High Country Baking: How to make a rich and satisfying chocolate cloud torte
High Country Baking
High elevation makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
File this under “Little Effort-Big Results.” It’s rich and satisfying, with a texture so light it almost melts on the tongue and looks that make it dinner-party worthy, yet it takes only 20 minutes of active time and is close to a no-brainer to make. Serve it year-round, topping it with chocolate ganache in the winter and berries and a berry sauce in warmer weather. It’s a keeper, no doubt about it.
Be sure to select high-quality chocolate, preferably 50-60 percent cacao. The taste depends on it. While I usually use a baking spray to grease the pan when baking, I prefer butter for this recipe.
Chocolate Cloud Torte
Make in an 8 ½-inch springform pan
20 Oreo cookies
3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing pan
1 ½ cups cold heavy whipping cream, divided
1 teaspoon espresso powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Open your springform pan, flip over the bottom so the lip faces down and lock it in place. This makes cutting and serving the cake easier. Generously grease the pan with butter.
Put the beaters for your electric mixer and a glass or metal mixing bowl in the freezer or fridge to chill. Beating the whipped cream to stiff peaks is faster if done in a cold bowl with cold utensils.
2. Make the crust. Crush the cookies (including the white filling) into small crumbs. This is most easily done in a food processor. If you lack one, place them in a sealable plastic bag and whack them with a rolling pin or pan bottom. Place the cookie crumbs in a bowl. Melt the butter and add the smaller amount (3 tablespoons) to the cookies.
Stir/toss until the cookies absorb all of the butter. Let them rest a minute or two to further absorb the butter, and then squeeze a tablespoon or so between your fingers. If the mixture holds together without crumbling and breaking apart, you’ve added enough butter. If it doesn’t, add a little more, one teaspoon at a time, until it does. Too much butter will make the crust rock hard and difficult to cut, so add it judiciously.
Press the mixture into the prepared pan, smoothing and leveling it as you go (pressing through a piece of plastic wrap keeps your hands clean). Bake until the crust is set and aromatic, about nine to 12 minutes. Cool completely.
3. Make the filling. Pour ½ cup of the heavy cream (return the rest to the fridge) into a medium-size microwavable mixing bowl, stir in the espresso powder and salt, and microwave at a high temperature until the cream is almost boiling. This can also be done on the stovetop in a saucepan. Remove it from the oven (heat, if using stovetop), add the chopped chocolate, submerging all of it in the liquid, and set aside for two to three minutes. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny.
If there is any unmelted chocolate, return the bowl to the microwave/stovetop and zap/heat at a low temperature until it melts and stir again. Set aside to cool completely. Stir in the vanilla extract.
4. Take the chilled bowl and beaters from the fridge, add the remaining 1 cup of cold cream to the bowl and whip the cream to stiff peaks with the cold beaters and electric mixer. Gently fold in the chocolate mixture in three additions; try not to deflate the whipped cream as you do so. Scrape it into the prepared crust and level and smooth the top. Tap the pan on a counter several times to dislodge any air bubbles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the filling is firm, at least three hours and up to overnight.
Carefully run a knife or offset spatula around the pan edges, pressing toward the pan and not the filling. Remove the pan sides and smooth the edges of the filling if necessary.
5. Make the topping, if using. Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a small bowl. Heat the cream (in a microwave or on a stovetop) until close to boiling and add it to the chocolate, submerging it completely. Let the mixture rest so the chocolate melts. Stir until smooth and shiny.
If any of the chocolate isn’t fully melted, heat the mixture at a low temperature, stirring often, until it is. Let the mixture cool and thicken slightly, and then drizzle it decoratively over the filling. Refrigerate, covered, until the chocolate sets and up to two days before serving. Slice it with a thin, sharp-bladed knife dipped in warm water and dried between cuts.
It’s good right out of the fridge for a dense, fudgy texture and at room temperature when the texture is lighter and mousse-like.
Vera Dawson is a high-altitude baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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