This rich and virtually flourless cake is popular in the hazelnut-growing areas outside Verona. Although the original does not demand it, the torta would be wonderful served with a little lightly whipped, unsweetened cream on the side.
Butter and line with paper a pan that is
Place the hazelnuts in a food processor fitted with the metal blade and grind them finely, pulsing on and off to avoid making them oily. Pour them into a bowl and pour the bread crumbs over them without mixing.
Beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and beat in the Marsala or rum, then half the sugar, and continue beating until very light, either by hand, with a hand mixer set at medium speed, or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip.
In a clean, dry bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt and continue whipping until the whites hold a very soft peak, either by hand, with a hand mixer set at medium speed, or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip. Increase the speed and whip in the remaining sugar in a slow stream. Whip the egg whites until they hold a soft, shiny peak.
Fold the yolk mixture into the whites, then fold in the hazelnut-and-bread-crumb mixture. When it is half-incorporated, pour the melted butter down the side of the bowl, continuing to fold it in until the batter is smooth. Be careful not to overmix the batter or it will deflate. Cut through the center of the bowl with a rubber spatula, making sure that the end of the spatula reaches down to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter so that none of the ingredients remains unmixed at the bottom of the bowl.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the top is well colored and the center is firm. Cool in the pan for a minute, then loosen it from the pan with the point of a small paring knife. Invert it onto a rack, then reinvert so it cools on the paper. Dust lightly with the confectioners’ sugar. Keep the torta tightly covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If it has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
© 1990 Nick Malgieri. All rights reserved.