This intensely chocolate, moist torte is delicious served with a dollop of fresh whipped cream flavored with a teaspoon of brandy. Torte may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
1 1/2 cups chopped Medjool dates (each cut into 6 pieces), about 9 ounces
1 cup dried tart cherries
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
Garnish: confectioners sugar
Garnish: brandied whipped cream
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Combine dates, cherries, and baking soda in a heatproof mixing bowl. Pour in boiling water and stir in brandy. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt.
Beat together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until just combined. Beat in vanilla and zest.
Add half of flour mixture and beat at low speed until just combined.
Add date mixture with liquid and beat at low speed until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in chocolate and pecans.
Pour batter into a generously buttered 9 inch springform pan, smoothing top.
Bake in middle of oven until center is slightly rounded and top of torte is cracked (edges will be dark brown), about 55 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow torte stand 5 minutes in pan on a rack. Run a sharp small knife around side of pan to loosen, then remove side. Cool torte on rack.
Just before serving, dust the torte with confectioners sugar and serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream flavored with a little brandy.
YIELD: 6 to 10 servings.
SOURCE: Adapted from recipe published in Gourmet, December 2000