I was home alone tonight. Eugene went out with a few friends and though I was invited, I opted for the quiet evening at home. These solo nights are rare, and I looked forward to having a few hours to read and write and watch multiple episodes of Law & Order. I'd previously bought some salmon for tonight and decided to go ahead and make it anyway. Glazed with an easy miso dressing, broiled, and served on a bed of watercress, it made for a decadent solo dinner. But while incredibly tasty, I found myself with a creeping, but very distinctive craving: chocolate.
I went back and forth over my options. There was a bar of 70% chocolate in the fridge waiting to be attacked. Or I could go the virtuous route with a mug of hot, unsweetened chocolate-flavored almond milk. But I know myself, and I knew that neither of those choices would satisfy.
What I really wanted was something moist, with deep chocolate flavor. My mouth watered as seemingly every commercial on NBC showed peanut butter cups and those silky Dove squares. The crave was getting stronger and I knew that if I didn't act on it soon, I might end up doing something really naughty, like whipping up another German Chocolate Cake.
Luckily, I remembered the flourless chocolate hazelnut torte I first made last year. It's a low-carb treat that uses ground nuts instead of flour and Splenda instead of sugar, but which tastes deceptively sinful. A smaller version made in one of my mini springform pans, using ground almonds and a hint of orange zest seemed more and more like the only viable option.
Into the kitchen I went, haphazardly dumping everything into a bowl and mixing by hand. I didn't even bother to beat the eggs separately. I poured the batter into the tiny baking dish, and about 25 minutes or so later I had THE perfect little cake. It puffed up nicely, (almost like a souffle!) and the inside was simultaneously moist and light, with just a hint of molten filling at the very center. And the magical thing is that somewhere between the mixing and the baking, the orange and almonds combined to give the cake a practically ambrosial flavor.
This is the perfect cake when you're home alone, and it's easy enough that you won't feel guilty about making it just for yourself. If you have someone to share it with, well then, all the better! Add a dab of whipped cream and a handful of berries, and this just might make a perfect Valentine's Day dessert. I only finished about a third of the cake, but even if you do manage to get down to the crumbs, it's small enough that I won't allow you to feel guilty about (just look how tiny it looks next to my 8"--it's practically a muffin!).
Flourless Chocolate-Orange Almond Torte
Serves 2 (or 1, if you don't feel like sharing)
2/3 cup ground almond meal (you can also use hazelnut or pecans)
3 tablespoons good unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar or equivalent substitute (such as granulated Splenda)
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 medium eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablspoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1.Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 4" mini springform pan or ramekin
2. Combine the dry ingredients and the zest in a bowl, followed by the eggs, oil, water, and extracts. Stir until well combined.
3. Pour into your greased pan and place in the oven. The baking time will vary depending on your oven and the humidity in the environment. Start checking it about 25 minutes into baking. It will be ready when the batter is set and the cake puffs up and cracks slightly. (Avoid inserting a tester)
Once it's ready, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Remove the sides of the springform pan or serve right in the ramekin. Dust with confectioner's sugar or top with whipped cream to serve.