Sean Nutley, owner of the wonderful cookware shop Blue Cashew, in Rhinebeck, New York, made this fabulous version of what was my single layer torte from Rose's Heavenly Cakes--cousin Sybil's Passover Pecan Torte. It has become my new standard and what I will be making for this Passover. (Sadly, Sybil Zashin passed away several months ago. But the memory of this lovely woman remains.) During Passover, tradition dictates that flour must not be eaten. The nuts in this torte replace the flour which not only results in a delicious flavor but is also suitable for the gluten intolerant. No need to reserve it just for Passover--this torte would serve as a festive dessert for any holiday or special event.
Note:: The following posting will be a series of step-by-step photos for another flourless nut torte which uses walnuts instead of pecans and includes chocolate, but the technique is the same.
Serves : 8 to 10 if one layer, 16 to 24 if two layers
Oven Temperature: 350˚F/175˚C
Baking Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Make this batter twice if planning to make a two layer cake. Special Equipment One 9-1/2 by 2-1/2 to 3-inch springform pan, bottom coated with shortening, topped with a parchment round. Do not coat sides.
Preheat the Oven Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set oven racks at the middle level and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
Divide the Sugar In a small bowl, place 1/4 cup of the sugar for the nuts. In another small bowl, place 2 tablespoons of the sugar for the meringue. In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the remaining 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar.
Toast and Grind the Pecans Spread the pecans evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes to enhance their flavor. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid overbrowning. Cool completely. In a food Processor, pulse the pecans with the 1/4 cup sugar and espresso powder, if using, in long bursts until very fine. Stop before the pecans start becoming oil or pasty. Empty them into a medium bowl.
Make the Yolk Mixture In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, add the yolks to the sugar and beat on high speed for 5 minutes, or until very thick and fluffy and when the beater is raised the mixture falls in ribbons. Detach the whisk from the mixer and use it to fold the pecan mixture and the coffee extract, if using,into the batter until evenly mixed. If you don't have a second mixer bowl, scrape this mixture into a large bowl and thoroughly wash, rinse, and dry the mixer bowl and whisk beater to remove any trace of oil.
Beat the Egg Whites into a Stiff Meringue In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, beat the egg whites (and cream of tartar if using) on medium speed until foamy. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Gradually beat in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until stiff peaks for when the whisk is raised slowly. If not using cream of tartar, stop beating just before stiff peaks to prevent overbeating The peaks should curve over slightly when the beater is raised.
Complete the Batter Add about one-quarter of the meringue to the yolk mixture and, with a large balloon whisk or the whisk beater, fold until completely incorporated.Gently fold in the remaining meringue in three parts. For the last addition, be sure there are no white streaks of meringue in the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and, using a small offset spatula or silicone spatula, spread the surface evenly. The batter will fill the pan half full.
Bake the Cake Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch when pressed very lightly in the center. An instant read thermometer will read 185F/85C. In a 2-1/2 inch high pan, the batter will have risen to the top of the pan.
Cool and Unmold the Cake Immediately invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Leave it undisturbed until the pan feels completely cool to the touch. Reinvert the pan. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the pan, and remove the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a flat plate and remove the pan bottom and parchment. Reinvert it onto a serving plate. There will be a 3/8 depression to fill with coffee cream.
Coffee Whipped Cream
Double if making a two layer cake. Makes: 2 cups/9 ounces/256 grams
Make the Coffee Cream In a mixing bowl, combine the cream, sugar, and espresso powder, if using, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. (Chill the mixer's beaters alongside the bowl.) In a 1 cup heatproof glass cup, place the water and gelatin. Allow the mixture to soften for 5 minutes. Set the cup in a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the gelatin is dissolved. (This can be done in a microwave, stirring once or twice.) Remove the cup from the water and cool the mixture to room temperature, about 7 minutes. (It can be held longer but should be covered to prevent evaporation.) the gelatin must be liquid but not warm when added to the cream.
Whip the cream mixture, starting on low speed, gradually raising the speed to medium-high as it thickens, just until traces of the beater marks begin to show distinctly. Add the gelatin mixture in a steady stream, whipped constantly. Add the vanilla and coffee extract, if not using the espresso powder, and whip just until stiff peaks form when the eater is raised. To avoid the risk of overwhipping, when almost stiff enough, remove the beaters and use them, or a whisk, to finish whipping by hand. Immediately swirl the cream into the depression on top of the cake. If making a second layer fill and frost the entire cake with the whipped cream. If desired, sprinkle with the extra chopped pecans. The cake can be refrigerated overnight and will keep at room temperature for several hours.
Note: The gelatin will keep the whipped cream from watering out on standing.