Dark Chocolate and Sweet Chestnut Torte
Sweet chestnuts provide the starch in this flourless, velvet-textured torte. More of a dessert than a cake, it’s intensely chocolatey, wonderful cut into slender slices and served with whipped cream.
- 400g fresh sweet chestnuts
- 250ml milk
- 250g unsalted butter
- 250g good quality dark chocolate
- 4 eggs, separated
- 125g caster sugar
- ½ tablespoon icing sugar, to dust
- First, prepare the sweet chestnuts. Using a strong, sharp knife, cut a slash in the skins of the nuts right around their middles. Put the chestnuts in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the skins start to split open.
- Turn the heat under the pan to low, to keep the nuts hot as you work. With a slotted spoon, lift out one chestnut at a time and, using a tea towel or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat, quickly peel off the skin. With any luck, the inner, fibrous husk will come away with the outer shell, but if any of it remains on the chestnut you should be able to scrape it off with the back of a knife. If not, return the chestnut to the pan for a few minutes and try again. When all the chestnuts are peeled, return them to the rinsed-out pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife.
- Drain the chestnuts, and put 250g of them back into the rinsed-out pan (the leftover nuts can be used in a number of ways – see below – or frozen for another time). Cover the chestnuts with the milk and bring up to the boil. Simmer for one minute, then blitz the milk and chestnuts to a smooth purée using a hand-held blender (or transfer to a regular blender or processor).
- Preheat the oven to 170˚C and set a large heatproof basin over a pan of just-simmering water. Cut the butter into pieces and add it to the basin. As it begins to melt, use a pastry brush to lightly butter a 23cm springform cake tin before lining the base and sides with baking parchment.
- Now break up the chocolate, add it to the butter and let them melt together, stirring now and then to combine. Meanwhile, beat the sugar into the egg yolks until pale and smooth. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
Combine the chestnut mixture, melted chocolate, and the yolk and sugar mixture, stirring well until evenly mixed. Gently fold in a spoonful of the beaten egg whites to slacken the mixture, then add the remainder of the egg whites, folding carefully until smooth and evenly combined.
- Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 35–40 minutes, until the top of the torte is just set but there is a still a slight tremble when you tap the cake tin. Cool the torte in the tin on a cooling rack and when cold transfer it to the fridge to firm up.
- Dust the torte with icing sugar and serve with whipped cream on the side.
It’s hard to know exactly what the yield will be from a harvest of chestnuts: after peeling, you may find that some are shrivelled, rotten or mouldy and need to be discarded. For this recipe, where the quantity used needs to be precise to ensure the cake will work properly, we recommend you double the weight of peeled chestnuts required when measuring out the whole chestnuts. You’ll have some leftover chestnuts, but they can be used in many ways: in stuffings, crumbled into pasta, in a tasty winter salad or to make a warming soup. Cooked chestnuts also freeze well.
Recipe by Wild Food UK; photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK