Recipes

Spiced Pear and Dark Chocolate Torta

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After searching for a recipe for a spiced pear and dark chocolate Italian Torta with no success, I adapted this recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s Almond Cake alla Mantovana. Her cake is a traditional Italian almond cake. However the addition of the spiced pears, dark chocolate and vanilla essence to this cake send it over the top.

Servings: 8-10 – Preparation Time: 1.5hr

Ingredients

Spiced Pears
3 bosc pears (peeled, cored and cut in chunks)
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cups water

Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
3 ½ ounces blanched almonds (toasted and pulsed)
5 ½ ounces unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 ¼ cups of sugar
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
Zest of ½ lemon
½ tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. milk
¾ cup dark chocolate chips

Ice Wine Sauce
½ cup ice wine
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/3 cup corn syrup

Instructions

For Spiced Pears
Begin by peeling the skin from the pears using a potato peeler. Slice the pears in half from top to bottom and remove the fibrous inner stem and core. Cut the pears into rough chunks depending on how large you would like the pear pieces to be in your cake. Place the pears, cloves, cinnamon stick, sugar and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once the liquid has reached the boiling point, turn down the heat and keep the liquid simmering as the mixture slowly reduces and the pears are infused with flavour. While you begin preparing the ingredients for the cake, keep an eye on the pears and remove them from the heat when there is approximately ¼ cup of liquid left. Allow pears and liquid to cool in a separate dish in the refrigerator.

For Cake
Set oven at 350°F and situate a rack in the middle of the oven. Begin by buttering and dusting the 9 inch spring form pan and setting aside. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. In a clean oven pan, toast the sliced almonds. Keep a close eye on the almonds as they can quickly burn, removing them as soon as they take on their golden colour. Pulse the almonds to the texture of rough sand and set them aside. In a stand mixer, beat on medium/high the butter and sugar with a paddle attachment for at least 2 minutes until they become pale and fluffy. Turn down the speed and add the egg and yolks in a slow steady stream. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and mix for another 30 seconds. Continuing with the slower speed add the lemon zest, almond extract and vanilla successively. When they are incorporated, add half the sifted dry ingredients, then the milk, and then the rest of the dry ingredients. You do not want to over mix the batter. Once all the ingredients have come together to create a smooth batter turn off the mixer. Mix in the ground almonds and dark chocolate by hand.
Spoon the batter into the prepared spring form pan and press down using a spatula. You want the surface to be as smooth and even as possible. Remove pears from the fridge and push pieces down into the cake evenly throughout. You may not need all the pieces you have prepared, but they should be generously dispersed. Place cake in oven immediately. Bake for 40-50 minutes depending on your oven. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and the top is a rich golden brown. (Try testing 2-3 spots for ‘doneness’ as my first toothpick punctured a piece of pear and not the actual cake.) Allow cake to cool for 30 minutes. At this point you should begin with the Ice Wine Chocolate Sauce. When the cake has cooled remove it from the spring form and sift an even layer of icing sugar over the surface.

For Sauce
Bring the ice wine to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once it has come to a boil allow it to reduce slightly and burn off the alcohol. Once you have lost 1/3 of the volume to evaporation, add the chocolate chips and turn down the heat to the lowest option. While whisking the chocolate, add the corn syrup and continue to whisk. Remove from heat. Depending on how runny you would like the sauce; sprinkle water into the sauce while whisking, a teaspoon at a time. If the sauce begins to cool too much, return it to the low heat and whisk on the element for 30 seconds before removing from heat again. Chocolate, water and heat are not happy bedfellows so it is best to be gentle. Keep the chocolate on the source of heat only long enough for it to liquefy again. The water should be incorporated little by little until the desired consistency is achieved. When you are happy with the consistency remove from heat and drizzle over generous slices of this delicious cake. It is ready to serve.

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