Chocolate Raspberry Torte
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I put my entire well-being in jeopardy with today's culinary exploits. I made ganache. I'm not a big baker as it is, as I prefer to avoid precision at all costs, and anything that involves any kind of chemical reaction scares me. It's just too easy to screw things up. I don't know what it is about ganache that has alway intimidated me so much. Maybe just the fancy name, or the fact that I refused to melt chocolate after two disasters with it when I was an emotional young teen. (I only recently broke down and tried it again when I was desperate for chocolate-covered strawberries, and that's when I discovered that hot, melted, semi-sweet chocolate is the closest thing to heaven that can be found on this earth.) At any rate, I've shied away from making lots of gorgeous desserts over the years simply because they had that dreadful word "ganache" in the recipe. I imagined it would be extremely complicated to make and easy to ruin.
But when I came across this recipe for chocolate torte in Cook's Illustrated while looking for a dessert to make for Easter, it looked so irresistible that I just had to cross my fingers and trust the editor's promise that every recipe they publish is fool-proof. If I blew up my kitchen in the process or collapsed in a pool of sweat and tears and clumpy chocolate I could just sue them for false advertising, right? O ye of little faith! It was one of the simplest things I've ever done and the result was...ganache. Now I know why it has such a beautiful name.
I might just start baking more if I'm gonna consistently turn out such impressive looking stuff!
Start by melting bittersweet chocolate and butter in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. When it's all melted and combined and smooth remove from heat and cool for half an hour before adding vanilla.
Meanwhile grind some sliced--shoot! I just realized I was supposed to toast the almonds first, maybe that's why the texture didn't turn out quite right!--toasted almonds in the food processor. Add flour and salt and process till finely ground. Put this almond flour in a bowl and set aside.
Then add five eggs to the food processor and beat the crap out of them until they look like this. Cool, huh?
Then slowly add some sugar with the food processor still on. Pour egg mixture into chocolate mixture and gently fold in with a whisk until mostly incorporated, but still somewhat streaky. Add almond flour mixture half at a time, gently mixing to incorporate.
Pour batter into two 8 or 9 inch parchment-lined cake pans, and bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes. Cool for half an hour before carefully removing from the pans.
Place one cake layer, bottom down, on a cardboard round. Smash up some fresh raspberries, mix with some raspberry jam, and spread on the first cake layer, leaving about a half inch of space around the edge. Carefully slide the second layer, top down, on top of the first layer.
Next melt some more chocolate, this time with heavy cream, in the bowl over simmering water. When it's all melted remove from heat and gently whisk until smooth. Congratulations, you've just made ganache! Wasn't that easy?
Place the cake, still on the cardboard, on a cooling rack set on a piece of wax paper inside a baking sheet. Pour the ganache on the middle of the cake and spread with an off-set spatula, allowing it to spill over the sides of the cake. Smooth top and sides with the spatula. Now, while holding the cake on the flat of one hand, take handfuls of roughly chopped sliced almonds and gently press them against the sides of the cake, turning as you go.