I always like to serve a chocolate dessert option at Thanksgiving. True, the traditional flavors usually include pumpkin, apple, or pecan, but let's be honest: Is chocolate ever really out of place on any menu?? I actually first made this luscious torte a few years ago, for Christmas Eve dinner, but it would be great for Thanksgiving, or New Year's for that matter. The recipe indicates that it serves 8-10, but let me clarify: That's 8-10 Green Bay Packers. This dessert is so rich that even a sliver goes a long way. The tart cranberry sauce, which is served alongside, cuts the richness nicely. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time, and read through the entire recipe prior to beginning (I suggest this with any recipe), as there is a lot of "down time" while things cool, bake, or set. Here are my tips for today's recipe:
- This is a more labor-intensive dessert, but making it in "sections" can make the process much easier. The sauce can be prepared 2 days ahead of time and refrigerated, and the torte can be prepared 1 day ahead of time, covered, and stored at room temperature. The finished product can also be made 1 day ahead. Transfer it to a platter, cover it with a cake dome (or very loosely with foil), and chill. Let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour prior to serving.
- Chambord is black raspberry liqueur. It can be a little pricey, but there should be several less-expensive similar products available at the liquor store if you don't have any on hand. Sometimes they are referred to as framboise.
- The best deal on chocolate that I have found is at Trader Joe's. They have a fantastic product called the "Pound-Plus" chocolate bar. It is around 18 ounces of baking chocolate that comes in both milk and bittersweet versions. I think that I pay about $3.99 for it, an almost unheard of price for quality chocolate.
- The recipe calls for room temperature eggs. The reason for this in recipes is that room temperature eggs help to aerate the batter and keep it light. If your eggs aren't at room temperature, you can soak them in warm water for 10 minutes.
- For a different presentation, you can "sugar" the mint leaves and some fresh cranberries to use for decorating the top (pictured). In order to do this, combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and simmer for 2 minutes. Place 1/4 cup of sugar in a small bowl. Lightly brush the cranberries and whole mint leaves with the sugar syrup and then immediately roll them in the sugar. Dry them at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours on an oiled rack or waxed paper. This obviously takes a little longer, but the sparkling sugar adds a festive touch to the presentation.
- If you don't have a springform pan, you can use a regular cake pan, but be extra careful when buttering and flouring the pan, and be sure to line it as it will be more difficult to unmold.
- If you don't have parchment paper, it is something that I would suggest buying for your kitchen if you are going to be doing some baking. I personally use it all the time and prefer it even over the Silpat silicone mats. It prevents sticking and cookies with burned bottoms. It can be found next to the saran wrap at the grocery store.
Decadent Chocolate Cranberry Torte
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord liqueur
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/3 cup Chambord liqueur
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, cut into pieces
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Chambord liqueur
Fresh mint leaves
For sauce: Bring the first 3 ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or mini chopper and puree. Mix in the Chambord and chill for at least 2 hours.
For torte: Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350F degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch diameter springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Stir 3/4 cup of the dried cranberries and the Chambord in a small saucepan over medium heat until the liqueur simmers, about 1 minute. Cool to room temperature and set aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until beginning to bubble at the edges. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk in the sugar and then the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Whisk in the reserved dried cranberries and liqueur. Add the flour and salt; whisk gently until blended. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake the torte until puffed and cracked and a tester inserted into the center comes out with moist (not wet) batter attached, about 1 hour. Cool completely in pan on rack.
For glaze: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk in the Chambord. Let stand until the glaze is thick, but pourable, whisking occasionally, about two hours. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a cake rack in the center. Cut around the sides of the torte to loosen and remove the pan sides. Place an 8-inch diameter cardboard round or an 8-inch tart pan bottom on top of the torte. Carefully invert the torte and place it on the rack. Remove the pan bottom and peel off the parchment paper. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the glaze over the torte. Using a spatula or knife, smooth the glaze over the top and sides (re-apply any glaze that falls on the foil if necessary). Freeze the torte until the glaze is set, about 10 minutes. Pour the remaining 1 cup of glaze over the torte and smooth it evenly. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup dried cranberries around the top edge. Freeze until the glaze is firm, about 15 minutes. Arrange fresh mint leaves between the cranberries around the torte. Cut into wedges and serve with the cranberry sauce.
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