Category Archives: Dobos Torte

Making Dobos Torte II: Frosting and Decorating

Ooh…ahh…are the kinds of noises people make when this torte arrives at the table. It’s a show-stopper of a presentation, particularly good for people like myself who are terrible at piping. And while those caramel-topped “fan blades” may look difficult to produce, they really aren’t provided you have an offset icing spatula, a chef’s knife and a little buttered parchment paper. But we’ll get to that.

Start with the icing. It’s a simple melt-and-stir affair, though I’ll warn you that in true old-school Hungarian style it contains raw egg yolks. Given how intensely sweet the layers are, and that microbes aren’t known for their ability to grow in sweet and fatty icings, I’d say the odds of cultivating a food borne hazard are remote. However I’m not a food safety scientist, so use your best judgement. If you live in North America you might want to seek out some pasteurized yolks, or just use ganache to frost the torte instead. Put the chocolate into a bowl and zap on high in the microwave for ten seconds. Stir and zap again for another 10.

Continue on in this way until the chips are almost completely melted. Use the residual heat to melt the chocolate the rest of the way. The chocolate should be close to room temperature when you’re finished. Set it aside and allow it to cool while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

Put the soft butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle (beater). You can do this by hand if you wish.

Beat the butter for about a minute until it’s quite soft, then add the yolks and the vanilla.

Beat until incorporated, then add the powdered sugar and the melted chocolate.

Beat until the mixture is uniform and fluffy, scraping once or twice.

Apply a small dab to a cake circle or a platter.

Lay on your first layer (pressing down lightly so it sticks).

Then carry on applying very thin applications of frosting (mere scrapings if you have ten or more layers)…

…until you’ve used all but one of your layers.

Spread the rest of the chocolate mixture over the cake.

Don’t forget those sides…it need not be perfect since everyone’s going to be looking at the top!

Speaking of which…lay your thinnest layer on a piece of parchment paper, and apply a little melted butter around the edge with your finger (butter under the layer’s edge as well).

Swirl the sugar and water in the a small saucepan over high heat until it turns amber (for more on making caramel, see this post on making caramel and caramel sauce.) Pour the caramel over the layer and quicky — but carefully — spread it over the layer. If you make a mess, don’t worry about it, just be careful not to touch that caramel with your bare hands because it’s really, really hot.

Here I should point out that the caramel pictured just below is too dark. I’d already made the caramel top pictured above when I took these photos, and was experimenting with a bit more cooking. The problem is that while a darker caramel has a richer taste, it turns out rather gooey due to all the molecular flotsam and jetsam it contains. So when it comes time for the cutting the caramels sticks, even to a buttered knife. So cook your caramel, yes, but only to a medium amber.

Once the caramel is spread, count to ten (to allow the caramel to harden a little), pick up your chef’s knife and begin to cut it. Cut the top in half, then crosswise into quarters, crosswise into eighths, and finally sixteenths. As the wedges cool, continue to apply the knife or a pizza cutter along the scores, making sure the pieces separate.

To finish, apply a hazelnut to the top about an inch and a half from the edge.

Lean one of the wedges onto it at about a 30-degree angle.

Continue on all the way around until you’ve used all — or virtually all — of the pieces. I find I usually use fifteen instead of sixteen, as I like the snack. Also, the top looks crowded to me when I use every last piece.

Call me crazy, it’s my own little idiosyncrasy (of which I have many). Serve this torte chilled.

Filed under:  Dobos Torte, Pastry | 9 Comments

Making Dobos Torte I: Layers

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!

Filed under:  Dobos Torte, Pastry | 36 Comments

Dobos Torte Recipe

Of all the recipes I’ve found for Dobos Torte (and there are a lot of them out there), this one from Maida Heatter is the one that strikes me as the best blend of original intent and modern taste. For more rationale on that, see this week’s posts. For now suffice to say I think it’s a winner, even though it doesn’t include the caramel top (I plan on adding that, just because I think it’s nifty — sorry Maida!).

