makes 1 x 25cm cake (12 – 16 slices)
to prepare the chestnuts
1250g chestnuts – peeled by microwave or dry roasting in the oven….click here for instructions 600g full cream milk 200g water 4 scraped out vanilla pods
Either place all of the ingredients in a heavy based saucepan and simmer very gently until the chestnuts are softened, or alternatively, put all of the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic and microwave on medium for thirty minutes.
Allow to cool slightly, remove the vanilla pods and working in four batches process the chestnuts and liquid until smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding.
for the torte
8 extra large eggs – 61g
50g + 2 tablespoons cake flour
80g fresh white bread without crusts
180g very soft unsalted butter
the seeds from 2 vanilla pods
150g +100g caster sugar
600g of the prepared chestnut mixture
Without cracking them, put the whole eggs into a bowl and cover them with the hottest water your tap provides. Process the 50g of flour and the bread until you have fine breadcrumbs. Tear off two sheets of baking paper just slightly larger than the tins, invert a tin over the top, and using a sharp knife cut out two disks of paper. Using some of the softened butter, carefully grease both tins, press a disk of paper into the bottom of each, then with the remaining flour, flour the tins and knock out any excess.
Pre heat the oven to 175°C
Put the butter and vanilla seeds into the bowl of an electric mixer, and whisk them until they are pale and voluminous. Add the150g caster sugar and continue whisking until it is dissolved. Drain the water from the eggs, and, reserving the whites, separate the yolks one at a time into the butter, making sure to mix each yolk in before continuing with the next.
Add the chestnut mixture, then the flour/bread. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks, add the remaining 100g of sugar a little at a time until completely incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the meringue into the other bowl. Divide the mixture between the tins and put them into the oven. Cook the torte layers for 25 minutes, or until the edges just start to shrink away from the tins.
Stand the layers on a rack to cool, run a knife carefully around the edges, but do not attempt to remove them from the tins until they are completely cold.
Pictured above the immature chestnut, with its prickly protective coat.
for the chestnut butter
5 extra large eggs
500g very soft unsalted butter
the seeds from 2 vanilla pods
350g sifted pure icing sugar
the remaining chestnut (1kg approx)
Without cracking them, put the whole eggs into a bowl and cover them with the hottest water your tap provides. Put the butter and vanilla seeds into the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk them until they are pale and voluminous. Drain the water from the eggs, and reserving the egg whites for another purpose, add the egg yolks one at a time, then the icing sugar and finally the prepared chestnut.
Place a dab of the chestnut butter in the centre of your cake plate, and without removing the paper, carefully invert one of the layers onto the plate, press it in position, the carefully remove the paper. Smooth a centimetre thick layer of the cream over the torte, then again without removing the paper until the layer is positioned, put the second layer on top. Thickly cover the sides and top of the torte and using a wide, large star nozzle, pipe the remaining butter decoratively onto the cake. And, for those of your who snigger at piping, this is a cake in the European tradition, and finishing it with less of a flourish would be a travesty of effort. Keep the torte in a cool place until ready to serve – do not refrigerate.
This torte is best made the previous day, though it’s probably best to hide it (from yourself)!
If you don’t have a microwave, you can roast them in a 200°C oven until they start to split open, cook them in water, or a mixture of water and milk until the skins are softened. Again they must be peeled whilst still hot. The microwave method is by far the best and you can usually, with care, get whole chestnuts from their skins.