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Isle of LOVE n TORTA CAPRESE cake

This chocolate, almond based ' Torta Caprese ' is an Italian dessert icon.
The luscious flourless cake got re-vised to an ultimate delight.


 
This tamed semi-sweet chocolate paradise has become one of my favourite indulgences.

It's an absolutely gluten-free dessert and an added bonus for our tummies ;o)



Over the years, I've worked on making this torte just right for my palate as well as my waistline.
I've always managed to tweak it just enough not to sway too much from this traditional classic.

It's now prime time to share my simple and quick method...
on putting this incredibly enjoyable dessert on your next sweets table ;o).

The balance of ingredients is key...
especially when making a lighter version without sacrificing this renowned treat.

This practically pure chocolate almond cake can be described as having...
a lightly dense and moist texture, yet the fudge-like richness is felt in every bite.
My very first love encounter with this cake was in my early 20s.
I was backpacking through the Italian Campania region...
specifically exploring the stunningly gorgeous Amalfi coast.
I had also made sure to cross over from the mainland onto the
Island of Capri.

photo credit: unknown

How could I have skipped this jaunt...especially since Mom had raved about how amazing it was.  As they say, that was then and quite a long while had passed since those incredible times on the Isle of Love.  Besides having relished a few more decadent bites of this torta alle mandorle e cioccolato ‘...the Island itself felt slightly overratedQuite honestly, I wasn't getting it.  Was it because I only had a budget for a day visit and not capable of appreciating what this love Island had to offer?   Or, maybe, was it because I was single at the time and no one to significantly share it with?   Oh well, in any case...there was CHOCOLATE...and what great company he turned out to be ;o)
 

During that time period in my life I was too busy being adventurous.  I was certainly not considered a ‘Foodie’ by today‘s definition. I was much more into enjoying the moment...the discovery...the delightful regional foods...especially the sweets part.  I most certainly did not think of asking the names of desserts let alone show curiosity about its origins.  I just knew what I liked...period.
At 21...at least where I was concerned...I was more on the path of self discovery as opposed to the culinary journey I find myself today.  This is certainly not to say that fabulous food didn’t enhance the experience ;o)


Many years later...a Sicilian Inn keeper was televised to share her very favourite dessert. When she had mentioned one being made with very few ingredients whereby the stars would be chocolate and almonds...my antenna immediately caught the moment in time.  I think by now, some of you can envision my excitement.  As I quickly jotted down her key notes from her demonstration...I had vaguely heard her mention the word ' Caprese ' and I quite honestly did not pay more attention than required.  I just named it a chocolate almond cake.
Keep in mind...the first time I tried to replicate how she had made this torte...I really had no idea of this cake’s popularity.  Any access to researching a recipe or origin on the internet about the infamous ‘Torta Caprese‘ was impossible in those times.  The good ole days of a little ignorant bliss and a refined palate is all it took to recognize a great no-fail-to-please chocolate dessert.


According to a multitude of worldwide pastry chefs...
this torte is the ultimate chocolate flourless cake of all time.

It wasn’t too long ago that it all came together for me in one very full circle.
I accidentally discovered that this decadent delight does hold quite an interesting past.

Here's a little background on how I came upon the history of ‘la Torta Caprese’.


About a month ago, I was at our multi-cultural library whereby I got interested in some originally non-translated Italian culinary books. Yes, we actually have a small section dedicated to my nationality...thrilling to say the least.
As I non-chalantly flipped through the pages of one book in particular...my immediate attention was grabbed when I gazed at the words ' Torta Caprese '.  For some reason, this somehow sounded familiar to me...so, I kept on reading. Suddenly, I felt a slight tingle in my spine...and dare I say a few butterflies in my tummy ;o)  At this point, I became quite excited...a dessert I had been baking throughout many years was being described in this somewhat dull looking book. It was time to grab a corner chair and continue reading.  This soon became very fascinating to me...and now I’ll resume what I uncovered:


Once again, like most creations in our kitchen...
the origin of the 'Torta Caprese' was described as...
"uno dei pasticci più fortunati della storia"
(one of history's fortunate mess ups!)

