Recipes for Chocolate Chestnut Cake and Cranberry Curd Tart.

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Editors note: The chestnut chocolate cake recipe has been revised, with the missing ingredients added.

With so many tempting dishes, traditional and otherwise, it’s hard to resist overindulging at Christmastime, especially when it comes to desserts.

Apple pie, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cheesecake, rice pudding. None are delicate, and all are hard to pass up. Just a sliver of each, perhaps?

This year, though, I’m serving a couple of desserts that deliver flavor without heft — and without flour, for anyone at your table who happens to eat gluten-free.

One is a chocolate cake, not something that is usually considered light, but this one is. I borrowed the recipe from the renowned baker and cookbook author Alice Medrich, making just a few tweaks. She makes a chocolate soufflé cake to which she adds a handful of chestnut flour, which gives the cake a subtle nutty, earthy aura.

It employs dark chocolate, but not superdark (60 percent cacao is recommended). I added chopped cooked chestnuts, too. The cake keeps extraordinarily well, so it can be baked a day or two in advance. Before serving, spread the top with lightly whipped cream. Expect to get 10 to 12 servings.

For the second dessert, I wanted to make a cranberry version of the classic French lemon curd tart (not an original idea, but a good one). The filling is easy to make, substituting tart cranberry syrup for the lemon juice. In fact, if you taste it with closed eyes, you may mistake it for lemon.

In search of a crust that offered a bit more interest than the usual pâte sablée, I consulted the large repertoire of the master baker David Lebovitz and found a hazelnut pastry that fit the bill nicely. Actually, the dough is a variation on one used to make the Italian cookies called baci di dama. You press it into a 10-inch tart pan and prebake it before pouring in the fuchsia-colored cranberry curd.

For those with restraint, a small portion of either could suffice.


Makes 8 to 10 servings

4 ounces chocolate (64 percent cacao or less)

4 ounces unsalted butter

4 large eggs, separated

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup chestnut flour

1/2 cup chopped cooked chestnuts

½ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons for topping

1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl set over boiling water until chocolate is nearly completely melted, then remove from heat and whisk mixture until smooth.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks with half the sugar (¼ cup) and the salt until pale and thick. Stir in the warm chocolate and set aside.

3. Put egg whites in a clean bowl with cream of tartar and beat until fluffy, then add remaining ¼ cup sugar and beat until whites are stiff but not dry.

4. Stir chestnut flour and chopped chestnuts into the chocolate batter, then fold in one fourth of the whites to lighten mixture. Fold in remaining whites and scrape batter into an unbuttered 8-inch springform pan, smoothing top if necessary.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out almost clean. Cool on a rack. It may sink and crack a bit on top — this is fine. Run a knife around the edge of cake to free sides and remove form. Transfer to a serving platter. (Cake may be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to three days.)

6. To serve, whip cream with 2 tablespoons sugar to a very soft consistency. Spoon over top of cake and quickly spread with a spatula. Sprinkle with chocolate curls or cocoa powder.


Makes 8 to 10 servings

For the hazelnut crust:

1¼ cups raw hazelnuts

1 cup rice flour

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup sugar

6 tablespoons softened butter, more as necessary

For the cranberry curd:

12 ounces cranberries

1 cup sugar

Juice and peel (orange part only) of 1 orange

4 ounces/ softened butter (1 stick)

2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

1. Make the crust: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until skins darken and crack. Put roasted nuts in a clean towel and rub off skins. Discard skins and let nuts cool.

2. In a food processor, grind nuts with half the rice flour until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining rice flour and salt and pulse briefly.

3. Cream sugar and butter in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon for a minute or two until pale and thick. Add nut mixture and combine until dough comes together. If it seems crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons softened butter or a little cold water.

4. Press dough evenly into a 10-inch French tart pan; use half the dough for the sides and half for the bottom. Prick bottom with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes (or several days if desired).

5. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake chilled tart shell about 15 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.

6. Make the cranberry curd: Put cranberries, sugar and orange juice and peel in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until cranberries have popped and softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food mill or medium mesh sieve and press cooking liquid into a bowl. Whisk the butter into the warm liquid.

7. Put eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and beat lightly. Slowly whisk a cup of warm cranberry liquid into the eggs to temper, then combine both and whisk together. Wipe out pot if necessary, return liquid to pot and cook over low heat until nearly bubbling and thickened, about 10 minutes.

If using immediately, let cool to room temperature. If working ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap (press wrap against curd) and refrigerate. (Curd may be cooked up to one day ahead.)

8. Pour cooled cranberry curd into the cooled prebaked tart shell and smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to set curd. Cool on a rack. Store at room temperature for up to two days.