Peanuts are very country, very old-fashioned, and very American. I love them, especially with chocolate. This torte – a cross between a brownie and a chocolate cake – is topped with a crème brûlée-style crackled sugar crust. It is wonderfully decadent. The ground peanuts and peanut flour give the chocolate a warmth and nuttiness that is at once alluring, comforting and delicious. It is an “almost” flourless chocolate cake because I include a slice of days-old bread in the batter. This addition can easily be eliminated for those with gluten sensitivities. You can vary the cake by using almonds or walnuts in place of the peanuts if you prefer, but we like peanuts and that certain bit of country charm they seem to bring to the table, even though the cake looks as chic as can be.
- 150 gm roasted salted peanuts
- 60 gm chocolate (70-80% cacao), grated
- 160 ml cold water
- 11 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2.5 tbsp dark-roasted peanut flour
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 slice 2- to 3-day-old bread (or 1 fresh slice toasted in a warm oven until dry but not browned)
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp white sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C/gas 3. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with 1 tablespoon butter. Place the pan on top of a sheet of baking paper and trace a circle around the pan, cut it out, and place the paper circle in the bottom of the pan to grease the underside. Flip the paper circle over and press it into place. Set aside.
- Place the bread in a food processor and pulse until it forms medium-coarse crumbs. Add the peanuts and peanut flour, and pulse until the texture is like rough sand (don’t overprocess or it will become peanut butter).
- Use a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or, if using a hand mixer, a large bowl and cream the remaining 10 tablespoons of butter until it is fluffy and pale. Follow this with the brown sugar and cream and mix until pale.
- Next add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
- Tip in the vanilla bean paste (or extract), reduce the speed to low, and add the peanut mixture.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with 3 tablespoons of white sugar until the whites form stiff peaks.
- Fold the whipped whites into the batter in 3 additions, adding the grated chocolate along with the last addition, folding until just a few streaks of white remain.
- Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour until the sides pull away from the edges of the pan and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes before releasing the latch and lifting the side of the pan away from the bottom. Cool completely before inverting the cake onto a large flat plate, cutting board, or baking sheet, lifting off the pan bottom and peeling away the baking paper circle. Reinvert the cake onto a cake plate or platter.
- Place the remaining sugar and 160 ml cold water into a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then let the sugar simmer, swirling the pan occasionally, until the liquid becomes an amber-colour caramel. This will take 15 to 17 minutes.
- Remove from the heat immediately and, using an offset spatula, pour and spread the caramel syrup over the top of the cake. Cool the cake and then slice and serve at room temperature.