There’s a fussiness to Dobos torte layers that’s annoying to some, a delight to others. If you’re the type that enjoys a couple of hours alone in the kitchen, carefully applying batter to sheets of foil and baking and trimming each one to perfection, this job is for you. If not, well, may I suggest a nice pie this weekend?
For as I mentioned previously, one of the things that gives Dobos torte its unique flavor — apart from other chocolate cakes or tortes — is its high crust-to-crumb ratio. It’s all the caramelized sugar, you see. The more layers, the more pronounced the flavor becomes. Which is why, instead of making the normal six or seven layers, I’ll do ten or twelve if I can spread the batter that thin. Oh, call me crazy if you want. Just taste the torte. Plus the slices of finished torte look amazing.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Preheat your oven to 450. Begin by tearing off a piece of foil or parchment that’s at least ten inches wide. The shape doesn’t really matter, so long as your 9″ form fits on it. Why am I using foil? Because I only have a roll of parchment at home at the moment instead of the flat sheets, and rolled parchment likes to curl, and curling sheets will drive me crazy.
Lay down your plate, pot lid or cardboard cake circle and trace a circle with a pen or pencil (it doesn’t matter which, since you’ll turn the sheet over to apply the batter.
In the case of foil, the pencil leaves an impression you can see on the other side. With parchment, the line will show through.
Turn the sheet over and lightly butter the area, buttering outside the line by half an inch or so.
Sprinkle on some powdered sugar…
…and tap off the excess so you have only a film of sugar left. Do this seven-to-twelves times. See what I mean about needing counter space? Actually, once they’re sugared the sheets can be lightly stacked.
Now for the batter, which is a little adventure of its own (no wonder none of Dobos’ competitors could crack the formula — who would ever think to make a batter this way?). Start by sifting the flour and salt together and setting it aside. Put your room-temperature egg yolks in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle.
Beat them on high for a few minutes until they’re light in color and slightly bubbly. Turn the mixer down to low and add the sugar.
Turn the mixer back up to medium-high and beat for about five minutes until the mixture is light and voluminous and falls in a thick ribbon off the beater, about like so:
Lovely right? Enjoy it while you can because you’re about to ruin it. Scrape the bowl.
With the mixer on lower, add in the flour. Once it’s incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat the mixture for another 3-5 minutes.
The result will alarm and sadden you, because suddenly your silky batter will take on the texture of wood putty.
Think I’m kidding?
Oh sure, you can add in your lemon juice at this point, hoping it will save you, but it won’t. Stir it on low, you’ll see.
At this point you’re falling into despair because you have no idea how on earth you’re supposed to incorporate whipped egg whites into window caulk. You whip up your whites to stiff ( but not dry) peaks, wondering all the while if it’s not too late to make a nice easy pound cake instead.
Just for laughs, so you can say you did, you try to stir about three heaping spoonfuls of egg white into the putty.
Puh. What a cruel joke! You stir for about three minutes…
…until…miraculously…the batter starts to loosen to the point that you can actually start folding the rest of the whites in about a third at a go.
Who knew this stuff was cement five minutes ago? (Don’t feel like you have to incorporate every last bit of foam).
Now for the battering and baking. Keep in mind that I like very thin layers. The method below yields between 10 and twelve of them, but you can go thicker if you prefer. You want to apply three heaping spoonfuls of batter to a sheet (use six if you want only six or seven layers). The extra-yellow color his is a trick of the light.
Now for the spreading. It’s not a tricky job, really. You just apply an offset icing spatula, gently scrape the batter toward the outer edge of the circle. Again you want to go a little outside the lines.
As you do this you want to slowly rotate the sheet with the other hand. Where is my other hand? Taking pictures, but I’ve rotated the sheet 90 degrees since the last frame.
The result won’t be perfect, but it doesn’t need to be.
Slip the foil onto the back of a sheet pan, and the foil sheet onto a waiting rack (or pizza stone, even better) in the oven. You can put the whole pan in if you don’t feel comfortable with all the sliding. Set the timer for 4 minutes.
At the end of that time you’ll have something that looks about like this. Very nice. Now let it sit there for a couple of minutes (you can prepare another layer at this point, as a productive use of your time).
Now then, everyone who tries to get a Dobos layer to let go for the first time has the same initial reaction: it won’t release! It won’t release! Take a deep breath: it will. Just start hunting around the edge of the layer for a spot that wants to come loose. There’s one:
Now gently follow the edge around, lightly prying the caramelized batter away from the foil. These layers are almost tuile-like if you’ve made those before.
Use the other hand to gently hold the layer down and keep it from tearing…
…and before you know it, you’re done!
Now for the trim. Gently lay your original template down on top and trim around the layer with a pizza cutter. If it’s heavy, you’ll want to apply a little powdered sugar to the board and the template to keep the layer from sticking to either surface.
Once that’s done, dust a little powdered sugar on a paper towel…
…lay down the layer…
…lightly dust it as well…
…and put down another layer of paper towel.
And continue! I got eleven layers using this method. Allow them all to cool completely before you assemble the torte. You can assemble immediately or later. If you’re going to wait more than an hour or so, put the stack in a garbage bag to prevent the layers from drying out. They can also be frozen for up to a few weeks.
Seem a little involved? It is, but once you get your system down you’ll spread, bake, trim and stack like a machine. Have fun!