Monday, April 21, 2008

Walnut Torte with Dark Rum Syrup

This is one of the recipes in the Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey book that I knew I had to make -- in fact, this was probably the primary reason why I bought the book in the first place. So why, oh why, has it taken me 3 weeks to make this cake? No idea really... I know I wanted to make it last week but I was out of walnuts, but I finally remedied that problem on Saturday and now the time has come...

First -- when you beat the egg whites to stiff peaks they pretty much look and taste like marshmallow fluff. There's nothing wrong with marshmallow fluff of course, and really, I suppose it's not surprising that they turned out like that, but it did surprise me a bit before I really thought it through. (egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar...)

Secondly -- 10 minutes to bring the syrup to a thick maple syrup consistency? Not in my kitchen. I simmered for at least 20 minutes, and probably much closer to 25 before I got even close to a thick maple syrup consistency, but even then I probably could have gone longer. But of course this is why I bake and don't cook, because left to my own devices I would have pulled the syrup off the stove after 10 minutes since that's what the recipe said. But Chris was there to help me out and he insisted that it wasn't done yet, and he stuck around to help me keep checking it for the right consistency. So, thanks to Chris, it's probably a lot closer than it would have been if I pulled it off after 10 minutes.

The other thing about the syrup is that there was a lot of it. A whole lot of it. I considered not pouring all of it onto the cake, but I kept telling myself that this was a Greek recipe and the Greeks made baklava which meant they probably wanted all the super sweet rum syrup on the cake. And boy, am I glad I talked myself into putting it all onto the cake. Yum.

Yes the cake is super sweet, but it is so very good. The top is slightly crispy/cracky, while the bottom is soaked in the rich, sweet syrup and all throughout the cake is lots and lots of crunchy walnuts. For someone like me who loves texture and flavor, this cake is a dream come true. I'm also really glad I resisted the urge to use the food processor on the walnuts -- sure, it would have been much quicker, but chopping by hand put a lot of textural differences into the cake, which is just the sort of thing I love.

My only warning is that if you make this cake, use a rum that you like the flavor of because you will taste it. If you don't like rum, or you use a generic, cheap brand, the cake will probably taste awful, and that would be a crying shame. I used Pyrat Reserve which has been aged 7 years -- which is my go-to baking (and sipping) rum. Oh, and I suppose I should warn you that you'll be a sticky mess cutting into the cake, but then again, that's the name of the book I pulled the recipe from. :)

3 cups very finely chopped walnuts, toasted (the book wants them chopped first, then toasted -- I did mine for 2 minutes, stirred, then toasted 2 more minutes for a very light toast since I really dislike the flavor of over-toasted nuts)
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
6 large eggs, separated, and at room temp
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of cream of tarter

For the Rum Syrup:
1 3/4 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 or 3 tbsps dark rum

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, stir together the walnuts, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Place the egg yolk in a bowl and the whites in a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Whisk the egg yolks, gradually adding 1/2 cup of the sugar a little at a time. Keep whisking until the sugar is incorporated, the yolks are thick and creamy, and the sugar is dissolved and not gritty. Whisk in the vanilla. Fold the walnut mixture into the beaten egg yolks. The mixture will be very thick. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer set at low speed, beat the egg whites and cream of tarter together until frothy. Increase the speed to medium and beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Increase the mixer speed to high and add the remaining 1 cup sugar to the egg whites, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat just until all the sugar is incorporated and the whites form stiff, glossy peaks.

Add a large dollop of the egg whites to the walnut mixture and fold in to loosen and lighten the batter. Carefully fold the remaining egg whites into the batter, taking care not to deflate them. Fold just until the egg whites are fully incorporated into the walnut batter and only a trace of white streaks remain.

Lightly grease a 10-inch round springform pan or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the back of a spatula. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the torte comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

While the torte is baking, make the syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the mixture is the consistency of thick maple syrup (the book says 10 minutes, but mine went at least 20 and still wasn't all that thick...). Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Let the syrup cool slightly until it is just warm.

Transfer the torte to a wire rack. Pierce the torte in the pan all over with a wooden skewer and slowly pour the warm syrup over the torte while it, too, is still warm. Let the torte cool completely while the syrup soaks all the way through it. When the cake is completely cool, it can be covered with plastic wrap while still in the pan and chilled until ready to serve. If you like, it can also be served at room temp. To remove the torte from the pan, run a thin spatula or knife around the edge of the torte to loosen it before removing the sides of the pan. Leave the torte on the base of the springform pan, as it will be too delicate and syrupy to successfully transfer it to another plate without tearing.


burkie said...

i sooooo hope i get some of this!

kimberleyblue said...

WOW - looks amazing! It's gotta go on my to-bake list!

Grace said...

this does sound reminiscent of baklava, which means i'll love it.
also, i'm glad you've got a backseat chef there to keep you on your toes. :)

burkie said...

this was good, but oh so sweet. i actually like the walnut maple pie better, but then, i like pie better than cake :)