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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dark Chocolate, roasted hazelnuts...and tofu?

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After my escapades on Friday night, I was extremely apprehensive about what I'd gotten myself into.

Here I was, a vegan baking flaming amateur, and yet fancied myself with the skill and audacity to invent my own recipe. Going where no vegan had gone before (well at least not exactly before....)....and I think I should maybe buy a lottery ticket or something, because I lucked out yet again. Oh, and not only am I blogging for Vegan Week, but I'm also entering Sugar High Friday, Chocolate by Brand (hosted by the super talented David Lebovitz)

Not only did I have to visit three stores to find the particular chocolate I was looking for, but as my other post said, I dropped my silken tofu on a pile of dirty dishes, my first taste test was literally nauseating....and so I was nervous.

I've always been a lover of dark, delectable chocolate. Having been described from the tender age of four as a shameless "chocoholic," my passion/addiction to chocolate really blossomed the year I lived in France. There were so many types of dark chocolate available, at nearly every percentage point of was a dark chocolate lover's dream. There was nothing I loved more than to nibble a square of Poulain 76% dark chocolate after dinner. Even though I lived in a spartan 18m2 studio apartment, I could brew myself a strong dark Italian coffee with my stovetop italian coffee maker and imagine myself in a magical world of endless decadence. Alternative nibbles of my Poulain 76% chocolate and sips of strong, nearly bitter, brew. Heaven.

And just a taste of this delightful treat is enough to take me back, through scent and saveur to the time I spent abroad. I eventually found my chocolate at an international cheese shop downtown. I thought, erroneously it seems, that the French import store would carry such delights....but they didn't. Despite the six block detour to find that out, I was ecstatic to find the object of my quest:

Dark Chocolate

Thirteen dollars poorer (I bought 300g), I floated the rest of the way home. It took some trial, peppered with much error, to come up with my final recipe. But it turned out better than I could have imagined, and as with the other vegan dinner party recipes, it is suitable for non-vegans. Provided no one has any soybean allergies, you could get away with serving this to anyone.

Bruléed Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. skinned, toasted hazelnuts*
1/3 c. brown sugar
5 T vegan margarine (use butter if you're not vegan!)

*To toast hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350F, toss hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Shake them every few minutes, until they are fragrant and the skins are coming loose (about 10 minutes). Let them cool for a few minutes and you should (in theory) be able to rub the skins right off.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a food processor/blender, add the flour and the whole toasted hazelnuts. Process until the hazelnuts are coarsely ground. Add in brown sugar and margarine, and process until combined.
2. In a 9-inch springform pan, pat the mixture down to form a crust (it seems like there isn't enough, but with persistence it eventually spreads out).
3. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool.

300g silken tofu (1 package)
300 g dark chocolate (I highly recommend Poulain 76%, or barring that, Lindt 70% is a good sub. This recipe really depends on having tasty chocolate, so I don't recommend using baker's chocolate)
1/2 c. sugar
1.5 T cocoa
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t cinnamon
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 c. chopped roasted hazelnuts (stick the whole ones in a bag and bash with either a meat mallet or rolling pin)

1. Chop chocolate (or be lazy like me and take out your tofu-inspired rage on poor unsuspecting bars of chocolate...I just whacked them with the heel of my hand while they were still in the box). To melt chocolate, use a burner on the lowest heat setting and stir regularly until chocolate is completely melted. Do NOT get any water in the pot, and resist the temptation to turn up the temperature. Burned chocolate is not happy chocolate.

2. Meanwhile, blend silken tofu in a food processor or blender. While the chocolate is melting, measure out the remaining ingredients (chocolate cools/hardens quickly, so this will make your torte better looking than mine, as you won't be randomly thinking "what the heck do I add to this to make it edible????").

3. Add in melted chocolate, as well as the sugar, cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Blend away until well-combined. Stir in hazelnuts.

4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the hazelnut crust. Spread to desired smoothness. My chocolate was cooling a bit by this point, but if you are speedier than I, you can likely get a smoother result.
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

5. You can make ahead to this point. Store in the fridge, but ensure that it is served at room temperature.

To brulée the torte:
Sprinkle the top with white sugar (about 1/4 c.). With a propane torch, carefully melt the sugar (trying not to burn the chocolate). Allow to set in fridge for about five minutes.

And voila:

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

It was rich, but not too sweet. And the lovely part was, the richness of the chocolate filling was achieved without 35% cream or butter - I really didn't think this would be as good as it was. I think it would be amazing presentation to serve this with starburst mango and raspberry coulis (Put a circle of raspberry coulis in the middle, surround with mango, and use a toothpick to make a starburst. Set cake on top. I ran out of time to tend to such ministrations, but it really would be lovely).

I was as surprised as anyone that this turned out to be not only edible but outstanding. My dinner guests were very appreciative, and were unanimous in their declaration that it didn't taste vegan. I'd make this again for a dinner party and probably wouldn't even mention the secret ingredient....



Torie and Erik said...

eeek! $13 for three bars of chocolate? Sounds like you're in need of a chocolate care package!

I was just asking hubs last night what we will do when our grocery store in Canada doesn't have a whole chocolate aisle. Or a wine section. Can you tell I'm pushing to stay in Paris? :)

Your torte sounds delicious, and I have been enjoying vegan week and I think your veggie lentil rolls will be making an appearance around here sometime soon.

Marlene said...

Congratulations on a successful vegan week. The 2 lbs and 2" lost are a nice bonus!!

I'm not nearly adventurous (or skilled, or patient!) enough to try most of your recipes, but I'm definitely tempted by a few...

Mmmm.... I could go for some dark chocolate right about now. DH is in England and I asked him to bring back some dark. Well, he has looked everywhere and all he can find is milk chocolate. I guess the Brits aren't fans of dark..? :(

Maybe he can scoot over to France on the way home...

Anonymous said...

Your tart looks tasty what with all that lovely chocolate plus the hazelnut crust. I love this event, I get to learn of other chocolate brands that i have never heard of.

Brilynn said...

The brulee top is genius!

Anonymous said...

Okay, you know you're obsessed with this blog when you start dreaming about it. last night, I dreamt I was at Giada de Laurentiis' place (the chica from
Everyday Italian - I was at a dinner party there or something). Anyhow, in my dream, she had this giant space in her house that looked like the basement at
Harrods (where all the foodstuffs are). And there I was, rummaging around for 76% chocolate! Ack. Ack. I am becoming a foodie! Alas, i didn't find the
chocolate in my dream. Let's hope my luck is better in real-life Toronto. :) - Lesley

Anonymous said...

Looks amazing, I can't wait to try this myself! A bit of an aside, though: white sugar isn't vegan.

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

anonymous - I know that regular white sugar isn't vegan. In all the research I did, I found that there were many different levels of vegans....sugar seems to be something where feelings are a bit mixed, with the more hard-core vegans nixing it, and the less hard-core just minimizing their consuption.

It would be easy enough to find raw cane sugar and substitute it in this recipe. I didn't buy any as I'd already spent a small fortune on my vegan week experiment, but for those who wanted to, there are alternatives out there that are considered perfectly vegan.

As I've said - it's complicated!!!!!

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