Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mystical Cluizel Chocolate & Pistachio Torte

The last time I saw Belinda Ber, most recently executive chef at Chocolat Michel Cluizel in New York, she entrusted me with this recipe. It's more complex than some chocolate tortes, relying on pistachio flour (available from Italian specialty stores) instead of standard wheat flour. Folding the whipped egg whites into the dense ground nuts without deflating the batter requires some practice. My first attempt fell a bit flatter than I had hoped.

Nonetheless, I brought the Cluizel Chocolate and Pistachio Torte as an offering to the ancestors at a Lakota sweat lodge a couple of weeks ago. I was tagging along with a friend, and since I travel everywhere with chocolate I didn't think too much about my reasons for choosing the particular recipe. I assumed that the presence of one of France's haughtiest chocolates at a Native American ritual was an anomaly. But when I returned to the city, I learned that Belinda had left Cluizel behind for, along with several freelance culinary projects, work as an energy healer. "I feel food feeds the temple," she told me, "but the metaphysical stuff feeds the spirit."

I made the torte again, and it came out of the oven with the perfect balance of density and lightness. I have a feeling that I was supposed to be at that sweat lodge, and the torte was supposed to come with me.

Belinda invites those who think she might lead them toward truer paths (with or without chocolate) to email her.

Cluizel 85% Chocolate & Pistachio Torte
Executive Chef Belinda Ber © 2006 for Chocolat Michel Cluizel
10 oz 85% Cluizel chocolate
5 T butter
1C brown sugar
9 eggs
2 C pistachio flour
4 T calvados
1 T vanilla
¼ t ginger
1/8 t cayenne pepper
½ t salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees [Fahrenheit]
Grease and line one 9” spring form or two 9” cake pans
Separate eggs
Sift nut flour with ginger and cayenne
Melt chocolate with calvados and vanilla, remove from heat and let cool
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add egg yolks, one at a time, mixing until 1” ribbon is formed
Fold chocolate mix into yolk mix
Add nut flour mix to butter mix
Beat whites to medium peaks
Fold whites into chocolate mix
Pour into pan(s) and bake for 1/2 to 3/4 hour or until set
Remove from oven, remove from pan(s), place on rack and let cool.

This cake's flavors will mature with time: it is best served three days after baking. Serve frozen or warmed in the microwave. Dust with pistachio crumb for service.


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