This intensely apple-flavored and wonderfully moist torte is quite unusual. Although there are many flourless cakes in Austro Hungarian cuisine, I haven't found a similar recipe in my research of Austrian and Hungarian cookbooks. Like most flourless tortes, this one could easily be adapted for Pesach if matzo meal was substituted for bread crumbs.
Riza néni suggested slicing the torte into two layers, filling it with apricot jam, and coating it with rum icing. Cutting the approximately one-inch-high soft torte into layers would be difficult and in my opinion unnecessary because it is tasty and moist enough to require no filling. Instead of filling and icing it, I recommend brushing the top of the torte with apricot jam, sprinkling ground walnuts over this, and decorating each slice with a piece of walnut - a treatment borrowed from one of Riza néni's other tortes.
- 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and grated with the coarsest side of a box grater
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter or margarine (to grease the form)
- 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs, made in the food processor from stale white bread (to coat the form)
- 1 cup walnuts
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs, made in the food processor from stale white bread
- 2 tablespoons dark rum
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons strained apricot jam (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dark rum (optional)
- 1/4 cup walnuts (optional)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 6 walnut halves, split lengthwise (optional)
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: baking sheet food processor 9” spring form
1. Peel and core the apples and grate them on the coarsest side of a box grater into a bowl. Stir in lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Gather the apples in the center of the bowl, place a small plate weighed down by a heavy can on top of them and let them rest for at least 20 minutes to release some of their juices.
2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the spring form and coat it with bread crumbs.
3. Process walnuts and 1/4 cup sugar in the food processor until finely ground, about 25 seconds. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and 1 tablespoon sugar with an electric mixer or by hand until they turn pale and fluffy. Stir in the ground walnuts.
4. Strain the grated apples in small batches over the sink and use the back of a spoon to press out as much juice from them as you can. Add the grated apples, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, and rum to the egg-walnut mixture and mix them well.
5. Whip egg whites and cream of tartar to form soft peaks, add 1 tablespoon sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks form. Stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the apple mixture, then fold in the rest of the egg whites.
6. Pour the batter into the spring form and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Place the form on a baking sheet. Bake it for 15 minutes in the preheated oven with the oven door kept slightly ajar by a wedged-in knife, then for another 40 minutes with the door completely closed.
7. Let the torte cool for 10 minutes in the form set on a rack. Run a paring knife along the inside of the form to release the sides, remove the side ring and let the torte cool for another 20 minutes on the rack. Run a long narrow knife or spatula under the torte to release it from the metal base of the form. Place a large plate over the torte and invert it so the plate is on the bottom. Let the bottom of the torte dry for at least 1 hour. Place an inverted serving plate on top of the torte and, holding the 2 plates, flip it over so that its top faces up.
8. In a small bowl, dilute strained apricot jam with rum and brush the top of the torte with this. Grind walnuts and sugar in the food processor and evenly sprinkle this over the top of the torte. Cut it into 12 slices and decorate each slice with a split walnut.
Approximate time for preparation:
1 hour 30 minutes