decadent dessert on my friends.

That time has come.

Back at our little French soirée, I mentioned my secret-recipe dark chocolate torte, and my friends responded with awe and eagerness to try it. Since two years have passed since I last made it, I readily agreed.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I was ready to try a variation on the recipe, combining a different flavor with the layers of dark, bittersweet chocolate.

Since the chocolate isn't a local item for me, I wanted to bring more local ingredients into the recipe. So the flavor I chose to pair with the chocolate was raspberry, allowing me to use local berries (and jam) as well as the usual local wheat flour, butter, eggs, and maple sugar.

I started with the same sort of shortbread layer as the base for the torte, using regular and black cocoas for a deeper chocolate flavor and adding some of my dried raspberry powder to intensify the raspberry flavor throughout the dessert.

Following that, I scattered shards of bittersweet chocolate over the shortbread, let it melt, and spread it evenly. Once it had cooled, I pulled a half-pint jar of homemade raspberry jam out of the pantry and spread it over the chocolate, allowing it to set overnight.

Last night, I made the brownie layer, adding the remains of the raspberry powder to continue the theme. It's a little tricky to spread the brownie batter over the jam as the jam wants to ooze to the sides, but even with a little jam poking around the edges, I think it worked out well.

Instead of the usual vegan chocolate sauce I pour over the spice torte, I needed to come up with something different, using what I had on hand. I discovered half a block of cream cheese lurking in the refrigerator, as well as more bittersweet chocolate, so I whipped up a creamy chocolate cream cheese frosting that balanced well against the density of the rest of the torte.

Aside from setting a few aside for friends at work come Monday, I cut the rest into squares and packed them into a tin to take to tomorrow's contra dance.

After all, it's a berry good idea to keep my dance partners happy somehow!

Raspberry Truffle Torte

I've tweaked the original recipes so many times to get to this point that I won't even bother listing them here. You're welcome to substitute almond extract for the vanilla if you're not allergic to nuts. And if you have fresh raspberries, why not garnish with those?

Shortbread Layer
1 3/4 c unbleached or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c dried raspberry powder
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T black cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c sugar (any kind of dry sugar works well, refined or not)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sift together flour, raspberry powder, cocoa, and salt into a small bowl; set aside. In a larger bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and cream until very light in color. Add in vanilla. Add flour mixture gradually and mix until flour is just incorporated and dough sticks together when squeezed with fingers.

Press dough into a greased 9" x 13" baking pan. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes, until set.

Chocolate Layer
1 or 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

While shortbread is still warm, scatter chocolate on top. When melted, spread into an even layer. Allow to cool and harden.

Jam Layer
1/2 pint raspberry jam

Spread jam over chocolate and smooth into an even layer. Chill overnight.

Brownie Layer
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 c unsalted butter
3/4 c packed brown sugar, Sucanat, maple sugar or other kind of unrefined dry sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c whole wheat pastry or unbleached flour
1/4 c dried raspberry powder

Stir unsweetened chocolate and butter in heavy large saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool 5 minutes. Whisk in sugar and salt. Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, and then vanilla. Continue to whisk until batter is smooth, about 2 minutes. Add flour and raspberry powder, and stir just until blended.

Pour batter on top of first three layers, smoothing surface. Bake at 325 F until tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 35-40 minutes (less for a fudgy texture, more for a cake-like texture). Cool completely in pan on rack.

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c maple sugar or other dry sugar
4 T unsalted butter
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c maple syrup

Cream together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Melt butter and chocolate together; allow to cool slightly. Add chocolate mixture to cream cheese and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla and maple syrup and beat until frosting is smooth and easily spread.

Drop dollops of frosting onto brownie and smooth into an even layer. Chill torte to set frosting.

Allow torte to warm up before cutting; it gets awfully thick and dense. Serve at room temperature to allow flavors to meld more harmoniously.

Makes 24-36 squares, depending on how small you cut them


At 2/28/2008 2:38 PM, Anonymous jasmine said...

I am usually not overly tempted by chocolate cakes and such -- but this looks amazing.

At 2/28/2008 2:43 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I've been a little surprised that folks have raved about this more than the spice & nut version, but it really is pretty good. It takes time to make, but it's definitely worth it.

At 2/28/2008 4:44 PM, Blogger Bri said...

I'm speechless, Jen! This is absolutely amazing! I am going to have! to make this. Each and every layer sounds so spectacular. You know, I bet this would become the talk of the town if the Inn served it. I'm absolutely going to cut and paste the recipe for future reference! YUM!!!!

At 2/28/2008 5:28 PM, Blogger valereee said...

I'm going to have to stop reading this blog.

At 2/28/2008 5:32 PM, Blogger valereee said...

Waitaminnit! There's a spice and nut version?

At 2/29/2008 7:24 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

You know, Bri, I think on this one I do have to put aside modesty and say it really was amazing. I do think that the raspberry powder deepened the blending of the flavors, and the combination of textures was very satisfying. Might be a little rich for the Inn's breakfasts, though! ;-)

Don't worry, valereee... after this chocolate binge, I'm probably not going to bake much sweet stuff for a little while, and certainly nothing quite so decadent.

And yes, there's a spice and nut version. I'm still cleaning it out... takes a while... If you feel the need of a road trip...!!! ;-)

At 3/02/2008 8:49 PM, Blogger Tina said...

The spice and nut version is amazing, the raspberry sounds divine!:-) I'll definitely have to give that recipe a shot one of these days!

At 3/03/2008 7:07 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I hope you can, Tina... I think it would be right up your alley. :-)


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