Tangerine, walnut and dark chocolate flourless torta

The clementines you find in winter in Italy are nothing short of extraordinary. Last year when I was travelling, staying in Air BnB apartments and researching my cookbook Italian Street Food, I would always buy a bag of clementines to keep in the apartment to eat for breakfast. As I was tasting inordinate amounts of street food during the day, the only thing I could face first thing in the morning was fruit. Luckily clementines were everywhere: market vendors piling them in pyramids of colour, intensely orange and leafy green. And their taste – a cross between the sweetest orange and the most fragrant mandarin.

clementine-italy on my mind

The closest I have found to clementines in Australia were fruit that were gifted to me a few weeks ago by friends Prue and Karen, who run the boutique winery Virago. Their property is in the often foggy hills that surround Beechworth in Northeast Victoria and the only grape they grow and wine that they produce is Nebbiolo (and it is an extraordinary wine – dark, earthy and cherry-like). The day we visited the property, Prue asked if we wanted to take home some of the fruit growing by the pool. The trees were laden and she wasn’t quite sure what they were but thought they might be a hybrid tangerine/mandarin. So she picked about a dozen small fruit – then I asked for more, and she doubled that, I tasted one….and then she added more until she could carry no more. The fruit, which I believe is more akin to a tangerine than a mandarin, was firm, tangy and sweet. It reminded me of the seedless clementines I had eaten in Italy. The membranes between the segments were hardly there at all. I could have eaten half a dozen on the spot.

flourless torta-tangerine walnut-italy on my mind

tangerines on table-italy on my mind

Once we arrived back home, I laid out the fruit on my dining table, together with the other seasonal produce I had brought home from our weekend away: walnuts from the Wangaratta Farmer’s Market, Tolpuddle cheese chevre and nettles from the Jacka’s farm, and a rather large bottle of Hurdle’s Creek gin, considering what I might make with all this produce (gin aside). The wintery combination of tangerines and walnuts seemed destined for a cake. Adapting a couple of recipes from my blog archives (flourless orange cake and pear and dark chocolate cake recipes) I made a tangerine, walnut and dark chocolate torta – flourless, moist and simply delicious. The occasional shards of hardened dark chocolate in the cake brought out the sweet tangy citrus even more. I decorated the torta with candied tangerine segments and walnuts – very festive and wintery. It would make a lovely late December cake in the Northern hemisphere – when citrus and walnuts are in season- or just the thing to have in July in the Southern world. You could accompany the torta with some creme fraiche or mascarpone, but I think it is perfect just as it is, with a coffee mid-afternoon (or a sneaky glass of vin santo).

hands on tangerine walnut choc flourless cake-italy on my mind

tangerine, walnut and dark chocolate flourless torta

the torta:
4-5 small tangerines or mandarins (you will need 375g cooked pulp)
250g shelled walnuts, finely ground
200g raw caster sugar
125 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped into smallish shards
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
5 large eggs

decoration (candied tangerine and walnuts):
2 small tangerines, peeled and segmented
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
7 or 8 walnuts, shelled and broken into halves

Bring a small pot filled with water to the boil and carefully drop in 4 or 5 washed, unpeeled, whole tangerines. How many you will need depends on their size. Cover and simmer for an hour. Drain, allow to cool, roughly chop and add them to a food processor, removing any pips. Process until you obtain a smooth pulp. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm diameter tin with a removable base. Beat the eggs with the sugar until well combined and fluffy. Add the fruit puree and continue beating until the mixture is homogeneous. Place the chocolate, walnut meal, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and lightly whisk until homogenous. Fold the dry ingredients a third at a time through the wet ingredients until incorporated. Place the cake mixture in the tin and bake for 65-75 minutes until the cake is golden on top and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the candied tangerine and walnuts. Make sure you remove all the white pith from the citrus segments. Place the sugar and water in a small frying pan that will fit all the segments in a single layer on medium heat. When the sugar has dissolved, add the citrus segments, reduce the heat and allow them to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by half and is thick and syrupy (about 12 minutes). Carefully remove the hot segments with tongs and place them on a sheet of baking paper. Add the walnut pieces to the sugar syrup and continue to cook for a few more minutes, tossing the nuts to make sure they are well covered with the syrup. Remove the nut pieces with tongs and place onto baking paper until ready to use.

Decorate the cooked cake with candied tangerine and walnut segments. Serve when completely cool. This torta keeps for a couple of days, covered in the fridge.

foodgawker-tangerine flourless cake-walnuts chocolate-italy on my mind

 

21 Comments

  • Francesca says:

    A lovely version of a flourless orange cake. I like the sound of combining walnuts with tangerine or mandarins and shall definately pop this recipe in my to try list. The North east of Victoria is a source of great food and wine, especially the wines of the King Valley.

  • Talitha says:

    Yum, I’m going to make this today! Do you cook the whole clementine including skin to make the pulp??

  • Such a pretty cake and I love the flavour combination!

  • I love the combination of tangerine and dark chocolate! It is one of my weakness. Waiting on this fruit to totally ripen on my parent tree and will definitely make it. Thank you for sharing this combination Paola. X

  • thalia says:

    love this cake, and i adore the photos! really wishing for a slice right now Xx

  • Yum! Orange and chocolate go so well together!

  • pblevitt says:

    This cake is on my to bake list once the season arrives!

  • David says:

    Paola – this is so beautiful and I can only imagine the taste. When we rented a grape harvster’s cottage above Vernazza, there was a tree laden with mandarini, and we tool full advantage of the sweet and luscious fruit. If only I had the cake recipe then!

    • Thank you David – I love the idea of renting a grape harvester’s cottage near Vernazza – the views would have been incredible as well as all that luscious Ligurian fruit. Perfection!

  • Cori says:

    The recipe inspired me! Going out to dinner, I had a reason to make it – but not the ingredients. Our little local (country) store is not wonderful, and didn’t feel inclined to make the trip in any case. What else to do but adapt. So, in place of tangerines, blood oranges from our tree. Sadly they don’t get the colour, but they do taste good. Half almond meal, half flour in place of walnut meal. Only chocolate in the house had coffee flavour. Orange segments didn’t look right for candying, substitute blood orange slice with skin. No walnuts, substitute pecans from our first harvest. And it was excellent! Next adaptation will be mini pudding shapes for our Christmas in July. May try steaming them. Chocolate sauce sounds like a good addition – and I will make sure I have walnut meal.

  • ciaochowlinda says:

    How lucky you are to have a generous friend with a citrus tree. They are beautiful and so is the cake!

    • thank you Linda – I wish she did not live so far away though – I ran out of that huge supply she gave me so quickly (I couldn’t help myself they were so delicious)

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