One of the most celebratory and easy desserts I have ever made is the flourless chocolate torte. I have made some version of this for as long as I can remember. For many years, it consisted of a buttery pecan crust and plain dark chocolate (still a good version). But more recently, I have been making this version I’m sharing with you, utilizing piñon nuts for the crust and red chile combined with cream, butter and dark chocolate for the filling.

Every time I prepare this, it feels like this is how it always wanted to be — bold and decadent, with heat from red chile coming through. So warm, and a little surprising, I like to think of it as being tucked into bed after spending a long day in the New Mexico sunshine. I have met few desserts that end a meal so well.

There are a few reasons why this recipe is a staple. It can be made all year long, and a single torte can serve a party (up to 20 people!). In the spring, you could make the crust with almonds and serve with an apricot purée. I have served this too many times to count in the summer with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and any combination of berries macerated with vanilla, honey and a splash of bourbon. In the fall and winter, I love to serve this with caramel, and I’m increasingly delighted with how many good caramel sauces I have seen in grocery stores lately. You could make your own caramel, of course, but don’t let that stop you if you’re crunched for time.

One of my favorite combinations is caramel, raspberry coulis and a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream, which is pictured here. I went all out for the photo and used some dehydrated strawberries that I buzzed into a powder and sprinkled on the plate. But don’t be fooled by the fancy plating. A slice of this is perfection, even on its own.

Chocolate Torte with Piñon and Red Chile

Makes: 1 torte, 16-20 servings;

total time: 8 hours

For the crust:

2 cups piñon nuts

1/2 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

41/2 tablespoons melted butter

For the filling:

1/2 cup salted butter

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons New Mexico red chile powder (medium heat)

21/4 cups dark chocolate chips or chopped pieces

Preparation: First, make the crust. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You can use a 9-inch springform pan, a round pie dish or a square baking dish. The springform pan will allow the torte to separate completely from the pan for presentation purposes, but all will work. If using a springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the piñon nuts until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Pulse to combine. Transfer this mixture to the bottom of your pan or baking dish, and use a flat-bottomed cup to press until the crust is firmly distributed across the bottom evenly. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Now it’s time to make the filling. In a medium saucepan, add the butter, cream, brown sugar and red chile powder. Bring this mixture to a simmer, and pour over the dark chocolate pieces. Let the hot cream mixture sit on top of the chocolate for a few minutes. Whisk thoroughly to combine and taste. Add more chile powder as needed. Let the chocolate mixture cool to room temperature and then pour on top of the cool piñon crust. Transfer torte to the fridge for at least four hours or until set.

Marianne Sundquist is a chef and writer who in 2020 co-founded Stokli, an online general store. Find her on Instagram @chefmariannesundquist, and email her at marianne@stokli.com.

(1) comment

Brian Weiss

Yum. I mixed about two-thirds piñons and one-third toasted, sliced almonds for the crust, and baked in a torte pan with a removable bottom. I used 70% Lindt chocolate; I think chocolate chips are fine in cookies, but have an off taste as the prime ingredient. Darn, I had leftover filling so that went into a couple of cups as separate dessert treats. Smother in whipped cream or just pour some milk over it. This would make an excellent gluten-free dessert on the Thanksgiving table.

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