The very perseverant and curious Napolitain Gourmet Claudio Novelli as well as author and researcher had discovered several old documents written by the illustrious Marc Chagall. The papers somewhat poetically described several of his favourite meals and sweets experiences while on the Island of Capri.
Novellli wrote about the supposed creator of ‘la Torta Caprese’ in his book titled 'Giallaranci Mitili impazziti di Luce -- "Le carte perdute della cucina caprese". As much as I can easily translate the second sub-title as describing The lost documents of Capri's Cuisine, the main title is a translation mystery even after having asked around...sigh.
Apparently according to Novelli’s findings, the creation of this cake took place at the still existing Fontelina restaurant located on the coastline overlooking one of the most beautiful views of the Isle of Capri...the enormous 'Faraglioni' rocks...the legendary symbols of the power and beauty in nature...and also a site of great historical importance...especially to the hearts of ancient Rome's emperors.

The very amusing and almost unbelievable story was about a certain Mr. Capocchiella (Little Head). This sous pastry chef's assistant was one day summoned to act as his emergency replacement.  Probably nervous and excited to have this opportunity, he went about replicating several desserts whereby one was to be a very simple ground almond based cake.  Since he was apparently somewhat sleep deprived...distraction undoubtedly took place.  Could you imagine that he managed to confuse the white flour for the cocoa powder!!!   He then dosed off exhausted by all the unusual baking which had taken place. Little did he realize there was an historical baking moment taking place as he was snoring. He later had awoken thanks to the oven's ringer.  Both surprised and a little disturbed by the amazing chocolate aroma, he became very uneasy. The simple almond flour cake never held such a perfume.  He then obviously realized that he had accidentally added cocoa powder.  The real question remained...how did he miss putting in the white flour? Anyhow, it certainly was too late to re-make the cake.  Since it looked and smelled fine, the restaurant owner decided to serve it to their patrons anyway.  To their utter joy, it had been received with huge success. When asked what this cake was called...Mr. Capocchiella hesitantly blurted out "Torta Caprese"...referring to his beloved Island.  Now, all he had left to figure out was what had really happened so that he could replicate it!?!

photo credit: unknown
This re-count of events is as picturesque as the Island itself...
however, it does sound quite improbable that any baker (no matter how tired)...
would have mistaken these two powder ingredients.
Did he bake with a blindfold on?
Did his sleep deprivation enormously reduce his sense of smell?

Basically...without realizing it...
I could have gotten the history straight from the locals of Capri.
It would have certainly spiced up the already roaming tales of this sublime creation.

One more tale apparently unknown to most locals.   It seems that a small group of passing American gangsters were in the mood for an almond chocolate type cake. This desired dessert was ordered from Carmine Di Fiore, the owner of an isolated unknown eatery.
Considering who he was baking for...he understandably became nervous and apparently forgot to add the flour to his cake.  Fortunate for him, the gangsters liked it a lot and also asked to accompany it with a ball of vanilla ice-cream!

Here again, were different versions of who took pride in creating such a flourless gem.
Like so many cakes...
most threads seem to have originated by accident.

Which one of the above tales would you be inclined to believe?


The only aspect seemingly agreed upon is that this cake most certainly originated on the Isle of Capri.
If by chance you've been told of the contrary...don't hesitate to share another interesting version...it always does make baking this chocolate almond delight ever so exciting...especially when the aroma is wafting through my home ;o)
No matter what the truth is, I'm thrilled that this fortunate mishap happened.  For many years of baking this cake, I've truly been elated with the creation of one of the most deliciously decadent chocolate almond tortes ever...well at least in my opinion.
The fame behind the 'Torta Caprese' is obviously not only due to the romanticised legends. It is most definitely because of its decadent flavour and its simple preparation. This formula leads to an absolutly sublime outcome derived by pure quality ingredients. 
If you do your own search on this recipe...you'll definitely find commonality of key ingredients.  However, the several versions I've baked and witnessed over the years seem to vary quite a lot.  Here's a little more to help you decide how you'd like to go about one day making or improving a version you may already possess.  Better yet...go ahead and make my version...you won't be disappointed ;o)


ALMONDS: roasted nuts are sometimes used, although the most popular remains the blanched almond.
I now only use the almond in its raw state, including the skin!  I also don't ground up the almond to a fine flour.  I find that having an extra layer of texture is very welcomed and adds to the overall decadent experience.

BUTTER: usually, tons of this flavourful fat is used to fulfill the richness desired.
I've experimented with this several times to find the proper balance of replacing half the butter with grape seed oil.  At the very limit...I also once succeeded by replacing a quarter of the fat by a prune purée. You'll surprisingly discover that you have not sacrificed much by lightening it up a little.