For the cake:

7 eggs, separated
3 egg yolks
1 pound (3 1/2) cups confectioners’ sugar
4 ounces (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the filling and frosting:

10.5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
10.5 ounces (2 sticks, 5 tablespoons) butter
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

For the caramel layer:

5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
16-20 peeled hazelnuts

Start by cutting seven pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper, each about 11 inches square. Using a cardboard cake circle, pan lid or plate that’s 9 inches across, draw circles in the middle of the squares. Flip the sheets over, grease the area of the circle plus about another half inch all the way around for safety. Lay the parchment pieces out and sift powdered sugar over them. Tilt the sheets to get the excess off, and set them aside. (See, I told you this was going to take a lot of counter space).

Set a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 450. Sift the flour and salt together. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the 10 egg yolks on high for a few minutes until they’re pale and lemon-colored. Reduce speed and gradually add the powdered sugar. Increase the speed to high again and beat for 5 minutes or until very thick. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the flour. Scrape the bowl, then once again increase the speed to high and beat for 5 minutes more, scraping once or twice. Stir in the lemon juice and remove the mixture to another bowl.

Clean the bowl and the beater. With the whisk attachment, whip the seven whites with the salt to the stiff peak stage. Stir a few spoonfuls of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest of the whites.

To bake, place two or three spoonfuls of the batter on each sheet, spreading the batter very thin with an icing spatula or the back of a spoon. Slowly rotate the sheet with one hand as you spread, being careful not to leave any holes. Using the edge of the counter, slip the sheets onto a cookie sheet and bake 5 to 7 minutes (or longer) until the layers are golden brown with dark brown spots. Remove the finished layers from the oven and, holding the corners of the sheets, invert them onto a rack. Peel off the paper and immediately invert the layer onto another rack or towel that’s been dusted with powdered sugar (otherwise the tops of the finished layers will stick to the rack). The fully cooled layers can be stored in a stack, provided they’re separated by sheets of powdered sugar-dusted wax paper. Trim the edges of each one up with a pizza cutter, using your original form (a cake circle or plate) as a guide.

For the filling/icing, chop the chocolate and melt it in the microwave using as many 10-second bursts of high heat as are needed (stir between each). Allow it to cool completely, though not to the point that it re-firms, obvioulsy. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the beater (paddle), cream the butter. Add the vanilla and egg yolks and beat well. Next add the sugar and the cooled chocolate and beat it all until thoroughly mixed (don’t forget to scrape!).

To assemble, choose a cake platter or build the cake on a cardboard cake circle. If you’re using a platter, lay down thin strips of parchment paper in a box roughly 9 inches square. These will serve as your drop cloth. Put a layer down on the plate and spread on a very thin layer of filling. Add another layer, making sure it’s placed in line with the one under it. Add another layer of filling. Continue on in this way until you’ve used all the layers, save one, if you’re planning on doing the caramel top. Otherwise spread the last of the filling over the outside of the torte.

For the caramel top, place the last cake layer on a sheet of parchment paper that’s been lightly greased with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Combine the caramel and water in a small pan and swirl over high heat until it turns amber. Very carefully, pour the caramel over the cake layer and promptly spread it with an icing spatula. Spread it right over the edges of the cake layer (you won’t use all of it). Again, quickly but carefully, cut all the way around the edge with a pizza cutter to make the caramel layer circular. Then, using a large chef’s knife, cut the cake layer into wedges (cutting across in half, then across into quarter, across into eighths and finally to sixteenths). Let cool completely.

To finish, arrange the caramel/cake wedges on the top of the cake, tipping the edge of each one up and propping it with a hazelnut to create a fan blade-type effect. Refrigerate the cake for at least several hours prior to serving to firm the icing. It will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Filed under:  Dobos Torte, Pastry | 28 Comments