It always amazes me at how many deliciously different ways there are to combine four of my most loved pantry staples; butter, eggs, sugar and chocolate. This flourless Bon Vivant adds hazelnut meal to create a torte that transcends all expectations. Rich and decadent, its hazelnut meringue base is topped with a luscious dark chocolate mousse layer which cracks under a brownie like crust as it bakes. All of my favourite chocolate tastes and textures rolled into one.
It’s a very clever and easy torte to put together, the most taxing element involves separating the eggs into yolks and whites. The whites are whipped into a voluminous, fluffy meringue cloud with a little sugar before hazelnut meal is gently folded through to give the torte’s base a little structure. While the base bakes for twenty minutes in a hot oven, chocolate and butter is melted in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, and the yolks are beaten into a frenzy with a little more sugar until thick and pale. Chocolate and yolks combine to form a rich, airy mousse, which is poured over the half cooked hazelnut meringue and returned to the oven for a further twenty minutes until the filling is puffed and set to wobbly perfection; its crust just beginning to crack.
It’s always a close judgement call determining the exact moment to take this torte out of the oven. If I’m making it for dessert I’m happy for it to be a little oozy, for afternoon tea I might give it a few minutes longer. You need to be aware that the filling does continue to cook by residual heat once removed from the oven, and firms up beautifully in the refrigerator. Of course the wider the cake tin, the thinner the mousse layer and the less time the torte needs in the oven for its second baking. If using a smaller baking tin, reduce the oven temperature to 170 C and allow the torte to bake for 30 minutes or so until the mousse layer is cracked but set. Allow the torte to continue to cool and set in the refrigerator for at least two hours, but overnight is best, before serving
I had intended to serve my Bon Vivant for Sunday night dessert, but somewhere along the way those plans were well and truly derailed. Caving into pressure, I removed it from the fridge, and all but the smallest sliver of that irresistable, slightly oozing torte was inhaled well before dinner, for afternoon tea.
Hazelnut and Chocolate Bon Vivant Torte
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (180g) caster sugar
2 1/2 cups (250g) ground hazelnuts ( or use ground almonds or a mixture of both)
1 block (220g) dark chocolate
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cocoa, sifted
120g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Generously butter sides and base of a large 26cm round spring form (removable base) cake tin. Line base with non stick baking paper. Place tin in the refrigerator.
BEAT egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon salt until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition until thick and glossy.
FOLD through hazelnuts. Pour batter into prepared tin and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
BREAK chocolate into pieces and gently melt with butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don’t let the bowl touch the water). Remove from heat, stir through vanilla extract and sifted cocoa. Set aside to cool slightly.
MEANWHILE using an electric mixer beat egg yolks with sugar until thick and pale. Gradually add the cooled chocolate mixture, beating well until combined.
REMOVE hazelnut meringue from oven, and carefully pour chocolate mousse topping over the base.
RETURN to 180 C oven, centre rack position, and bake for a further 20 minutes until filling is puffed and surface just beginning to crack. The centre of the torte should still have a slight wobble when the tin is gently shaken.
PLACE tin on a wire rack to cool before transferring to the refrigerator to set completely, allow at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
TO SERVE, remove torte from tin and dust with icing sugar before slicing.