CHOCOLATE: in addition to using bittersweet chocolate...some will add a small amount of cocoa powder to increase the chocolate's intensity.
I've tried this and went back to strictly using excellent quality bittersweet chocolate...no compromising for me on this one. Since the chocolate doesn't get subjected to much time in the oven...I'm very satisfied with my choice to forgo the cocoa powder on this one.

EGGS: some whip the egg whites separately to give a somewhat lighter texture.
I honestly did not notice a reasonable advantageous difference to make that extra step necessary.

ESSENCE: to enhance the nutty flavour, some add almond or vanilla extract, liquor and also a citrus zest.  I only add the orange zest when it’s very aromatic.  Also, as much as I enjoy using liquor in many of my desserts I did not realize an added benefit from it.

SUGAR: confectioner's sugar has been used in part or in whole.
I've tried both and prefer either organic cane sugar, granulated white sugar or also a decreased amount of 'Agave syrup'.


***
Dark CHOCOLATE may be healthier than fruit juice?
" Dark chocolate long has been touted for its health benefits, including lowering blood pressure.  According to new research, dark chocolate has more anti-oxidants than fruit juice, not to mention heart-healthy flavanols and polyphenol.  Cocao seeds should be considered a ' superfruit ' and products derived from cocao seed extracts, such as natural cocoa powder and dark chocolate, as ' superfoods '," the researchers said.  When looking for a sweet snack, a square of dark chocolate might, in fact, be your healthiest choice,"...said Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan."

So, what are we waiting for to put a smile to our HEARTS.
Here's my lighter tweaked version of the so-called original "Torta Caprese".


Chocolate Almond
' Torta Caprese '
flourless cake torte
serves 8-10 persons



INGREDIENTS:
(Metric / American measures)

Chocolate mix:
. 200g (8 oz.) bittersweet (60-70%) chocolate
. 125 ml (1 stick --1/2 cup) unsalted butter 
. 125 ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil (grape seed preferred)
Nut mix:
. 260g (2 cups) raw Almonds,* coarsely crushed
. 15 ml (1 Tbsp.) baking powder
. pinch of sea salt
Egg Mix:
. 5 xLarge eggs
. 220g (1 cup) granulated sugar
. 15 ml (1 Tbsp.) pure vanilla extract
. 1 finely zested Orange (optional)

. confectioner’s sugar for optional dusting

Notes:
* Almonds can be substituted by hazelnuts (slightly toasted with skins rubbed off).  Pecans or Walnuts are also great alternatives.  The results of using other nuts or a combination should be equally successful. 


PREPARATION:
Pre-heat oven at 350F/180C/Gas4 
Position rack in the center of the oven.
Use a round sized 10 x 2 in. (26 x 5cm) shallow corning ware or similar cake pan.  
Place onto a baking sheet.


Chocolate melt:   
Place the butter, oil and chopped chocolate to melt in a medium bowl set over a 'bain-marie' with water barely simmering.  Stir occasionally until it is smooth.  Remove the bowl and set it aside to cool slightly while preparing the rest of the cake.
Nut mix:   
If the almonds have not been pre-ground...do so with a small portion of the sugar.  Only crush the almonds so that at least 3/4 of the mix looks very finely grounded.  Add the baking powder and a pinch of salt and set it aside.
Egg mix:   
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and the remaining sugar until a creamy pale yellow colour appears.  Also add in the vanilla.
. With a large spatula, gradually fold in the melted chocolate into this bowl.
. Fold in the crushed nuts as well.  The optional orange zest can also be added.
. Pour the batter into a lightly oiled cake pan.
Bake:   
Place cake pan onto the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Afterwards, place the cake pan onto a rack and wait at least 2 hours before serving.
. If desired, dust or decorate with powdered sugar only when cake has properly cooled at room temperature.   This cake can be kept out for up to 3 days or frozen whole or in quadrants for up to a month in tightly sealed plastic wrap and bag.  Buon Appetito.




It’s safe to say that for those who appreciate chocolate...you will find a way to have some at least every other day ;o)
Therefore, although you may have had your quota lately of this treat, you may want to safe-keep this recipe for your next sublime flourless chocolate cake.

Once, devoured...you'll adopt it as part of your chocolate cake repertoire.

Love is in the air this week...enjoy.

Flavourful wishes, kisses and hugs,
Foodessa

Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at: foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com





A few more CHOCOLATE desserts that may sweeten your tooth: