Friday, April 3, 2009


Saturday night, my husband and I dined for the first time at a restaurant that specializes in central and eastern European cuisine. The place is charming, all tin ceiling, antique fixtures, and framed sheet music. On Saturday evenings, the restaurant features a pianist, so we were treated to Beethoven sonatas galore as we dined. At the end of our meal, I ordered a slice of Sachertorte, a recipe I have often read but never sampled. Here is a version of the famous dessert. I can't claim authenticity (the original recipe, from the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, is a closely-guarded secret); this is just one of many variations you'll find out and about in search of chocolate bliss.

From The Joy of Cooking, including the charming legend of Frau Sacher (I can't claim authenticity for the story, either).


Makes one 9-inch cake

Frau Sacher, one of the great personalities of Vienna, fed the impoverished Austrian nobility in her famous restaurant long after they had ceased to pay. Today she is remembered throughout the world for her chocolate torte, for which endless recipes, all claiming authenticity, abound. We make no claims but think the following delicious. The extra egg white makes a lighter cake.

Have all ingredients at room temperature, about 70°F. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan or line with wax or parchment paper.


6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

Beat in a large bowl at medium-high speed until light and creamy about 3 minutes:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Beat in one at a time:

6 large egg yolks

Add the grated chocolate and:

3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds
1/4 teaspoons salt

Using clean beaters, beat in a large bowl at medium-high speed until stiff but not dry:

6 or 7 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Fold one-quarter of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. Scrape the batter into the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack. Remove the sides of the pan and slice the torte horizontally into 2 layers. Should the top be mounded, reverse the layers so the finished cake has a flat top. Spread between the layers:

1 cup apricot jam or preserves

Cover the cake with:

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze, below

which should retain its glossy sheen. For a really Viennese effect, garnish each slice with a great gob of Schlag, or whipped cream.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze or Frosting

About 1 cup

A very sophisticated glaze or frosting to use on rich chocolate or nut tortes. For an even more bittersweet effect, substitute 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate for 1 ounce of the bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.

Heat in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave on medium, stirring often, just until the chocolate is melted and smooth:

6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/ 3 cup water, coffee, or milk
pinch of salt

Remove from the heat. With a rubber spatula, stir in 2 or 3 pieces at a time:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Continue to stir -- do not beat -- until perfectly smooth.

Optional: Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons liqueur

For a pourable glaze, let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until the mixture cools to 90°F. For frosting, let stand until spreadable. If the frosting becomes too stiff, set the pan in a larger pan of hot water and stir gently with a rubber spatula; or remelt and then cool to 90°F for use as a glaze. This keeps for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 3 weeks refrigerated.


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